A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

More Covington police and fire personnel take retirement, resign; financial ordinance proposed

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It’s starting to sound a bit like a broken record, as once again, Covington City commissioners have to say goodbye to experienced safety personnel.

Three more police staff are retiring, and another firefighter is resigning, Commissioners were told at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting Tuesday night.

That makes at least a dozen police and firefighters who have retired or resigned since the beginning of the year, along with the city’s public works director. And while everyone’s reasons and timing for leaving can be different, many Covington officials, including City Manager David Johnston, have acknowledged that the state’s looming pension crisis is the leading cause for many of the decisions.

Johnston said as much back in June, when he talked about the issues facing the city in the upcoming year. He said it’s possible he’s never faced a challenge so daunting – a challenge made up, in large part, due to the state’s looming pension crisis.

In August, Johnston had to part ways with the city’s then-Public Works Director Rick Davis, who retired, in part, because of the same pension issues.

On Tuesday, the city approved the retirement of:

Lt. James Donaldson

Officer John Mairose

Det. Bryan Wells

And the resignation of firefighter Benjamin Kennedy.

Both Chief Rob Nader and Chief Mark Pierce wished the men well in their retirements.

The departures were slated for the consent agenda for next week’s legislative meeting.

Also Tuesday:

Finance Department Proposes Ordinance

Noting that this was one of last year’s identified priorities by city commissioners, Finance Director Muhammed Owusu presented a proposed ordinance outlining guidelines for creating the annual city budget, as well as establishing procedures for budget amendments, transfers and quarterly reporting requirements on capital projects and city finances.

“We need to set this in stone for the future,” Owusu said.

Mayor Joseph U. Meyer agreed, noting this is “actually a very important ordinance,” and saying it was “quite significant operationally.”

Commissioners generally agreed with the document, but some, including Tim Downing, suggested parts of the language could be made to be more easily understood by the public.

Essentially, the policy is meant to establish clear guidelines that the Commission and the city manager can use to both “expend funds in accordance with the budget ordinance, and to amend such budget ordinance when necessary,” city documents say. The ordinance will also require the submission of quarterly progress reports on general financial matters and capital projects.

“This is a very big benefit for the city and its citizens,” said Commissioner Denny Bowman. 

The ordinance will have a first reading next week.

Fire Department Gets 100K Grant

The Covington Fire Department was awarded a Port Security Grant for $100,000 for adding additional space to the Public Safety section of a dock being built by the City of Cincinnati. This is a 25 percent matching grant ($25,000 city and $75,000 Port Grant). In 2010, Covington received a $400,000 Port Grant to buy a 35-foot fire boat which had no permanent docking space. The partnership with Cincinnati will provide docking space for the boat.

New Order Sets Standard for Streetscape Design

In October 2018, the Covington Business Council presented a document to the Commission which included proposed design standards for enhancements to the public realm, “including streetscapes, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, public amenities, landscaping, street furniture, etc.,” the document said.  

The report, and the standards described, were funded by the CBC, MeetNKY, South bank and the Haile Foundation, and input was included from Economic Development, Historic Preservation, Zoning, Urban Forestry, Public Works, Engineering, Solid Waste, and Parks & Recreation. The report concerned areas within the Downtown area, Pike Street Corridor, MainStrasse, Roebling Point, and Duveneck Square districts.

The design standards are “intended to bring a level of consistency and predictability to the public realm in terms of quality, material and execution for projects completed by both the public and private sectors,” city documents say. “The standards are to be followed for all new projects and will be used when creating estimates and plans for grant applications, etc. They are not intended to require any property owner or the city to initiate any projects to comply.”

However, the proposed order only has an effective period for five years, after which, it will be reviewed, and if necessary, changed or improved upon by the Commission, said Economic Development Director Tom West.

The areas subjected to design standards include:

Madison Avenue from the Ohio River to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Main Street from Fifth to Seventh Street

Scott Blvd. and Greenup Street from the Ohio River to Eighth Street

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Streets from Greenup Street to the railroad tracks

Washington Street from Sixth Street to Eighth Street

Pike Street from Scott Blvd. to the railroad tracks

West Third Street from Johnson Street to Crescent Avenue

Each area has specific regulations on things like: lights, greenery, trash cans, benches, outdoor seating and bicycle racks.

The order was slated for the regular agenda next week.

Commission Goes into Executive Session

Mayor Meyer announced that the Commission would end the meeting by entering into an Executive Session to discuss pending litigation and an economic development proposal. He said no further action would be taken.

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Oct. 15, at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

Contact the NorthernKentucky tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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