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Covington Commission Approves Raise for Klein, Purchase of 1200 Bicentennial Books

The City of Covington celebrated its 200th birthday throughout 2015, but the nonprofit bicentennial committee, known as COV 200, ended its efforts deep in debt. The organization also had difficulty selling the commemorative coffee table book, Gateway City: Covington, Kentucky 1815-2015, leaving nearly 1,300 copies of the limited edition book unsold.

The Covington City Commission stepped in to help both of those issues on Tuesday night. With a unanimous vote, the city will spend $50,000 to purchase 1,288 copies of Gateway City and the funds will be used to retire COV 200's debt. The $45 retail price per book may be reduced or eliminated as the city attempts to get the copies into people's hands.

"We would like to get them in the hands of people who can benefit and learn about the city's history," said City Manager Larry Klein. "We want to give one to every senior at a high school in Covington. We have also discussed using these books when we meet with prospective businesses. We also discussed making these books available to the general public at a very steep discount.

"If we could make them available at a steep discount and put them in the hands of more folks, there will be more people learning about the history of this city. I think it's better than sitting in boxes in the basement of City Hall."

The book is more than 200 pages, fully illustrated, and was edited by Dave Schroeder, historian and Executive Director for the Kenton County Public Library and authors and Northern Kentucky historians, Dr. James Claypool and Dr. Paul A. Tenkotte. More than a dozen local authors also contributed to the book.

Gateway City highlights Covington’s progression from a ferry landing and tavern to the bustling city of growth and innovation that it is today. Filled with photographs and illustrations, chapters highlight specific aspects of how the city developed and the people who lived here.

"This is a big, well-done book," said City Commissioner Chuck Eilerman. "$45 was not at all unreasonable for what it is, but it was a little pricey for some Covington families, so if we make it available for $20 or $25 at City Hall, we could recoup some of this investment."

City Commissioner Jordan Huizenga noted that Gateway City was one of five major projects associated with the bicentennial: a documentary film, a summer festival, an exhibit at the Behringer-Crawford Museum, a gala celebration, and the book. "None of them, frankly, were intended to make money but the book certainly in and of itself, as well as some other things, were really intended as ways to thank donors and supporters, so we are kind of continuing that, I think," Huizenga said.

He also noted that the exhibit at Behringer-Crawford and the documentary film, Covington at 200: Points of View, won state awards last week. "There was an enormous amount of work done, including this book and i think this provides the city an outstanding opportunity to continue that work and to continue the impact to get these books in front of more people," Huizenga said.

Mayor Sherry Carran noted that nearly all the work for COV 200 was done by volunteers. "You can't put a value on everything that was given by those volunteers," she said.

Two commissioners decline to vote on city manager's raise

City Manager Klein was given an 8 percent raise, increasing his annual salary to roughly $145,000. He had not seen a raise in pay since 2014, though all other employees had their salaries increased during that period. 

Mayor Carran and Commissioners Eilerman and Bill Wells voted in favor of the raise. Huizenga and Commissioner Steve Frank offered themselves as "present, not voting", both citing the timing of the vote. 

"I think Larry deserves a raise. I think he's done a great job for the city," Huizenga said. "I just think it's a question of timing." Asked by The River City News to elaborate, Huizenga said, "At this point, that is all I'm prepared to give you."

Klein's future as city manager is uncertain since Carran was defeated by challenger Joe Meyer in last week's mayoral election by a wide margin. Klein and Carran have worked closely together and it was widely assumed during the campaign that Klein's role as city manager would not continue were Meyer elected.

But Klein said Tuesday night that he wants to keep his job. "I love my job," he told The River City News after the meeting ended. "Like most people, I need a job. There's a lot of work left to do and I'm certain I can be helpful to the next commission to continue the progress."

The city manager said that he had not yet met formally with Meyer about his future.

Commissioner Frank also offered himself as "present, not voting", saying that even though he, too, believes that Klein deserves a raise, a vote should have taken place prior to the election. 

Klein's raise is retroactive to July 1, 2015. 

"We did a favorable review," Eilerman said, noting a commissioner survey that was commissioned last time Klein was up for a raise. Commissioner Wells said that Klein's scores were very high.

"This was a decision that should have been made a long time ago," said Mayor Carran in offering her support. "All of our employees have received a raise in 2014 and also in 2015. It's the fair thing to do and Larry is very deserving of this raise."

New economic development specialist hired

The city also welcomed Ross Patten as its new economic development specialist on Tuesday night. He will begin working at City Hall on November 28. The position is designed to work with Don Warner, the city's economic development manager.

"We were looking for someone who could hit the ground running," said Warner, noting that Patten joins Covington from the City of Cincinnati where he has worked as a development officer with a focus on the area around the University of Cincinnati. Patten's experience with facade grants, economic incentives, and business attraction made him an attractive candidate, Warner said.

Ross Patten (RCN)

In Covington, Patten will focus on business attraction, including the effort to revitalize the Latonia business district and shopping center.
"For those of us in the field, our mantra is, economic development is constant, in a good economy or a bad economy," Patten said, in accepting the position on Tuesday. "I look forward to working to diversify and increase the city's tax base through business attraction and to help our existing businesses grow."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher