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Covington City Hall to See Organizational Change; City Taps NKU for IRS Site Help

After three months on the job, Covington City Manager David Johnston is settling in and offering suggestions on how to change the organizational structure at City Hall.

His recommendations came this week, even though the same firm that recommended his hiring, Arizona-based Municipal Solutions, was also tapped with creating a new organizational structure plan, they are many weeks behind, so Johnston moved forward with his own.

“I think we’re at a place now of needing to do things efficiently, not just doing them to get them done,” Johnston said of his outline.

The commission asked Johnston to outline how he’d like to see the city operate at the November 21 caucus meeting and he returned with his plan a week later.

“These are all functional roles,” Johnston said, adding that there would be more specific roles under each item.

Under his proposed plan, there would be a specific lawyer in the legal department to handle liability claims against the city, as well as a lawyer to consistently represent the city in court.

Johnston also added the position of grant writer to the administration department.

“Instead of trying to ask each department to do its own grant work, and try to fit that into their already busy schedule, this would be one person that would work with each department to troll the grant opportunity waters,” he said.

Commissioner Bill Wells questioned if Johnston’s plan is workable within the city’s yearly budget, to which Johnston said that he hasn’t put any numbers to his plan so he couldn’t be sure if the budget would allow for all of the positions in his plan.

Commissioner Michelle Williams also raised concerns of the lack of Section-8 housing representation in Johnston’s plan, but Johnston said that would be discussed once they came up with a plan on how to deal with housing issues all around Covington.

“I’ve had very limited interaction with (Section-8),” Johnston said. “That person comes to our staff meetings, but I think that that’s something we need to talk about. But it’s a function that I’m not faced with everyday because they’re not physically in the building, same with police and fire.”

When asked about the position of an internal auditor, Johnston said he had “cropped out” that position because after various conversations he felt the position had changed every three to four years.

He added that the position had evolved from auditing contracts to project auditing and he would like to see a discussion of how it fits into the organization and if the city needs and internal auditor. After that, they could decide where to place them in the organization.

“In my mind it is a critical function, as a compliance function and an accountability function, so we do what we say we’re going to do and so the city is fulfilling its promise to the people,” Commissioner Jordan Huizenga said.

Future of the IRS building

With the IRS processing facility set to close in September of 2019, not only will it leave a massive building vacant, it will cut off a significant source of revenue to the city with the loss of many jobs.

The City of Covington is attempting to get ahead of the loss of revenue by contracting NKU’s Center for Economic Analysis and Development to complete a thorough evaluation of what will happen to the city once the IRS is gone.

“I really think we need to (have this done),” Johnston said. “I’m a firm believer in using local resources if at all possible and we are fortunate to have NKU in our backyard.”

Johnston said that the analysis will also look at the impact of the lost number of jobs to the area.

“Hopefully this information will reinforce why it’s important that the city takes this closure very seriously, and set a vision of how we want to reintegrate this property back into the community fabric,” he said.

The analysis will be complete no later than the end of June 2018.

Written by Carrie Crotzer, RCN contributor