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Old Issues Return for Debate as New Council Meets in Erlanger

Erlanger council met for the first time this year but old issues from last year were discussed.

Councilman Gary Meyer requested discussion on the proposed reduction of council members in the city.

Erlanger has twelve council members, the largest elected body in Northern Kentucky. Previous attempts to reduced that number have failed.

City Administrator Matthew Kremer read a pair of emails received from residents opposing a reduction while Councilman Tyson Hermes, a proponent of a reduction, said that he also received emails on the matter, though he could not share them because they were on the same device that he was using to participate in the virtual meeting.

New Councilwoman Jennifer Jasper asked for access to all the emails received from the public on the matter and made a motion to table the issue.

Councilwoman Vicki Kyle asked for a definitive timeline on tabling it so that the new council could operate with its current twelve members, but the motion was adopted without a timeline.

Another old issue resurfaced at the meeting was that of how council committees work. 

Hermes said that the current way the city assigns council committees is not proper and needs to be changed.

Current rules require that council committees be formed at this first meeting.

City Attorney Jack Gatlin explained that Councilwoman Rebecca Reckers proposed some changes to the proposed municipal order on the agenda related to committees. He suggested adding the changes to the legislation rather than introducing the changes on the floor of the meeting.

Those changes were distributed to council members a half hour before the meeting started and Hermes said that he needed more time to examine them and suggested tabling the issue.

Councilman Gary Meyer said that the rules are clear that they have to divide the council into committees at the first meeting of council, or they can change the rules at the first meeting, but it would be a violation of the rules to table it and do nothing.

Gatlin agreed that tabling it would be against the rules but said that there was no specified penalty for doing so.

Meyer expressed concern that it would set a precedent for other decision.

Hermes maintained that he wanted time to examine the changes. The original legislation on the agenda would create caucus meetings that would function in place of committee meetings, where ad hoc committees could be formed.

Meyer made a motion to pass the legislation, and it was seconded by Reckers, but Hermes asked for discussion time and offered reasons why he believed some changes were needed before proceeding.

Reckers suggested that the council was experiencing deja vu, referencing a previous attempt to change the way committees function when Hermes went into a lengthy discussion.

"You guys are trying to force something down our throats that is not ready to be read," Hermes replied. "Yeah, it is deja vu! It is coming from the same people!"

A vote was called to amend the legislation to strike the suggestion of forming an ad hoc committee to assist the mayor in creating a proposed budget. It failed by a vote of 8-2.

The vote to approve the legislation with Reckers's changes resulted in a tie.

That forced Mayor Jessica Fette into the position of breaking the tie, which she did, voting in favor of the legislation.

In other business, council voted to use part of its federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money in the amount of $1.2 million to start a program to help small businesses.

Economic Development Director Emi Randall presented such a program to council and Fette explained that the city had looked at similar programs offered in Covington, Independence, and Fort Mitchell.

Fette, Randall, and Kremer will make decisions on whether to award money when businesses apply.

The city will also use CARES Act funds as a short-term pay increase for frontline workers in the police, fire, and public works departments. After some discussion, it was decided to include support staff in that program. In total, it is expected to cost $231,600.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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