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Notes from Covington City Hall - June 26

Coming up later at The River City News, an in-depth look at the Community Reinvestment Plan that will put to work more than $71 million into sidewalk and road upgrade, facility construction, fleet upgrades, and more. The plan passed by a vote of 3-2, matching the vote that approved the city's ambitious budget for the next fiscal year. RCN will fill you in on exactly where the funds are expected to be spent and which streets are being targeted.

Until then, City of Covington Communications Manager Natalie Bowers drafted these notes from Tuesday night's city commission meeting.

Covington's Budget Approved - Defines Sound Fiscal Policy Commitment and Focuses on the Future

The Covington City Commission approved City Manager Larry Klein's recommended Fiscal Year 2013/2014 Budget Tuesday night by a vote of 3-2. Mayor Sherry Carran and Commissioners Chuck Eilerman and Steve Frank voted in favor while Commissioners Mildred Rains and Michelle Williams opposed it.

"This moves us toward providing services at optimal levels and secures a more stable financial future" Klein says of the budget that focuses on reinvestment in the City's infrastructure and core municipal services.

The premise of the budget outlines five core commitment areas that focus on potential for greatest return on investment and quality of life improvements for residents with a focus on sound fiscal policy and attraction of further investment.  Klein emphasizes that this plan does not come at the expense of Public Safety; Police and Fire are two departments that will see increases in staffing and resources.

In summary, the proposed balanced budget recommends the following key actions, that are elaborately explained in the City Manager's longer-term Community Reinvestment Plan:

1.     Invest in Infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, levee maintenance, storm water control), Facilities & Recreation, Fleet and Equipment.  

2.     Invest in Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization.

3.     Manage the City's past and present personnel obligations. Implement a classification and compensation plan for non-union employees and focus on meeting past financial obligations to the City's police and fire and non-uniformed employee pension funds, which are currently underfunded.

4.     Focus on replenishing the City's reserve fund. Introduce an aggressive focus on building a $1 M reserve in the FY14 budget after previous years' fund balances hovering below $500,000.   

5.     Invest in Quality of Life. Improve the citizen, business and visitor experience and the quality-of-life considerations including City-wide beautification such as sidewalk and other public infrastructure improvements.

Also Tuesday, Assistant Manager Larisa Sims with members of the Development Department gave an informative presentation of the five-year Community Reinvestment Plan and its implementation plan that focuses on the priorities listed above.

Uptech Looks to Covington for Office Space

Commission approved a five-year lease that permits UpTech, the Northern Kentucky accelerator that focuses on developing IT companies, to redevelop a vacant building at 112 Pike Street. UpTech is currently at One Riverfront Place in Newport.

Funds from the City's Economic Development Program as well as a variety of grants and loans from Duke Energy, the Catalytic Development Fund, and LISC will be used for the project.

The proposed Pike Street location is close to bioLOGIC, the SIDIS-owned incubator and accelerator for biotech companies that recently opened 1,400 square feet of lab space.

In addition to working space, UpTech funds each portfolio company with $50,000 and provides additional capital to companies that reach key development goals. The program includes an executive mentor for startups and connects them with business professionals in law, finance, marketing and other services. UpTech companies also have access to resources at Northern Kentucky University's College of Informatics.

New Rain Garden Named Willow Run Park

Commission approved the naming of the park and greenspace south of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, between James Simpson Way and the Interstate 75/71 exit ramp, 'Willow Run Rain Garden & Interpretive Park'. 

On July 2 at 2pm, the City of Covington is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony that will officially open Willow Run Rain Garden and Interpretive Park, located on the south side of Martin Luther King Jr Blvd between the I-75/71 exit ramp and James Simpson Way. The ribbon cutting will be at the east portion of the park near the corner of James Simpson Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Through a partnership with SD-1 and the Kentucky Transportation Department, the City of Covington took the construction of the historic interpretive park as part of the mitigation for adverse effects to historic properties due to Martin Luther King Jr Blvd reconstruction project. The park includes a series of measures that will reduce rainwater runoff into the sewer system as well as 5 panels that tell the history of the 12th St Corridor as well as explain the drainage control mechanisms. These panels were created and designed by Gray and Pape, who were hired as a cultural resources consultant for the project.

Adoption of City Center Action Plan

The City-wide strategic plan that was presented for the first time in May 2012 and was made possible through a Community Challenge Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) in 2010, was officially adopted by City Commission. This adoption commits the City to the plan's long-term plans as well as short-term implementation, which is supported by the City Manager's five-year Community Reinvestment Plan.

Lake Park Reconstruction

Commission approved the contract to reconstruct Lake Park Drive to Lonkard Construction, who will install a new drainage system in the amount of $ 188,325.05.

Lake Park Drive was not constructed properly to handle the large amount of truck traffic that it receives.  No edge drains or cross drains were included in the original construction and the driving surface is being destroyed from the ground up.  This project will reconstruct the bad concrete sections, provide a new base, and will include and edge drain and cross drains that will keep the water out of the base.  The edge drain will be installed such that additional cross drains can tie into it as future concrete slabs are replaced.

Work is expected to commence within the next 1-2 months. No roads will be blocked during this time. One lane of traffic will be maintained on Lake Park Drive at all times and traffic will be maintained by flagmen.

Photo: Covington City Commission official photo