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City applies for COVID relief, moves forward with CovTech incentive, says mask-up and fill out census

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It was a COVID-centric caucus meeting Tuesday night for the city’s commissioners.

First, the group was again meeting remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, but on this evening — the regularly-scheduled night of the commissioner’s caucus meeting — several of the items on the agenda also dealt directly or indirectly with the virus.

• One item asked for approval from Mayor Joseph U. Meyer to sign up for $2.9 million in CARES funding. Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the CARES Act  “provides for payments to state, local, and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak,” its government website says.

The proposal was put on the consent agenda for next week’s legislative meeting.

• Another item involved providing some incentives for a local company that is helping in the COVID cause. Gravity Diagnostics — a laboratory whose services provide, among other things, COVID-19 testing — recently partnered with Kroger, and has increased its employee base from 20 to 150 with plans to double that over the next three years. That means they need to move, and they intend to do just that, from 632 Russell St., to a block south to the old Remke’s headquarters, a 17,000-square-foot facility at 812 Russell St. City Economic Development Director Tom West said the company will be making a $3.7 million investment, with their employees averaging salaries of $50,000 per year.

West proposed a seven-year agreement with Gravity, with a 1 percent payroll reimbursement for the first three years and a half-percent reimbursement for the fourth year. The city expects to realize $4 of new revenue for every $1 spent.

The item will be on the regular agenda next week.

• Toward the end of the meeting, West went on to make a plea to the residents of the city: “Everybody please help us keep our businesses open by wearing a mask,” he said. 

• Lastly, Commissioner Michelle Williams, who for months has been encouraging Covington residents to sign up for the Census, made another plea Tuesday night. She admonished the Census for planning to halt their door-knocking counting a month early. “The Census Bureau has halted our counting,” Williams said. “They don’t care there’s a pandemic going on. They’re using it as an excuse. We cannot let them beat us at this game. We don’t want to be broke. We’re here to beat them. We’re going to win.” She said to go fill it out at 2020census.gov.

Façade grant for CovTech

Commissioners plan to move forward with a large façade loan to CovTech, the consortium that is taking over half of the Latonia Shopping Center. The $100,000 forgivable loan will involve adding greenspace to the parking area, and the entire exterior should be finished by December 2021, West said. He called the $5-$7 million private investment a “very strategic investment for the city.”

Commissioner Tim Downing asked why the loan was necessary.

West said the strategy is that Latonia residents will see the good of it, and from a city standpoint, “we need to market this change.” He said the city should use it as a catalyst for a ripple effect in the Latonia area.

West also noted the city made a similar several-hundred-thousand-dollar investment on Eighth Street, which led to other renovations at the corner of Eighth and Madison.

Simply, it attracted others to purchase buildings and do the same. He also noted that multiple other interested parties are looking at major investments in the area around Latonia.

The grant was put on the consent agenda for next week.

Storm Water permit program

In an attempt to finally take back ownership of its storm water permit program, the city moved forward with an order authorizing staff to proceed with documents to apply to the Kentucky Division of Water to regain sole responsibility for the operation.

“The city and SD1, through various agreements, have partnered to administer the city’s MS4 storm water permit program since 2003,” city documents read. “There have been significant problems with the current relationship and recent attempts to improve the relationship or reach a mutually agreeable separation solution have stalled. City staff believes residents would be better served by the city regaining sole responsibility for its MS4 storm water permit program.”

The order will be on the regular agenda next week.

Mayor signs off on purchase of 1730 Russell St.

Commissioners agreed to move forward to authorize the Mayor to sign the closing documents for the purchase of 1730 Russell St., where the city plans to move its Public Works Department. The 68,000 square-foot building sits on 3.68 acres of land, is owned by 1730 Russell Street, LLC, and will cost the city $2.65 million. The proposal will be on the consent agenda next week.

Repeal and replacement of Urban Forestry Ordinance

Commissioners heard a request to revamp, simplify and clarify the array of ordinances involving trees in the city, called the Urban Forestry Ordinance.

“Staff are moving forward on the direction from the Board of Commissioners through a two phased approach,” city documents say. “Phase I of the ordinance revisions address redundancies in the current ordinance, remove contradictory language and increase clarity of role responsibilities of the Urban Forestry Board and Urban Forester position.”

The request was put on the regular agenda for next week.

Jerome Heist to Asst. Finance Director

Jerome Heist will be promoted to Asst. Finance Director, while Caine Hughes will be promoted to Senior Account Manager. Both will be on the consent agenda next week.

Resignation of Rosie Santos

Parks and Recreation Manager Rosie Santos’ resignation will be accepted. It will be on the consent agenda next week.

Next week

There are several second readings of ordinances next week:

• The Amendment of Chapter 116, Jobs Development Incentives
• A Map Amendment for 17-25 W. Eighth St.
• The Amendment of Chapter 92, Nuisances
• The Amendment of Chapter 152, Property Maintenance Code
• The Repeal/Reenact of Chapter 155, Rental Dwelling Licensing

The next regularly-scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Aug. 11. The meeting can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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