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IRS Site Development, COVID Testing Lack of Demand Discussed in Covington

There is a lot of demand from potential contractors looking to work in the early stages of the redevelopment of the former IRS site in Covington.

There is not, however, similar demand from the public for the free COVID-19 testing currently being offered there through a federal program.

The Covington city commission heard updates on both issues at Tuesday's night caucus meeting.

"There has been a dramatic drop in the number of people coming through for testing so they are going to be beefing up their on-site advertising," said City Manager David Johnston on the topic of COVID-19 testing there. A parking lot at the 23-acre site is currently set up to accommodate drive-through testing services at no cost. "After doing that process (of promotion) for a couple of weeks, they will assess whether or not that site is needed."

Johnson said that he spoke with the Kenton County Office of Emergency Management on the issue.

"What you're seeing now is the push for vaccinations," Johnston said, speculating that more people are interested in being inoculated than tested. "A lot of people are focusing on the vaccination side of what's going on and not the testing sites."

"Don't be surprised in a week or so that we'll have news about the testing site," Johnston said.

Meanwhile, after issuing requests for qualifications from firms to remove the IRS buildings, pavement, and to abate the environmental issues, as well as firms to begin the process of designing streets and utilities, initial demand is high, Johnston said.

Forty-eight engineering and demolition firms had at least looked over the RFQ to take down the buildings. "That's all we know," Johnston said. "We will get a good response from that."

Forty-one firms had taken a look at the RFQ related to the removal of asbestos and old underground storage tanks at the site, the city manager said.

Twenty-one firms checked out the design RFQ, he said.

"So, there is interest in what is going on at that site," Johnston said.

Additionally, the city commission is set to approve the placement of $83,500 into an escrow account while the state evaluates the former IRS site's potential as a tax increment finance (TIF) district to buoy its redevelopment prospects.

A consultant is set to evaluate that possibility.

"The city will have an opportunity to review the findings and will be involved with consultants throughout the process," said Tom West, the city's economic development director. "We are not just writing a check and waiting. We will be involved in the process."

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: COVID-19 testing at the IRS site

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