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$72 Million of Infrastructure Work Touted by Covington Leaders

Written by Jerod Theobald and Michael Monks

Covington's $72 million Community Reinvestment Plan was highlighted at Thursday's Covington Business Council luncheon where more than a hundred people listened to details of the complete makeover of the city's infrastructure.

"This begins to change the way the city looks at its future," City Manager Larry Klein said in June with the plan was passed by the city commission by a 3-2 vote.

Klein spoke to the CBC on Thursday and reiterated his position on why it was important to establish long-term goals.

"It's about an outlook," Klien said. "A two-hundred-year old city should focus on more than just one year at a time." The Community Reinvestment Plan lays out goals for five years and includes street and sidewalk repairs, neighborhood revitalization, beautification, and a healthy budget.

"This plan was adopted just this past June and concrete is being poured today."

A $2.4 million sidewalk repair effort is underway in South Covington and will next head to Latonia

When the plan was first announced at City Hall, the presentation was met with enthusiastic applause when Klein told the citizens that Covington was "in an historic position to write its own future".

Klein emphasized at the time that the new focus on infrastructure would not come at the expense of emergency personnel and in fact, the police and fire departments saw their budgets increased by several hundred thousand dollars.

The city manager was joined Thursday by Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims and City Engineer Mike Yeager.

As sidewalk work begins in South Covington, more improvements are underway Downtown. "Our focus is on key areas of economic development," Yeager said. As a massive streetscaping project in the Central Business District nears completion, more work in the same vein will begin in the spring.

While a good chunk of the focus is on building up the city, Yeager highlighted the plans to tear down some of the undesirable elements. "Over the next five years, we want to demo another two hundred properties," he said. The city has already demolished more than four dozen vacant properties and next year will knock down another forty.

Sims showcased plans for development along the riverfront. She called the Riverfront Commons project "the best kept secret in the city".

"We've talked about it for years, and now we're doing it," Sims said. In June, Covington was awarded funds for the project from the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

The riverfront will also be bolstered by the reopening of Jeff Ruby's The Waterfront, which will relocate to Covington Landing after closing in 2011 when it broke from its mooring hundreds of feet to the west of its future location.

"We do expect everything to kick off in the spring, particularly with Mr. Ruby's boat," Sims said.

"One of the major purposes (of the Riverfront Commons project) is connecting the hotels to the riverfront," she continued. "We have several nice tiers that can be used for open space or recreation."

"The plans we have today are to improve the overlook and dress it up. We want to enhance the waterfront for gatherings, festivals, events, and development."

Klein applaused the work of employees at City Hall who are overseeing the ambitious Community Reinvestment Plan, which was approved by Mayor Sherry Carran and City Commissioners Chuck Eilerman and Steve Frank while opposed by Commissioners Mildred Rains and Michelle Williams.

"We have an outstanding staff and many bright stars at City Hall," Klein said.

Photo: Larry Klein/CBC