A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Public comes out to comment on 4th Street bridge; city takes first step for CCR site approval

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

After a week to look over the proposals, residents wanted to, once again, voice their concerns and opinions over the Fourth Street Bridge Project. This week, they had a forum to do just that at the Covington Commission meeting.

Using the full allotted 30 minutes of public comment time, more than a dozen citizens came out to speak on the topic at the city commission’s regularly scheduled legislative meeting.

While no one seemed to care — or comment — about the four design options, most wanted to again say how they were not comfortable with the decision to have four lanes, with price and safety being the most popular reasons. These speakers wanted the city to continue to engage with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to voice their concerns.

“Continue to engage and advocate with KYTC on the Fourth St. Bridge project,” said Matt Butler, president of the Devou Good Foundation. He went on to list three main points. His first, which involved the decreasing to three lanes, would make the project safer and cheaper, he said. Secondly, he would like to see a slab set aside for a future streetcar. Lastly, he asked for the “complete teardown and rebuild of the new bridge.”

Others, like Cody Chitwood, noted their own expertise.

“We want to see a good bridge,” said Chitwood, architect and project manager at Hub + Weber Architects. “We know how to make public space and how to make buildings and spaces that people want to use, and we consider their needs.”

He noted that the projected traffic patterns do not make for good connectivity to the cities.

Tanner Wooddell, another architect and project designer at Hub + Weber Architects, urged the public to go to the project’s website at KY8Bridge.org.

“How do cyclists transition from the bridge to the road and other paths, and how do pedestrians cross streets safely, or not at all?” asked Erin Graham, architect and project manager at Hub + Weber Architects, and a resident of the Licking Riverside neighborhood. “How do they have other ways to get from point A to point B?”

Last week, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet made their latest presentation to Covington, as Mike Bezold, project manager for the Cabinet, showed four design options to the audience:

• The Arch Bridge — looks similar to the Big Mac Bridge, with 12-foot bicycle and pedestrian facilities on both sides.

• The Cable-stayed Bridge — no bridges of this type located in Northern Kentucky, very open, could have variable lighting, which could change colors for different seasons or different events.

• The Angle Arch or Tilted Arch Bridge — has two arches and all the sidewalks are multi-use paths, could have a place in the middle to rest or look over the edge, good for photographs.

• The Suspension Bridge — the tallest of the alternates, most visible from all the historic neighborhoods in Covington and Newport.

“All of them have about the same features,” Bezold said last week. “They’re all tying into Covington and Newport. One of the key things that we’re looking at on all of these alternates is the safety of the bikes and the pets and the traffic.”

Bezold noted again how the bridge will be four lanes wide, down a lane from the current five. He also explained how the 12-foot wide bike and walk paths will be wider than the 11-foot vehicle lanes. He stressed than anyone who wants to offer comments should visit the project’s website.

“I’ll make this point very directly,” Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said last week. “The city of Covington does not have the ability to tell the Transportation Cabinet what to do on this project, or on any of our projects. I can tell you that Mr. Bezold and I have not had the friendliest of relationships over the years because he often tells me, ‘No — can’t be done.’ What we do have is a relationship where we can be effective advocates.

“And I can tell you since at least March of 2022, when the city administration met with Transportation Cabinet and Newport officials, we have advocated for an iconic bridge design. We have advocated for 12-foot pedestrian/bicycle lanes on either side of the bridge. We have advocated for a separation of the vehicular lanes from the other lanes.”

“Let’s not have a key bridge wedged into place like the Girl Scout Bridge,” Butler said. “Given these compelling reasons, I implore you to make a prudent choice that safeguards our community’s integrity, ensures the safety of all travelers, and respects the wishes of the people you represent.”

“We appreciate all your comments and your enthusiasm for the welfare of the city,” Mayor Meyer said.

Plan for CCR Site

Commissioners approved a proposal from the Economic Development staff to submit a preliminary plat and improvement drawings for the Covington Central Riverfront site to the Kenton County Planning Commission for approval.

In a memo from Economic Development to Mayor Meyer, it states, “In order to sell individual parcels and groups of parcels to private developers, it is necessary for the city to subdivide the main parcel which comprises the bulk of the former IRS Service Center site.”

The submission of a “preliminary plat” is the first step in the subdivision process at the Kenton County Planning Commission.

Property Taxes

Commissioners heard the first reading of a proposed ordinance for a slight increase in property taxes — a tax of $0.277 upon each $100.00 valuation of all assessed or assessable real property and $0.359 upon each $100.00 valuation of all assessed or assessable personal property.

A second reading and vote will be taken on the ordinance at the next legislative meeting in three weeks.

Wendal, Inc., Incentive

Commissioners approved a new job development retention incentive for Wendal, Inc. Wendal is an AI platform created by Connetic Ventures, an early-stage Venture Capital fund that uses data and technology to remove bias, increase efficiency and make smarter investments.

Headquartered in Covington, Wendal, Inc., is a pioneer in the use of data and Artificial Intelligence in venture capital investing. In 2023, Wendal, Inc., grew from five employees to 18, and the payroll for the company increased from $750,000 to $2.5 million. Wendel is looking to grow by adding at least 10-12 additional employees with an approximate average annual salary of $125,000 complete with full benefits.

On top of this, the company will grow in their current space located at 910 Madison Ave.

“Due to the high-paying salaries and successful investments, they are heavily connected in the region,” city document say. “They have been offered space in Cincinnati at 537 Pete Rose Way for $12/square foot and would receive a 1-year tax abatement from Cincinnati.”

Covington officials recommend that Wendal, Inc., receive a .75 percent payroll incentive for all current jobs to be retained and a 1 percent payroll incentive for all new jobs created in Covington over a 5-year period, followed by an unincentivized 5-year retention period.

The proposal will be on next week’s consent agenda.

COV Sculpture

Commissioners approved the acceptance of a gift of a Covington sculpture from Owens & Crawley LLC, Banz Studios LLC and Southbank Partners LLC to be placed at Covington Plaza.

Valued at $70,000, the large-scale Covington sculpture is a pilot project commissioned by Southbank Partners as part of their overall strategy to re-image Riverfront Commons as a “20-mile, multi-use path along the riverfront connecting Devou Park In the west to Pendery Park In the east through the river cities of Northern Kentucky,” city documents say.

The sculpture will be placed at the eastern overlook at Covington Plaza and will bring the new Covington Economic Development Manifesto to life by focusing on the “Cov” brand and telling the story through an iconic piece of art that residents and visitors will want to experience.

Plans say the sculpture will be “bright and bold” and able to be seen from the other side of the river. “Lighting will be added for both safety and visibility reasons.”

New Hires and Approvals

Commissioners approved these new hires and approvals:

New Hire – Cathy Truelove, Staff Accountant, Finance Department
New Hire – Tilwa Bryant, Section 8 Service Representative, Neighborhood Services Department
New Hire – Courtney Harkless, Police Officer, Police Department
New Hire – Trevor Collins, Police Officer, Police Department
New Hire – Dan Wood, Zoning Administrator, Economic Development Department
Approval – Fire Cadet Job Description
Approval – Right of Way Traffic Working Foreman
Approval – Right of Way Street Working Foreman

Executive Session

Before recess the Mayor asked for a motion to approve an Executive Session for personnel. He said the commission would not return and would not do any more business that night.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., Sept. 5, 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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