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Covington takes ‘huge step,’ agrees on design contract for IRS site; Webb named finance director

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Calling it the “second really huge step” for the IRS site project, Covington Commissioners voted Tuesday night to move forward with what will happen when the building comes down.

Covington agreed to hire KZF Design, Inc., to proceed with architectural and engineering design for public infrastructure for the site.

The proposal was a surprise one, not originally slated for Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled legislative meeting — but it was necessary, according to City Manager Ken Smith, who said the city did not want to wait until the next legislative commission meeting, which isn’t until July 19.

“We just did not want to lose three and a half weeks of downtime,” he said.

The city issued an RFP in March to solicit offers for the design work and got back five proposals, Smith said. Three of the firms were invited to present to the city, and two finalists were selected to make clarifications.

“We did recommend, unanimously, KZF Design Inc.,” he said. “They will work with 11 partner firms because this is a very large project.”

The contract will be paid utilizing the recently awarded Economic Development Agency grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Federal funding is $1,796,105, and the local match is $449,027 for a total of $2,245,132.

Design is scheduled to begin in July, while construction is set to begin March 2023. Construction is projected to be completed in August 2025.

In February, the city hired O’Rourke Wrecking to demolish the site for nearly $1.3 million, and that project should be finished, barring weather delays, in the fall.

“It’s very exciting to get this underway,” Smith said.

“Folks have done a great job with O’Rourke in the demolition and that is moving along quite on schedule,” Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said. “Now we begin the process of designing the rest of what comes in after that building goes down.

“We will be very fascinated to observe (KZF’s) process in the next several months as we try to convert the dream into a reality,” he continued. “So, this is a really a great way to end this fiscal year — and there are a number of other substantive items on the agenda tonight that we believe will give us a really solid foundation for the start of the new (fiscal) year that starts later this week.”

More ARPA money

Commissioners approved eight specific American Rescue Plan Act-funded programs, for $2,825,000. The programs will focus on:

• Creating new, affordable housing — $1,000,000
• City Heights relocation assistance — $200,000
• Creating and implementing a Fire/EMS Cadet program — $125,000
• A property reinvestment program — $750,000
• Eastside Pedestrian improvements — $100,000
• Stabilization of historic structures — $125,000
• Creation of a City/Schools Recreation Commission — $125,000
• Small Business Support — $400,000

New Finance Director

Commissioners approved the hiring of a new Finance Director, Steve Webb.

Former Finance Director Muhammed Owusu retired March 30, and Webb will take his place in about two months, according to Mayor Meyer.

Webb’s experience includes:

• Working in local and state government, managing budgets from a few million to $1.3 billion. 

• Holding roles including financial specialist, procurement analyst, chief financial officer, controller and finance director.

Meyer and City Manager Smith congratulated Webb, while the Mayor noted this is a crucially important time for the finance department.

Webb’s most recent role was serving as the Director of Administration at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. He has also served as the Finance Director for the same organization, as well as the Controller for the state of Indiana and the Chief Financial Officer for the city of Indianapolis. Webb graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Management.

In the same meeting, Commissioners approved an order for the city to pay $78,480 this year for financial auditing services from RFH, LLC — basically ensuring a complete review of the financial affairs of the city.

Webb was at Tuesday’s meeting with his wife.

“We’re glad to have you on board,” Smith said.

Recovering lost funds

Commissioners approved a proposal from City Solicitor David Davidson to authorize civil litigation to recover funds lost through alleged theft, misuse and fraud within the Public Works Department.

In March, Commissioners showed up 15 minutes late to their scheduled meeting due to what the Mayor called an executive session to discuss personnel. Then, the group added a surprise item to their agenda — Business Manager Allison Donaldson’s resignation, which was met with unanimous acceptance.

Mayor Meyer then went on to explain that a city employee had recently been investigated for “abusing” a city credit card. The city is now working with an accounting firm to quantify the extent of the activity.

Noise ordinance

Two weeks ago, Assistant City Solicitor Logan Todd made a presentation to commissioners regarding a new noise ordinance. But commissioners made suggestions, and Tuesday, he came back with updates, including:

• A new decibel system is in place to allow our police officers another tool when a noise is plainly audible
• The construction exemption now only goes until 6 p.m.
• There is an exemption now for church bells, chimes, etc.

The ordinance had a first reading Tuesday night, and will have a second reading and a vote on July 19.

Other decisions Tuesday

Commissioners also approved:

• Awarded a contract for $109,450.65 to fix the Carroll Chimes Bell Tower.
• Awarded the annual street resurfacing contract, for $995,310.55.
• Reached an agreement with the Kentucky Housing Corporation for a $933,750 grant, which the city will use to pay rental deposits of new participants in the Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance program.
• Awarded a contract to build a fence around the S.F.C. Jason Bishop Memorial Dog Park, near MainStrasse Village, for $109,975.
• Reached a long-term lease agreement with BB Riverboats to dock the city’s fireboat.
• Agreed to an order to execute a contract with Housing Opportunities of Northern Kentucky (HONK) not to exceed $178,670 for the rehabilitation of a single-family home located at 427 Baltimore Ave., payable from Program Year 2021 HOME CHDO Development Project funds.

Hires, Resignations and Appointments

Approved this week:

• With the departure of Legal Administrative Assistant Emilee Buttrum, the Legal Department hired Lydia Northcutt.
• The Police Department hired Police Officer Applicant Mandie Appleman, effective July 3, 2022.
• Tom West hired Katie O’Neill as an Administrative Assistant in the Economic Development Department.
• Public Works promoted Daniel Bitter to Brick Mason.
• Shane Negangard was reappointed to the Audit Committee.

Downing absent

Commissioner Tim Downing was physically absent from Tuesday night’s meeting due to a positive COVID test, but Commissioners voted to allow him to phone in, although he was not allowed to vote, or to be a member of their quorum.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., July 12, 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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