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City Hall: Neighborhoods Still Priority Even Without Ombudsman

The appointment of Suzann Gettys as Covington's business assistance specialist Tuesday night marked the end of her tenure as the city's ombudsman. That position was done away with through the massive restructuring that is taking place at City Hall. Gettys was the point person for Covington's eighteen neighborhood associations and facilitated many important components for their events and communications. Gettys spoke before the Covington City Commission Tuesday, offering the drawn-up transition plan for how neighborhoods will now communicate with City Hall.

The ombudsman had previously taken complaints from residents who will now be given a centralized phone number to call with an automated system that will provide various issue-related options, though there will also be an option to speak to someone live during regular business hours. In her previous role, Gettys was the one-stop office for citizen contact but now those issues will be addressed through the city manager's office when a resident is unable to find a resolution through the apropriate channels. 

Specific information requested will be channeled through the new communication/marketing division.

As for the neighborhoods, the ombudsman had previously assisted with monthly meeting documents for the associations, posted neighborhood information on the city website, assisted with special events, attended monthly meetings, and coordinated guest speakers. The neighborhood associations will now communicate their completed agendas and meeting minutes to the communication/marketing division, which will still provide free printing services for those documents. That new division will also handle event promotion and website posts. The city manager's office will help facilitate guest speakers for the associations.

As ombudsman, Gettys was also responsible for the monthly e-news from the city and also sent out other "e-blasts" pertaining to other events and information. That will also now be handled by the communication/marketing division as well as other duties including the mailing of letters to residents impacted by construction or road projects.

Ampco, the large parking corporation that manages city-owned garages and lots as well as the enforcement of parking laws, will also take over the residential parking program from the former ombudsman position. The most significant change for residents in that transition is that parking permits will now be picked up at the Mid-Town Garage as opposed to the city's finance department. 

As for Gettys, she is thankful for the outpouring of support she received from residents who were sorry to see her former position eliminated. "It's impossible to describe how much I have enjoyed my job," Gettys said. "I look forward to new challenges." In her new role, Gettys will be a point person for the city's businesses and will maintain effective communication with them. 

"I think it's incumbent on all of us that we don't lose out on that process (of the former ombudsman responsibilities," said Mayor Chuck Scheper. He added that Gettys's new role is an important factor in the development of small businesses, noting statistics that 2% of jobs are created by relocations while 42% are the result of expansions and 56% come from start-ups. "We've been spending a lot of our energy going after that two-percent."

Other notes from Tuesday's meeting:

  • City Heights streets are now to be maintained by the Housing Authority of Covington which oversees the subsidized housing project. At the next city commission meeting, ownership of the streets will also be handed over to HAC. The city believes that the privatization of the streets will enable HAC to maintain a list of people that they do not want up on "the hill" if there has been previous trouble.
  • A 3% payroll tax rebate: was awarded to Megacorp Logistics, LLC which is moving twenty-three jobs into the RiverCenter towers. The average salary for employees will range between $40,000 and $50,000 and is expected to generate $180,000 in new revenue for the city.
  • A health clinic for city employees: was approved in conjunction with Kenton County and Sanitation District 1. The clinic was part of the health care negotiations as the city and the public employees unions reached a resolution on contract talks. It will be located in the Kenton County building and aims to help with preventive care.
  • City-owned property at 409-415 Scott Boulevard will be developed by RAH Realty so that the PPS Group across the street can use the upper floors as storage. The developer has also agreed to build out one of the storefronts for use by the Covington Police bike patrol. It was noted that Gateway Community & Technical College president Ed Hughes is in favor of having the bike patrol in what would be the middle of the school's planned urban campus.
  • The last issue in need of repair at the city-owned RiverCenter garage will be addressed. $25,902.50 will be spent on new light fixtures.
  • Billy Casper Golf's contract was extended at Devou Park Golf Course.
  • A new engine for a fire truck will be purchased at a cost of $31,645 from 911 Fleet & Fire Equipment. "This gets the Downtown truck back on the road," said assistant fire chief Brian Bamberger.
  • Resignations: Travis Ludwig resigned from the fire department, former police chief Bill Dorsey stepped down from the alcoholic beverage control board, and John Kidd resigned from the audit committee of which he was one of the original founders.
  • Halloween trick-or-treating in Covington will run from 6:00PM-8:00PM on October 31.

PHOTO: Suzann Gettys/RCN

Story by: Michael Monks