Covington Moves to Create Growth in Neighborhoods
The City of Covington will seek proposals from firms to create a city-wide economic development strategy.
Economic development director Tom West will handle the process.
Commissioner Bill Wells was quick to question the need to redesign the current economic development strategy, which is only four years old, he said, arguing that it has yielded $150 million in development in Covington.
“With the limited resources and limited capacity we have, there can be a tendency to get distracted by shiny objects and neglect certain parts of the city,” said West. “What this does is gives us a data-driven strategy for what we need to be looking at to bring businesses in… to give us that direction so we can be more efficient with the resources we do have.”
West said a big part of the study would be to continue growth around Covington “so that we are seeing that excitement and development across the city and not just in one part of the city.”
Downtown Covington has seen the bulk of that recent investment.
The city would also ask that the chosen firm look at current incentive programs the city utilizes to attract businesses, and to see what changes, if any, could be made or improved in the future to best utilize taxpayer money.
Mayor Joe Meyer added that it would be a key component of the services to evaluate the business incentives program to make sure that the way the city has been investing in businesses in recent years will be sustainable in the future.
Commissioner Tim Downing raised concerns over the lack of specificity in the request for proposals, saying that he worried the city would receive proposals with suggestions they couldn’t realistically follow through on.
“We could have left some of the specifics in there, but that would have taken the latitude out that these folks with national expertise can bring to bear and would stifle creativity,” West said, adding that certain issues can be clarified during the interview process as well.
Meyer spoke in favor of the potential redesign of the city’s economic development plan.
“We need to make sure that we have a good economic development strategy for the parts of Covington south of 12th Street,” Meyer said. “The entire city is entitled to and eligible for our services.”
Despite reservations from commissioners, it was unanimously approved to send out the request for proposals since it will be no cost to the city.
The commission approved City Manager David Johnston to begin negotiations with Cooper Carry, an architecture firm based in Atlanta, to provide strategic planning services for riverfront redevelopment plans.
“We went through a process where we received 11 proposals, four that received the highest ranking with the community stakeholder group,” Johnston said. “We interviewed them all and they presented the most balanced presentation in all the areas we were looking at.”
Johnston said they were focused on finding a group that had experience in working with local governments, as well as the transfer of federal land to local government ownership.
The Covington property tax rate is set to be the same for 2019 after the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday night.
According to Finance Director Muhammed Owusu, the Northern Kentucky Area Development District’s yearly recommendation to increase personal property tax rates from 0.349 percent to 0.353 percent would only give the city about $15,000 in increased revenue.
“We can make that up with internal savings so there’s no need to ask for that from our citizens,” said Johnston.
Owusu added that Covington has consistently been in the middle of property tax rates throughout Kenton County and will continue to do so without the tax increase.
The commission approved the spending of no more than $25,503.25 from their CBDG funds to complete a traffic study of potentially changing Scott and Greenup streets to two way streets between 20th Street and MLK Boulevard to alleviate rush-hour traffic in the residential area.
Covington Police Department promoted Specialist Joshua Haggard to Sergeant, effective August 19. They also hired to Police Cadets, Ethan Griffin and Joshua Cook.
Jerome Heist was promoted to Senior Accounting Manager. Heist was acting Finance Director from July 2017 to April of this year when current Finance Director Muhammed Owusu was hired.
Written by Carrie Crotzer, RCN contributor