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Covington close to agreement for state highway maintenance, Crown Act, Halloween safety, more

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

The City of Covington is one step closer to reaching an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to maintain the state highways within its limits.

City Commissioners heard the proposal Tuesday night at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting, which was again held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Chris Warneford, the city’s public works director, presented the proposal to the board, requesting approval to enter into a contract with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Highways for the “minor maintenance” and repair of 14.98 miles of state-owned roadways by city staff at “fair compensation.”

In October 2019, Commissioners made it a priority to establish “A contract with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for the assumption of maintenance of state highways in the city except for 1-75/71 and 1-275.” Over the past year, the city staff have worked with the state to come to an agreement on repairing those state-owned highways within the city limits.

Now, based on the proposed agreement, the city will be able to handle the repairs while being reimbursed by the state, with payments not to exceed $31,363.50 annually. The order will cover an initial term of Oct. 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, and will give city officials the opportunity to evaluate the benefits of this service, to possibly determine whether to renew the contract or even expand the boundaries of the agreement, Mayor Joe Meyer said.

City officials hope this helps curb residents’ frustration at state roads not being repaired quickly enough.

“I just wanted to say thank you, Chris, because we have been trying to do this for so long, to repair some of the roads in Covington, and they take so long to do it, and now we can do it and charge them for it,” said Commissioner Michelle Williams. “I guess it took you coming to Covington to get this done, so I really appreciate all your hard work.”

“This is a significant step forward in our effort to improve maintenance responsiveness to the people of Covington,” Meyer said. “The State Transportation Cabinet has regularly dealt with money issues and people issues and things of that sort and we know that they haven’t been able to do what even they would like to do. So, by contracting with us, and letting the city take care of the maintenance, we should be able to substantially reduce the number of complaints and respond to those complaints better than people have been used to.”

The Mayor noted that the proposal is only for maintenance of not quite 15 of the 25 miles of state highways in the city limits. After about six to eight months, the city can re-evaluate and possibly expand the agreement.

“We’re not trying to do it all at once,” he said. “It’s a crawl-before-you-walk scenario.”

Meyer also made it clear that the city will not subsidize the state.

“We are not going to use city resources to fix state roads,” he said. “Whatever it costs us, we will be reimbursed by the state …. It’s a good deal for all parties that are involved.”

The proposal will appear on the consent agenda at the city’s legislative meeting next Tuesday.

Crown Act vote next week

Next week, commissioners will hear a second reading and vote on their new amendment to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, one that supports the Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

Commissioners discussed the idea two weeks ago, then heard a first reading last week.

Commissioner Williams reported that she would present the amendment after Commissioner Tim Downing brought the issue to her attention. The Crown Act, which has steadily gained popularity across the nation, was created in 2019 to ensure protection against discrimination based on  “race-based hairstyles,” and “hair texture,” including “styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.”

It is Williams’ hope — and it seems to be shared by that of her fellow Commissioners — that no one will ever be discriminated against based on their natural hair again.

The city’s legal department, along with City Manager David Johnston, worked over the past two weeks to prepare the ordinances for the change, and Johnston noted last week it was just another example of Covington leading the way in the area of human rights.

Williams promised she would come to the legislative meeting next week sporting her natural curly hair.

“It will be our biggest show yet,” she said, laughing.

PILOT agreements

Commissioners heard proposals for two PILOT agreements (or Payment in Lieu of Taxes) — one an amended version for the Bourbon Post/YMCA project at 614 Madison Ave. and another for the Arlington Project at the old Chase Law School site at Pike Street and Dixie Highway.

Economic Development Director Tom West explained that a previous order authorized the city to enter into a PILOT with the Bourbon Post/YMCA project developer, where the developer would utilize PILOT mortgage and other features for industrial revenue bond arrangements. Since then, the developer has decided not to proceed in that way. But because the decision will have no negative consequences on the city’s protections or payments in the PILOT, the city is recommending to move forward with the amendments to the agreement.

The Arlington Project at the old Chase Law School site at Pike Street and Dixie Highway is a bit different. This proposal, now known as Tapestry Ridge, requests that the developer’s lender “perform the duties of the developer under the agreement if a default occurred,” city documents read. Because the PILOT payment to the city will be unaffected, staff is requesting the commission to approve and move forward.

The Bourbon Post/YMCA project was placed on the consent agenda for next week, while the Arlington Project was placed on the regular agenda.

Learning Grove lease

Commissioners heard a proposal from the city manager to agree to a commercial lease with Learning Grove, a childcare center located at 20 W. Pike St.

Since 2008, Learning Grove, Inc. (formerly known as Children, Inc.) previously leased a space for a childcare facility on the IRS property to provide childcare for federal employees. Now that the city owns the property, staff is proposing a new agreement with the company.

The lease would run for four consecutive years, at $2,000 monthly. Previously, the rent was $5,400 monthly, while the building owners agreed to overall upkeep, including major capital improvements. Instead, Covington staff are recommending that Learning Grove keep $3,400 to make their own major improvements, which will probably include a new HVAC system, as well as roof improvements.

Johnston said the city will eventually demolish the building, adding that it’s nice to have a business there until that time comes.

Commissioners agreed to put the proposal on the regular agenda for next week’s meeting.

Halloween safety

Commissioner Downing wanted to remind everyone to be careful during Halloween festivities.

“Please be safe,” he said at the end of the meeting. “Protect yourself and protect your little ones.”

Guidelines for trick-or-treating are here.

Next meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Oct. 27, 2020. 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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Covington’s Halloween Guidelines

Official trick-or-treat hours within Covington are 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31. But rules will be in place to limit contact between people.

Trick-or-treaters should:

• Stay within their neighborhoods.
• Wear a face covering over their noses and mouths (traditional Halloween masks aren’t enough).
• Maintain social distancing (don’t crowd those not in your group).
• Walk with family members, not those outside your household.

And homeowners should:

• Place individually wrapped candy outside on the porch, a table, or the driveway.
• Avoid handing candy directly to kids.
• Avoid placing bowls and boxes filled with candy for kids to root through.

Meanwhile, organizers of events and attractions are asked to:

• Reduce capacity and use markers or dividers to reinforce 6-foot distancing between groups as well as employees/volunteers.
• Have hand sanitizer readily available.
• Pre-sell tickets to ensure capacities are limited.
• Consider eliminating common seating areas or play areas where children may congregate.
• Separate benches and tables by at least 6 feet and sanitize seating and tables between each use.
• Notify the health department immediately if you learn that someone with COVID-19 has visited your attraction.

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