A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington to start over on IRS site development to ‘get it right,’ plans new firehouse, and more

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

COVINGTON – Chris Stapleton is a Kentucky native and one of country music’s most successful contemporary stars. His latest single, the poignant “Starting Over,” has been burning up the radio stations, and it features these couplets:

“This might not be an easy time,

There’s rivers to cross and hills to climb …”


“Someday we’ll look back and smile
And know it was worth every mile.”

It could perfectly describe how the Covington Commission feels about the IRS project, which they decided to rethink Tuesday night at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting.

Commissioners put three items on next week’s consent agenda that will wipe the slate clean and give them a new opportunity with the project:

• Rejected is a request for qualifications for the removal of hazardous materials.

• Canceled is the request for qualifications for demolition.

• Canceled is the request for qualifications for design and engineering services.

Interim City Manager Ken Smith apologized to those who had been in consideration for the jobs, and said officials need to move forward in a way that “actually reflects what the city needs and wants.”

“I keep hearing this is a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Smith said. “Let’s get it right.”

The city purchased the site in March for $20.5 million, and since then, Covington has been struggling with how to handle the project. They first passed over multiple contracts concerning demolition and design when then-City Manager David Johnston recommended some options; the Commission decided to not take those recommendations.

Then Johnston and the city parted ways for good two weeks ago. Perhaps it was no surprise, then, that the city decided to officially begin anew.

“No project is more significant,” Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said at the time. “We only get one bite of the apple to do it right.”

New firehouse

Due to the pending expiration of a grant, Commissioners voted unanimously in a legislative fashion Tuesday night to approve the purchase of property at 401 Crescent Ave. as the future home for a new firehouse.

The purchase, which cost $500,000, had to be acted on quickly because the city qualifies for a $264,000 local government grant — a grant that will expire on June 28. After approving the purchase, the city will put down $5,000 and sign a “term sheet,” which will allow officials to do their due diligence on the property.

“In order to keep the funds, we need to act quickly,” Smith explained.

So the city, which was meeting in a caucus Tuesday night, stopped that meeting and went into a legislative session to vote on this issue, which was unanimously approved.

Commissioner Ron Washington said he’d recently toured the Company 2 site — and it was not a good scene.

“It’s sub-standard,” he said.

Smith agreed. “It’s far from ideal.”

“I’m glad we are moving forward,” Washington said. “I’m glad we are purchasing this site.”

Scott Street contract

Smith said the city has requested a “due diligence” extension in the contact with the Scott Street property that the city is exploring as a future home for City Hall.

However, the city has yet to hear back from the property owners as to whether they will grant the extension. Smith said the city needs to continue to investigate the property, and if they do not get a response from the owners, they will have to cancel the contract.

In May, Commissioners agreed to purchase the properties at 620 and 622 Scott Streets, currently owned by the Gateway Community & Technical College Foundation, Inc., for $550,000 in hopes of eventually building a new City Hall on the site.

Originally, the Scott Street sites were going to be home to Gateway’s urban education campus, but new owners and leadership decided against that idea.
“It’ll be nice to have a permanent home,” Mayor Meyer said at the time

Technology Resource Management and Usage Policy

Commissioners decided to pass over a proposed Technology Resource Management and Usage Policy.

Why? Mayor Meyer had some thoughts.

He said these policies need to do three things:

• Give people clarity
• Improve management
• Make sure the Commission has approved all of them, per state law.

Apparently, the current policy not only wasn’t doing these things, but also was incorrect on some other topics, including:

• Providing definitions for open records and public records, something the Mayor said the city probably shouldn’t do.
• Designating city officials’ use of private technology as being subject to open records.
• Saying procurement procedures require four-week notices for the IT department — something Mayor Meyer says, “creates bottlenecks and problems.”

“We have a lot of work to do to clean these up,” he said. “This has been an ongoing topic for a number of years here. It’s time to address this.”

New hires

Commissioners heard proposals for several new hires, which were put on next week’s consent agenda, including:

• Assistant City Solicitor Emilee Buttrum
• Legal Operations Analyst Logan Todd
• Police Officer Mitchell Matuz

Subsidy and façade incentives

Commissioners heard several subsidy and façade proposals, which they put on the consent agenda for next week, including:

• Rent Subsidy Incentive – Durham Brand & Co.
• Rent Subsidy Incentive – East to Vest Productions LLC
• Rent Subsidy Incentive – Sohza Sister LLP
• Rent Subsidy Incentive – Winecats LLC/The Bottle Shop
• Forgivable Façade Incentive – Christopher Green
• Forgivable Façade Incentive – Tischbein Properties LLC
• Forgivable Façade Incentive – Women’s Crisis Center Inc.
• Forgivable Façade Incentive – Sandra Stonebraker

Next meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., June 29, at the City Building at 20 W. Pike St. in Covington. The meetings 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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