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Residents question Cov Commission about flood response; ‘It looked like a typhoon hit down there’

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune Reporter

After Coleman Stracener’s service in the military, he decided it was time to come back home, so he returned to Covington to live on Euclid Avenue, where he’s been for about one month. 

Now, most of his family’s heirlooms are ruined because of this weekend’s storms, which left his basement flooded with sewage and his life turned upside down.  

He, along with about 20 other residents, many of whom had similar stories, made their way to City Hall Tuesday night to crash the commissioners’ regularly scheduled caucus meeting. City rules normally don’t allow for public comment at a caucus — comments are only reserved for legislative meetings, and the next of those would be the following week — but due to the severity of the flooding, Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said he would allow the public to speak.

But there would be two rules, the Mayor said. There would be a 10-minute total limit on the comments, and there would be no dialogue back-and-forth. The Mayor made it clear the commissioners were only there to listen.

“We, as a neighborhood, feel abandoned by SD1 and the city,” Stracener said, leading off the comments. “And I find it ludicrous to think that there are multiple times when families have had to deal with this. Something needs to be done. Period.”

Yet there were several examples Tuesday night of families who’ve dealt with several backups and flooding, and they had their say, too. One resident who didn’t give her name described the scene like this: “It looked like a typhoon hit down there.”

Rumpke delivered open-top waste containers today to areas hard hit by weekend storms including this one on Euclid Avenue. At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting residents, including some from Euclid Avenue, say they feel abandoned by the City and SD1. (provided photo).

Jill Corwin also lives on Euclid, and said this is her first house. “I’m paranoid now,” she confessed. “After this, I’m wondering: Is this going to happen every year?”

She said she knows now that no one will want to buy her home if she ever wants to sell. And with insurance not covering her damages, she’s paying out of pocket. “If everyone knows about this for so long, why does it keep happening?” she asked.

It was around this time Mayor Meyer attempted to end the public comments. “These issues are far too serious and complex,” he said. “This is not a public meeting.” And, as they say, that’s when the floodgates really opened. 

No one wanted to stop speaking. Even moreso, they wanted to hear from their commissioners. Many said they wanted a plan.

They wanted to know who to contact with their problems. One woman shouted expletives at the commissioners as she stormed out of the room. Another asked what she was supposed to do because her life savings were tied up in a business she ran out of her basement — $30,000, she said, effectively down the drain.

“This is a now problem,” Stracener emphasized. “I have excrement in my basement right now!”

Many wondered if the city could offer them some kind of financial relief, but Meyer could only respond that the city could not use its funds for public assistance.

Commissioner Denny Bowman knew exactly what many of those in the audience were going through; he, too, had flooding in his basement, and was out in the middle of the storm Saturday trying to help. Commissioner Shannon Smith noted that one of the factors that pushed her to run for city commission was previous flooding in her basement. Partly because of that, she decided she wanted to do more to help those in similar situations. 

The weekend storms caused severe damage to neighborhoods throughout the region. In this photo, cement brick mason Steve Banfield of the Covington Public Works Department cleans gravel and torn-up asphalt off the intersection of Montague and Amsterdam roads.

“We’re not giving you the runaround,” she said. 

Commissioner Tim Downing tried to calm the masses. “We are listening,” he said. “We can’t provide answers today, but we’re desperately trying to provide the resources you need. We will do everything in our power to communicate these answers when we have them.”

But for many, it wasn’t enough. “See you next week,” some shouted as they walked out the door. “And the week after that.”

It was probably for the best that they didn’t know representatives from SD1 were also in the crowd. 

By the time the public comment was over, it had lasted longer than 30 minutes.

After the city had finished the rest of its agenda Tuesday night, Meyer got back to the flooding topic, noting that staff were looking into the very real possibility of the city qualifying for FEMA disaster funding. He noted it would require $600,000 worth of damage to get the funding, and Meyer seemed optimistic it could happen.

He also noted he’d had many discussions with SD1 about the issues, and that the city was reaching out to other entities to keep providing services for their residents. 

“All of us are tired and frustrated and worn out,” Meyer said. “But we’re going to work to try and solve this.”

Also on Tuesday … 

*Commissioners agreed to move forward with a $1.37 million contract with Adleta, Inc., for the long-awaited Sixth Street and Scott Boulevard streetscape restoration project, which will provide new sidewalks on both sides of the road, take all electric lines underground, and install ADA ramps, trees, brick pavement and new lighting, among other improvements. Public Services Director Rick Davis said the project received three bids, with Adleta being the lowest. He said the restoration would be completed by late spring or early summer next year. The approval of the contract will be on the consent agenda at the commission’s regularly scheduled legislative meeting next week.

*Commissioners agreed to move forward with minor changes to the City’s Small Business Program guidelines for the next fiscal year, which will be on the consent agenda at the legislative meeting next week. New changes include:

-A requirement for facade applicants to meet with a Historic Preservation Specialist before submitting an application.

-The city will keep a list of Covington contractors to help connect them with projects.

-An improved, streamline staff review to align applications with the rating sheet.

-Giving the city manager the authority to permit an additional three months beyond the six-month construction window if an unforeseen circumstance has delayed a project (like weather, for instance).

-The awarding of bonus points to women, minority and veteran-owned businesses.

Commissioners agreed to move forward with a $100,000 contract with Brandsetter Carroll to develop a citywide park master plan, as well as design services for Barb Cook Park. This will also be on the consent agenda next week.

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., June 25, at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St., although Mayor Meyer did say there is a possibility the meeting could be moved to Monday, June 24.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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