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Bike Path, Maneuvering for Vacant Council Seat Debated in Park Hills

Greg Johnson has lived on Lawton Road for 37 years and came to the Park Hills City Council meeting on Monday night to "adamantly oppose" the plan for a bike path which he believes would be installed near his property. Johnson said that he believes activity on such a trail would seriously jeopardize the safety, privacy, and security of his neighborhood, and that the cost of the study was not a wise utilization of the city's money.

Johnson was joined at the podium by Mark Cooper who now has 48 signatures on a petition asking for city council to scrap plans for a bike path.

Cooper said that the project was against the will of much of the people of Park Hills and he questioned why the city wants to extend the recreation of Devou Park into the residential part of the city, arguing that it would draw people from other cities into their residential area. Cooper also mentioned that, in his opinion, there was a push to place Jason Reser on council, and he believes that Reser has a conflict of interest since he owns a bicycle store.  

There is currently a vacancy on city council and The River City News has learned that some members of council are quietly pushing to place former Mayor Don Catchen on council while others want Reser, whose write-in campaign last November placed him as the next highest vote-getter. Catchen was ousted as mayor by current Mayor Matt Mattone who defeated Catchen through a rare victorious write-in campaign.

City Attorney Todd McMurtry spoke up immediately and told Cooper there was definitely not a conflict of interest and that that his suspicion is not true.

Councilman Monty O'Hara said that it was sad that the study was misunderstood and that there have been no hidden conversations on this. Mayor Mattone said it came out of an intention to fill in gaps in the connectivity of the city. The issue was not on the agenda and there was no other discussion of the idea of a study or the actual project of a walking path or bike path.

Other notes:

Police Chief Cody Stanley proposed an innovative plan based on the success of Senate Bill 206 which should be signed into law possibly at the end of this month in Frankfort. The bill says that retired police officers can be rehired without having to contribute to the retirement system. Stanley said four of the seven people in his department would qualify under this bill, saving the city about $64,000 a year.

Stanley further stated that all of his people have salaries that are under that of their counterparts in other comparable cities across the board, and he proposed that the money saved as a result of SB 206 be used to make Park Hills more competitive. Stanley also said that Covington Catholic High School had approached him about putting a School Resource Officer in their school. Stanley said every year he is under budget, and he even has a reserve built up. He told council that he has asked Notre Dame Academy if they would like to take part in a program where he could hire a part time SRO that could split his time between the two schools. Notre Dame has not gotten back to him.

"I think it would be a good gesture on our part," he told council. "And I think my guys deserve raises. If SB 206 doesn't get signed, then we will revert back to our original budget and things will be status quo."

Mayor Mattone commended Stanley, saying it was great use of SB 206. Council was in favor of the plan, too, and voiced their support.

Council voted to give the mayor the authority to enter into an agreement with the City of Covington to develop a concept plan for the Gateway Hilltop Campus land use and Marketing study so that they have a unified plan to offer to anyone desiring to develop the area. Mayor Mattone said Covington wants to publish the request for proposals on Tuesday.

City engineer Jay Bayer told council bids for the work on Altavia were opened on Friday, and of the five bids, Fred Nemann was the lowest bid at $552,000. However, if council still wanted colored concrete for parking spaces that would add $7,440, but a similar result could be had with different finishes, for less money. Storm sewer work still has to be done at a cost of $88,000, which should be split by SD-1, once the city signs the agreement, so the total after all the changes would be $508,235.50, and less if the city wants to scrap the colored concrete. The original estimate for the project was $600,000 so it is still under estimate. The project will probably start this summer and go into October.

Rob Hans, from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet - District 6, came to talk about the plans for the Brent Spence Bridge, which are currently on hold. He presented a slide show about how the plans evolved and how the plans screeched to a halt because of opposition to tolls to finance the estimated $2.6 billion replacement project which would add a second bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington. Hans explained that there was a study of the alternatively proposed Cincinnati Eastern Bypass, as well as other possibilities, but now the plans are to complete the long overdue maintenance work on the bridge which had been stalled pending a plan to replace the bridge.

David Gray, who lives on Scenic Drive, asked about what was going on with the plan to take properties for the Brent Spence corridor plan that is on hold. He said he had gotten a letter telling him his property would definitely be taken, so now he can't sell his home without showing potential buyers that letter.

"I'm in limbo," he said. He questioned that the letters should have been sent out to residents in the first place because with the plan on hold, all of those residents are in limbo with their properties since they know their properties will be taken should the plan be reactivated. Hans said if they hadn't sent them out as soon as they knew they would need to take the properties, he felt like people would accuse them of doing business behind closed doors. Hans told Gray he would be glad to speak to him later to discuss options.

Senator Chris McDaniel came to council to tell them what occurred in this year's legislative session.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor