A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington shelter ordinance gets first reading; mayor-penned pension resolution goes to governor

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It’s about moving forward, Mayor Joseph U. Meyer says.

Yes, there are amendments that have been made, and others may still need to be made. Yes, there may even be a need to push back when it comes time for a second reading.

But on Tuesday night, Commissioners heard the first reading of their ordinance that would create a uniform set of standards for shelters “providing temporary housing in order to ensure the health, safety and welfare of clients, staff and the Covington community.”

Even though some in the audience requested they delay the first reading — among them, Kenton County Judge-executive Kris Knochelmann — Commissioners moved forward at their regularly scheduled legislative meeting.

“We’re going to continue to work on it,” Meyer said. “Only by pushing this, do we get people to work with us.”

And there is a time element involved. Meyer said the city wants to have the ordinance in place by the time the shelter on Scott Boulevard has been moved to 13th and Main Streets.

Meyer noted that amendments have already been added to the plan, and he said there will probably be more before it is approved. He also said that if the proposal needed to be delayed before a second reading and vote were held, the Commission would do so.

After the first reading was completed, Commissioner Shannon Smith thanked the members of the community that came out to give opinions on the proposed ordinance.

“We deeply care about this issue,” she said, noting that the people who actually work with the homeless know the most about it.

Some of them came out to share opinions Tuesday night, including John C.K. Fisher of the Human Rights Commission, Covington resident Pete Nerone, Brighton Center President and CEO Tammy Weidinger, and Knochelmann.

Fisher shared how there are 40 locations in Northern Kentucky that offer services for the homeless. Meyer noted that 31 of those 40 are actually in the city of Covington.

“When is the rest of Northern Kentucky going to do their share?” Meyer asked.

City officials said Louisville has a similar situation, and their solution was something that could be imitated.

Among the proposed regulations:

*A shelter will have adequate waiting room so people will not have to wait outside on streets or alleys

*It must allow clients the use of restrooms during the shelter’s hours of operation

*Facilities should be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week (at least to provide showering opportunities to those in need)

*The operator will not allow shopping carts or pets on the premises (except for when the pet is registered to help with disability or support)

*It must have written policies and procedures on the use of prescription or over-the-counter medication 

*Boarding and lodging should provide sufficient on-street parking as required by the Covington Zoning Code.

Ultimately, Meyer said the ordinance is about three things: obeying the law, treating clients with respect and being a good neighbor. 

A second reading is scheduled to be held in two weeks.

Also Tuesday:

Mayor Meyer

Last week, Meyer wrote a letter to Gov. Andy Beshear regarding the pension crisis, and Commissioner Denny Bowman said that he would like the letter to be made into a resolution that the entire commission could back.

That resolution was presented and passed Tuesday night, and it effectively asks the governor to enact a freeze on the payments. In that time, the Mayor hopes the state can develop a more effective plan.

“The recent unwarranted increases in CERS pension contributions implemented by the KRS Board are forcing cities to make the choice between future growth, public services and the increased pension contributions,” the resolution reads.

“The projected growth in CERS pension contributions will consume fully 27.3 percent of the City of Covington’s major revenue sources by 2025 and such a massive increase in employer contributions in an environment of relatively static revenue will lead only to reduction of capital investment and maintenance, and/or significant layoffs of public service personnel, particularly police officers and firefighters.”

The resolution goes on to describe how the city lost nearly 10 percent of its police department, a city department head and several firefighters to retirement as they sought to avoid the loss of their survivorship benefits and care for their families.

“The true conflict in fiduciary duty rests within KRS itself,” the resolution continues. “The systems the KRS board must manage are in such disparate financial conditions that it is impossible for the trustees to balance their fiduciary duties appropriately.”

Sale of YMCA City Property & Development Agreement

This artist’s rendering from developer Salyers Group shows what the redevelopment of the historic YMCA building and its connected structures at Pike and Madison would look like(file image).

Commissioners approved the sale of “city-owned parcels to and authorizing the Mayor to sign a development agreement with 614 Madison YMCA LLC for the development of a mixed-use hotel, commercial and office facility at the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and Pike Streets.”

The purchase agreement includes the sale of 21-27 E. Pike (for $198,265), and 614 Madison and 19 E. Pike ($1,698,700), with the developer paying all carrying and closing costs.

The development agreement includes a $20-plus million hotel, office and commercial development, with no portion to be used for commercial development.

TANK will Host Two Public Meetings

The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) is proposing major changes to its routes — including to many of the Covington routes, and Mayor Meyer is asking residents to weigh in by email by Jan. 31 at info@tankbus.org.

City Manager David Johnston said he’s been talking with TANK officials, and that TANK has agreed to hosting meetings, one for the public and one for business leaders.

City officials said to watch the Covington website for updates in the next day or two.

Police, Economic Development Hires Approved

Commissioners approved two hires Tuesday night, one for police and one for economic development.

James Elliot was hired as a patrol grade officer I and Matthew Zimmerman, of Franklin, Indiana, was hired as the city’s Manager of Business Attraction.

Out of 30-plus candidates, Zimmerman was the first pick out of four finalists. He has experience with marketing with One Dearborn, Inc., serving as the marketing director for the Indiana Bond Bank, and the Office of Community & Rural Affairs for Indiana.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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