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Tree Job Does Not Get a Vote & Other Covington Commission Notes

Of all the contentious votes and comments taken Tuesday night at Covington City Hall during its inordinately lengthy meeting, the most awkward occurred after the approval of cuts to the fire department's budget and after dismissal of the code enforcement director and restructuring of that department. "It's not a secret that I'm involved in with urban forestry," said City Commission Sherry Carran. "Urban forestry is a way of addressing economic development in our city and having a certified arborist is part of having an urban forestry plan."
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Crystal Courtney works as a seasonal employee in the Department of Public Improvements (DPI), currently utilized as a driver. "This is a not a new position, it's a reclassification" said city engineer Tom Logan, combatting charges from some in the public and some on the commission that it would be uncouth to hire an arborist while eliminating positions in the fire department and code enforcement. "What I saw as a department director was an opportunity. We are down eight bodies that provide services." DPI has eight positions that are budgeted for but currently unfilled leaving a department stretched for time.
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"What we have a is a part-time employee that we recruited from NKU. She's turned down three offers because she believes in this city. If we don't make this move we could lose this very valuable person," Logan said.
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Others on the commission were not convinced. "I find it suspect that we add this when we annihilate a department and fire one of the best employees we have," said Commissioner Shawn Masters, referring to code enforcement and its director Keith Bales. "This is not the time or place."
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Carran tried to explain why the position, which would have added a second arborist to the city's payroll, was important. "We all know our gateways look not so hot, we're all ashamed of them," she said. "There's places in public right of ways being taken care of by neighborhood associations." Carran explained that as the Martin Luther King Boulevard median landscaping project gets underway, an arborist position would be very important in maintaining it. "This is an issue of the quality of life in our city. How can we expect a business to move here when it looks like this?"
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But following Carran's motion for an up or down vote, neither Masters nor Commissioners Steve Frank and Steve Casper offered her the courtesy. With no second to the motion, the issue failed and was dropped. "i'm very disappointed," Carran said after the meeting. She told The River City News that she emailed the commission early on with details on how valuable urban forestry is and said that having tree-lined streets makes areas feel safer and in shopping districts, according to a study she cited, can implore shoppers to spend more money. "This is a way to begin to improve that," she said. "We have the facts and they don't want the facts." There were four items on the agenda related to the arborist position including two first readings of ordinances that would create the position and set its salary, as well as the specific hiring of Courtney and setting her salary.
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OTHER NOTES FROM TUESDAY NIGHT'S COMMISSION MEETING:
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Lincoln Grant School building will be nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
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School board member Jerry Avery and Eastside activist Clint Jackson reiterated their call for more of Covington's men to be involved in the schools.
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Mayor Chuck Scheper announced the appointment of several teens to the Covington Youth Commission. The group will motivate 5,000 of the city's youth to give back through service learning projects such as the Great American Cleanup, food drives, and veen hosting mock city commission meetings, according to Jenni Miller-Franics of the Center for Great Neighborhoods, which is one of the youth commission's partners. Rick Hulefeld of Children Inc. applauded the city's efforts. "We are the first city in Kentucky to issue a service learning challenge," Hulefeld said. "We're the beneficiaries when we give young people the ability to make a difference. It's time we tell the real story of the vast majority of people who live and go to school here." The commission includes Rae Annah Bandy (Holmes senior), Chris Bishop (Holmes junior), Maurissa Brown (Holmes freshman), Eli Cline (Holmes junior), Wayne Guilliams (Holmes freshman), Alex Vancini (Holmes freshman), Segio Vancini (Holmes junior), Lindsay Vancini (Holmes senior), and Bridget Nicholas (Scott junior).
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The City and Boys & Girls Club agree to contract that has the city providing 2 lifeguards and management of the club's pool operations from September 23 through the end of February in an amount not to exceed $14,000.
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Annual concrete maintenance contract is awarded to Hendy, Inc in the amount of $75,900.
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Captains John Martin and Glenn JR Johnson of the Covington Fire Department were promoted to Battalion Chiefs.
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PHOTO: Crowd assembles at City Hall for Commission Meeting/RCN

Comments

Commissioner Carran has her priorities backwards. First we get the wolf away from the door and then we plan trees around the door!