A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington commission hears Parks and Rec ready to build on momentem, approves fire dept. grant, more

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Last year, the City of Covington’s Parks and Recreation Department produced 16 events, more than 100 programs, more than 600 shelter reservations, more than 6,000 aquatic center check-ins and more than 20,000 community members served.

It’s time, officials say, to build on that momentum.

“We wanted to add some new things, get rid of some things that didn’t work as well, and we just really wanted to like, kind of encapsulate that and show you what we’re going to be offering this year and hear your thoughts,” said Ben Oldiges, the city’s Parks and Recreation Manager.

It’s how city commissioners began their regularly scheduled Tuesday night legislative meeting. First, Oldiges wanted to tell them about some goals.

“We want to showcase and give a sense of pride to community members to show that they can find affordable entertainment in their community,” Oldiges said. “We wanted to capitalize off of success.”

Some of the things that went well last year included:

basketball clinic
soccer program
concert series
social media

“We saw a lot of great interactions through it and through our programs,” he said. “We saw people that were showing up to the programs because of the positive atmosphere that we were creating, so it was it was a really good year.”

He then described some events they plan to run this year, including:

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is going to be coming back again (3 shows)
Shakespeare in the Park
Easter egg hunt (April 1)
Earth Day celebration (April 22)
Fishing Derby
Covington Independence Day dog parade
Opening of the dog park (April 29)
Dog swim (Aug. 6)
Jack O’ Lantern festival
Covington youth soccer program
Future Galileos (once a month will have light refreshments and look at the stars through a giant telescope)
Archery program
Basketball clinics
Northern Kentucky Senior Games
Adult craft nights
Family dinner (“We actually bring in a bunch of dry food items or canned food items families together as a family unit try to take the ingredients that we provide, and they try to build out a family dinner for themselves.”)

“We’re really trying to give some more offerings to adults that are not athletic-based,” Oldiges said.

He said they would also like to improve on a few offerings, including: Men’s softball league

“It was not successful last year,” Oldiges said. “We’ve come together and we’ve kind of formulated a new strategy of ways to actually make that a successful program, and we feel very confident we’ll be able to have a really good season this year.”

They would also like to increase the number of programs being delivered directly to the community. “We also want to create lasting partnerships,” he said. “We made some incredible partnerships with local organizations last year and we want to just capitalize on that again. We had a lot of fun last year saw a lot of joy happening and we’re just hoping to capitalize on that more and bring in even more people.”

Mayor Joseph U. Meyer and the commission appreciated Oldiges’ effort.

“I’m really appreciative — thank you,” Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said. “Thanks for your presentation — it’s quite an aggressive and positive program and it sounds good. Thank you very much.”

To top it all off, the Programming Guide should be available soon, officials said.

First reading on short-term rentals

After the city’s legal department requested a change in language, the city’s much-talked about amendment on short-term rentals got a new first reading Tuesday night.

Two weeks ago, Commissioners listened to more than a dozen residents who came out to voice their opinions on the amendment, which would include a one-year prohibition on any operator of a short-term rental without a license from applying for a license for one year.

But Commissioners decided to pass the issue to last week, due to “changes” that needed to be made, according to the city’s legal department. Then, after the changes were applied, it was the city commission’s opinion that it had become a completely new amendment, one that would have to go through the legislative process again.

So, it has. Tuesday night, it got another first reading.

“This is the first reading of an ordinance — no vote is taken,” said Mayor Meyer. “It will be read a second time in two weeks and members of the public are encouraged to take a look at the ordinance. If they have issues or questions, please address them through individual members of the Commission.”

FEMA Safer Grant

Commissioners approved a $1.5 million grant for the city’s fire department.

On Feb. 9, the department was notified it had been awarded the FY21 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) grant, for $1,551,348.20 to fund four new firefighters, raising staffing from 122 to 126.

“The purpose of the SAFER Grant Program is to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to assist in increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards, and to fulfill traditional missions of fire departments,” stated the award letter, which was written by Pamela Williams, Assistant Administrator, Grant Programs, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“After careful consideration, FEMA has determined that the recipient’s project or projects submitted as part of the recipient’s application and detailed in the project narrative as well as the request details section of the application ― including budget information ― was consistent with the SAFER Grant Program’s purpose and was worthy of award.”

Covington Police Chief Mark Pierce credited Battalion Chief Joe Bowman and captain Andy Schultz, who — along with others over the last eight years — have successfully written grants which have earned more than $6 million.

SwimSafe Pool Management

Commissioners approved a $270,000 contract with SwimSafe Pool Management for the 2023 Summer Pool Season.

The contract includes the management and operation of Randolph Pool, Goebel Pool and the Latonia Waterpark for the 2023 pool season. It includes options for the next four years.

Chevy Tahoe

Commissioners approved an order for the city to purchase one 2023 Chevy Tahoe for the Covington Fire Department from Bachman Auto Group, at a cost of $45,142.92, payable from FET-FAO funds.

Capital projects first reading

Commissioners heard the first reading of an ordinance relating to the “procurement of architectural and engineering services for capital projects and establishing standards for design-build and public-private partnership on capital projects.”

Poll workers

As he is wont to do, Mayor Meyer saved a couple of nuggets for the end of the meeting.

“Our county clerk sent an e-mail to Mayors asking that we help recruit poll workers for the primary election,” he said. “We had discussed this a couple of weeks ago, the possibility, and now that we’ve been asked officially to do it … I would like to ask us at least informally to approve the idea of allowing our city employees to serve as poll workers — except for the on-duty police and firefighters — replacement workers. Since we have a very short timeframe, I ask the city manager just to send out an e-mail to all the city employees asking them if they are interested in submitting their name for consideration. Under this proposal, they would collect the normal city salary, plus then they would collect the compensation they get for working as a poll worker. If there’s enough of a consensus here, we can formalize this at our next legislative meeting with adoption of an order authorizing it retroactively to today.”

Ken Smith said the city would send out the email Wednesday.

General Assembly

“I wanted to mention, for just a minute, what the General Assembly is doing to a large segment of our community,” Meyer said, referencing HB 470 and SB 150.

“That is just an assault on the LGBTQA community,” he said. “Now, we have three legislators from Northern Kentucky whose districts include parts of the city of Covington and I’m very happy and proud to say that all three of those voted against this legislation — this is the legislation that deals with the children who are transitioning and a number of other things.

“When you look in into the details of what it really is, it’s cruel,” he continued. “It condemns children to a very difficult life … it interferes with parental rights and, tellingly, not one single Kentuckian showed up in committee in the Senate today to testify in favor of the legislation. Instead, it’s outside groups from California, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin who are encouraging legislation that a whole lot of Kentuckians showed up today to oppose.

“And this legislation does set Kentucky back,” he continued. “It sends completely the wrong message about our community and our state.”

He went on to say he hoped politicians would not pass the legislation.

Smith absent

Commissioner Shannon Smith was absent Tuesday night.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., March 21, at the City Building at 20 W. Pike St. in Covington. The meetings can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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