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Resolution "Not Good for City", "Poorly Written", Covington City Manager Says

This story has been updated (at 1:05 p.m.) to include comments from Commissioner Michelle Williams. See bottom of post.

The resolution opposing proposed rate increases at Sanitation District 1 contentiously approved by the Covington City Commission by a vote of 3-2 Tuesday night is not good for the city, city manager Larry Klein said Wednesday.

"It's a poorly written resolution," Klein said. "I know Commissioner (Michelle) Williams didn't write it but it's poorly written by whomever."

Williams has not returned a call seeking comment.

The resolution was added to Tuesday night's city commission agenda in a surprise move by Williams who demanded that it be added, causing several minutes of heated disagreements between the mayor, commissioners, and Klein. (SEE: Fractured Covington Commission Falls Even Farther from Cohesion)

A copy of the resolution was not provided to other commissioners  or the media before or during the meeting. The River City News has a copy now, and it's posted below. Klein said that it has "erroneous" information within it.

Here is the resolution in full:

WHEREAS, on April 30, 2013, the Board of Directors of Sanitation District No.1, have proposed a 9% and 17% increase, per year, in sanitary and storm sewer rates, followed with a 21% increase in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017; and

WHEREAS, the Covington City Commission asks the Sanitation District No. 1 Board of Directors to re-open the Consent Decree and amend that decree, especially given the 1997 "Combined Sewer Overflows- Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development," which indicates Median Household Income thresholds and other financial considerations to be taken into account for Clean Water Act Compliance; and
 
WHEREAS, the City of Cincinnati (and MSD) was successful, in 2010, with re-opening the Consent Decree in their Clean Water Act matter, significantly extending compliance elates; and
 
WHEREAS, the proposed rates are unaffordable for our Covington ratepayers, taxpayers, residents, and the SD I service area generally; and
 
WHEREAS, a great deal of additional fees is to provide for capability that is not needed today, but in the future, instead of passing such fees onto new developments through tap in fees; and
 
WHEREAS, 9%, 17%, or 21% fees are unsustainable and unconscionable:
 
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, BY THE COVINGTON CITY COMMISSION:
 
1) That the City of Covington urges Board of Directors of Sanitation District No. I not to take a 9%, or any rate greater than 9% increase on sewer or stormwater rates; and
2) That the City of Covington urges the Board of Directors of Sanitation District No. 1 to go back to federal Court, ask that Court to reopen the decree, and extend, significantly, the time for compliance to a reasonable schedule, and to stand up for the overburdened ratepayers, taxpayers, and residents that the District serves; and
3) That the City of Covington likewise urges the Kenton County Fiscal Court not to approve these devastating rate increases, and certainly not to do so until every other possibility, including going back to federal court and urging that the decree be re-opened and significantly extended.
4) That copies of the foregoing resolution be forwarded to members of the Kenton County Fiscal Court and Board of Directors of Sanitation District No. 1.
Klein said that SD1 did not propose a 9% and 17% increase, but rather a 9% or 17% increase this year. He said that the 17% increase was proposed to bring the sanitation district within full compliance of its federal mandates while a 9% increase was proposed as "bond compliance". Public input is being sought on the proposed 9% increase.
 
The resolution was approved by commissioners Williams, Midlred Rains, and Steve Frank. Mayor Sherry Carran and city commissioner Chuck Eilerman opposed it.
 
Eilerman, commenting at The River City News Facebook page, claims that the resolution was drafted by the Tea Party. "Thanks to Mayor Carran for providing an informed and thoughtful rejoinder to the ill-informed resolution from the Tea Party," Eilerman wrote. "This was also presented to the suburban cities. Covington, of all the communities in Kenton County, has the most to gain from a well-functioning and adequately funded SD1. We are, after all, at the bottom of the hill, and have the most serious problems, particularly with stormwater run-off."
 
Klein argued the same point about Covington's standing to benefit from a fully funded SD1. While hilltop cities in Kenton County don't have the water runoff issue, Covington sits at the bottom and collects more than its fair share, he said.
 
"The problem we've got is we're at the bottom of a watershed," he said.
 
That causes flooding and water overflow issues in Goebel Park, Peaselburg, Wallace Woods, and other city locations, Klein said. "Without adequate funding it's going to take longer for SD1 to fix these problems."
 
"It's not a good resolution for residents of Covington who have had sewage back up in their parks or homes."
 
Klein said that SD1 requested a copy of the resolution through email. 
 
"We're basically agreeing with hilltop cities to keeping sending their sewage our way," Klein said.
 
UPDATE (1:05 p.m.): City Commissioner Michelle Williams posted at her Facebook page, "Three Commissioners supported the SD1 Resolution, last time I checked the majority rules, and the Board of Commission set policy not the City Manager." Williams also posted to her Twitter page, "I'm looking out for ALL Covington residents."
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
 
Photo: Flags of the United States of America, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the City of Covington blow outside City Hall/RCN file
 
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