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Covington commission approves MS4 fee structure, re-enters into swim contract for pool season

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It’s true what they say — breaking up is hard to do. But sometimes, it’s necessary.

The city of Covington made that point — again — Tuesday night when Commissioners met virtually at their regularly scheduled legislative meeting to vote on an ordinance to establish an MS4 fee structure.

It became the latest in a long line of clear signals to the Sanitation District regarding the city’s takeover of MS4 management, also known as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.

“This is truly a major step” for the city, Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said.

Still, he wanted to make clear what was happening, so residents were not confused.

The ordinance will establish a fee for the MS4 program. While residents will still be billed by the Sanitation District No. 1 for their sewer maintenance, the city will bill residents for the MS4 duties.

Also, Meyer pointed out:

All customers will pay 10 percent less than what they previously paid to SD1.
Single-residence owners will pay $4.54 per month, billed annually. This first payment will be pro-rated, excluding the months of January and February, and will be due April 30. In normal years, payments will be due March 31.

Commercial fees will depend on the size and characteristics of the property, but they will still be 10 percent less than the SD1 fee, and will be assessed quarterly (for this year only, a pro-rated first payment will be due at the end of the year’s second quarter, with the month of March included).

“100 percent of the stormwater fee will go into the stormwater fund,” Meyer said, “to address MS4 and other stormwater issues in the city” and “to improve the quality of service to our people.”

In 2003, SD1 and the city agreed to the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (or MS4) permit. “Because we are co-permittees, we have to legally part ways with SD1 in order to proceed on our own for MS4 management,” city documents say. In August 2020, the city put the Sanitation District on notice.

“The city and SD1, through various agreements, have partnered to administer the city’s MS4 (or Separate Storm Sewer Systems program) storm water permit program since 2003,” the 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.”

Tuesday night, the new ordinance passed unanimously.

“This approach is cheaper for our residents, and frankly, more responsible,” Commissioner Shannon Smith said.


Lease renewal

Commissioners also approved two five-year lease renewals for the Kentucky Career Center at 1324 Madison Ave.:

• The Commonwealth of Kentucky, for $1,386,678 ($277,336 annually)

• Northern Kentucky Area Development District for $997,900 ($199,580 annually)

Since 2013, the city has leased to the tenants to provide employment services. NKADD subleases to three tenants — Brighton Center, Goodwill and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK). There is still 410 square feet of vacant office space remaining.

After covering all expenses, the city then transfers the remaining revenue to Fund 21, which supports economic development in Covington, city Economic Development Director Tom West said. About $1.65 million was contributed to the fund during the first lease term.

Design guidelines

The city heard a first reading of an ordinance to update the Historic Covington Design Guidelines.

The current guidelines were adopted in 2014, and according to the city’s proposal, “members of the former Urban Design Review Board, members of the public, and consultants on the Neighborhood Development Code have advised staff of deficiencies in the current Guidelines.”

Updates include: correcting of typos, adding language to reference the new Neighborhood Development Code, and providing more information on topics like alternative materials and small accessory structures.

On Jan. 7, the Kentucky Heritage Council reviewed and recommended approval of the updates. At a Jan. 20 public hearing, the Board of Architectural Review and Development voted to recommend that the Board of Commissioners approve the updates.

Tuesday, Mayor Meyer encouraged the public to look at the design guidelines, which will have a second reading and a vote in two weeks.

Swimming contract

The city approved a contract with Swimsafe Pool Management, Inc., which would be for two years, with three other optional years, and cost:

$183,600 for year one
$186,050 for year two 

Firefighter physicals

Commissioners approved a proposal from the Fire Department for St. Elizabeth to perform annual physicals on the firefighters. St. Elizabeth was the only provider that would perform the services on site due to COVID-19. Firefighter physicals were included in the approved fire department budget, and will cost $255 apiece, plus additional testing if needed.


Commissioners approved the resignation of Officer Ryan Eldridge on March 1. Eldridge, who was employed by the Covington Police Department for 14 years, resigned to pursue a career outside of law enforcement.

Commissioners then went into executive session to discuss the future acquisition of real estate.

Mayor Meyer said the Commission would not conduct any more business after the executive session Tuesday night. 

Next meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., March 2.

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