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Code Enforcement Restructured Amid Changes at City Hall

"We have to grow our way out of this situation by changing the way we do business here at City Hall," said Covington City Manager Larry Klein during a four-hour long meeting of the City Commission in which the restructuring of City Hall was presented and voted upon. "Management Partners recommendations were useful and gave us good guidance, public meetings were very helpful. This is the result of much work by the city commission and staff over the past two months." The structural changes include redefining leadership roles at City Hall, reducing the number of managers reporting directly to Klein from thirteen to seven, and most controversially, eliminating several positions within the code enforcement department including its director Keith Bales.
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During the presentation delivered by assistant city manager Larisa Sims only vague references were made to the changes in the employment of specific individuals. That was not good enough for a restless and unruly crowd that began to shout for specifics. "We need to know exactly what your position is, what is going to happen to the workers?," asked Bennie Doggett, president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association. "We need to stop playing games with people's lives. Let's be real with the people and let's tell them what we want to know. Let's stop going in circles."
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"Tell us who you are going to fire," barked Commissioner Shawn Masters from the dais. 
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Sims complied. Of the eight positions in the code enforcement department, the director will be let go as will one of the four code enforcement officers, though that person has not yet been chosen. A clerk typist will be transferred to another department. Two part-time employees will be brought on to share a position in the department. Though reductions to staffing are being made Sims argued that the amount of man hours per week will increase from 187 to 200 under the new model. Building inspections will be outsourced to the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.
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"Maintenance of vacant and abandoned property consumes fifty percent of code enforcement's time," Sims said, noting that of the three or four hundred vacant buildings in Covington, 150 are owned by the City. "Too much time is spent managing vacant properties." Sims added that there is not enough time allotted for enforcing the code and that additionally there has not been enough money to tear down the troubled properties. Maintenance responsibility for those city-owned properties will be transferred to the Department of Public Improvements (as will the duty of waste management). CSX railroad will be urged to spend more of its own money to maintain property that it owns while banks will also be asked to take better care of the properties that they own.
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The City will also work toward demolishing as many as possible of the blighted properties it owns. The newly restructured code enforcement department will develop an interior rental inspection program, possibly create a land bank. The City will also move to adopt Kentucky House Bill 135 which would give its liens priority over those belonging to a bank.
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Interestingly, it was noted that Keith Bales created his own proposal for saving the code enforcement department, one that even recommended laying off himself, but it was never formally considered by the commission. "In his plan he suggested his own elimination," Masters said. "That ought to tell you something about the caliber of the man working for us. We haven't given this department a chance. We're going down the wrong path. We can't take a shock and awe approach the way the city manager and a few commissioners have suggested." Masters was the lone dissenting vote as the changes passed 4 - 1.
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Mayor Chuck Scheper said he did sit down with Bales and looked over the document and compared it with Sims' plan. "I appreciate (Bales') thoughtfulness as it relates to that," the mayor said, "but we're still faced with the financial struggles that we have. I believe we need to move forward and try this model."
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NOTE: Other changes at City Hall will be covered in separate articles that can be found on the homepage as soon as they are completed.
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PHOTO: Larisa Sims gives her presentation

Comments

I would like to see, as a citizen and taxpayer of Covington, a report which outlines the proposed savings from these restructuring plans, job cuts, and reassignments compared to the actual savings achieved. Let's see some accountability and reward (if everything works as planned) for these departments and personnel.