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Commission Highlights: Development Department Transformation, New Police Officers, New Police Vehicles, and New Body Cameras

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COVINGTON, KY – A transformational restructure of the Development Department was approved Tuesday night by the Board of Commissioners.

Five new police officers were hired, the purchase of 32 new police vehicles and new body cameras was approved.

Proposed zoning changes for the former Gateway Community and Technical College “hilltop” advanced in light of anticipated development of the site off Amsterdam Road.

The Restructuring of the Development Department

Tuesday night’s meeting began with accepting the resignation of Assistant City Manager for Development Larisa Sims who has accepted a position as Assistant to the City Manager with the City of Newport.

“Larisa has left some really big shoes to fill here in Covington, and the City of Newport is very fortunate to have her help lead them moving forward. She had a big hand in all of the successful projects that have recently been completed and in projects that will be starting in the months ahead,” said City Engineer Mike Yeager.

Sims began her career with the City of Covington in November 2009. She managed and had been involved in numerous projects including Hotel Covington, Duveneck Square, Lincoln Grant Scholar House, Braxton Brewery, Riverfront Commons, Center City Action Plan and various others all the while creating an exemplary Development Department.

City Manager Larry Klein said, “In addition to the Center City Action Plan that is guiding revitalization of the City’s urban core, riverfront redevelopment plans, and several notable economic development and capital project successes, Larisa has built a great collaborative team in the Development Department.

“That is her greatest legacy here at the City, and they will continue to carry out the vison and plans that the Mayor and Commissioners have laid out.”

Klein presented the Mayor and Commissioners with a recommended restructuring of the Development Department. Under the plan, City Engineer Mike Yeager will advance into the new Development Director/ City Engineer position and oversee the department.

Additionally, Economic Development Manager Geoff Milz and Department of Public Improvements/Assistant City Engineer Rick Davis will take on more responsibilities along with the reorganization of the Department.

In response to the explosion of economic development and capital/infrastructure projects taking place throughout the City, the following three new positions have been created: Economic Development Specialist, full-time Code Enforcement Manager, and an additional Assistant City Engineer to manage several of the capital and infrastructure projects that are underway.

“This plan builds on the strengths of our existing staff and augments our capacity for getting things done for the residents, visitors and businesses in Covington. With strategic investments in staff for infrastructure projects, code enforcement and economic development, it shows that we are keeping our eye on the prize – better streets, sidewalks and parks; a no-nonsense approach to property maintenance in our neighborhoods; and expanded opportunities for commerce,” stated Economic Development Manager Geoff Milz.

“This restructuring plan puts additional resources into our key focus areas of economic development, code enforcement, and project management for the many large scale projects the City has going on right now,” stated Klein.

Police Department Hires Patrol Officers; Makes Technology Advancements

Tuesday’s meeting included additional staffing changes as five Grade 1 Patrol Officer positions were filled by Michael Keene, Matthew Raabe, Jeffrey Osborne, Kevin Igo and Matthew Regan, effective July 31.

Additionally, the Mayor and Commissioners approved the purchase of 32 new vehicles and authorized a contract with Taser Axon International approving a five- year contract for the Police Department’s Taser Axon body worn camera systems.

The Covington Police Department’s Body Worn Camera program has been in existence since 2010. Serving as trailblazers in the field, the Covington was one of the first police departments in the area to use this technology.

In the program’s third generation, the new body worn cameras come with state of the art capabilities in video evidence, collection and storage, redaction capabilities, and product durability storing all data in a cloud based portal system.

Along with these advancements in technology, the new cameras also feature auto activation for the first time. This means that when a camera is signaled within range, any Police Department vehicle in the area will automatically have its camera activated and begin recording. This technology also activates the same way when a taser is turned on as well.

New Software Approved Implementing Advancements in Efficiency

Over the last several years, the City has been working to upgrade software throughout each department to assist in case management and serve as a means to streamline the City’s operations.

As of Tuesday evening, the Mayor and Commissioners approved the authorization to execute a contract with Accela, Inc. and Avocette Technologies, Inc. allowing the City to move forward with the implementation of the new software.

Accela, Inc. is a cloud based solutions platform that assists government services with code enforcement inspections and field work. Upon implementation, citizens will be able to visit the City’s website and create a work order for code enforcement inspectors when they witness a violation. Additionally, the software will allow citizens to submit permits and license applications online for processing.

Avocette Technologies, Inc. is the primary third party vendor utilized by Accela, Inc. for implementation services. This software will convert the City’s current data into Accela, Inc. expediting the transitioning process. Avocette Technologies, Inc. will also assist in reviewing the City’s current procedures and modifying the default programming in Accela, Inc. to match the City’s needs.

As a result, the City will be able to operate more efficiently in addressing citizens’ work orders and process their requests in an effective manner and citizens will be able to monitor progress toward compliance.

Zoning Changes & Improvements

Along with the numerous technology advancements, the City is striving to improve its current Zoning Ordinance.

A contract with Greydon Head Land Use was approved allowing the company to formulate a comprehensive evaluation of the City’s current Zoning Ordinance. Greydon will review the ordinance to ensure it aligns with the City’s development plans serving as a means to promote Covington’s vision as opposed to prohibiting future goals. The review will also examine the City’s existing social service uses in the zoning ordinance.

Potential Rezoning and Development of 1025 Amsterdam Road

The Mayor and Commissioners authorized the filing of an application with the Kenton County Planning Commission to initiate a map amendment to the Covington Zoning Ordinance changing 1025 Amsterdam Road from RU-2 Urban Residential to R-2 Urban Residential Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Upon the relocation of Gateway Community and Technical College from its “hilltop” campus on Amsterdam Road to its Urban Metro Campus in downtown Covington, the zoning change is related to the potential reuse and redevelopment of the property. While the 18.8 acre parcel located in Covington is one of the three properties comprising the 25.95 acre Hilltop Campus, the other two additional parcels are located in Park Hills.

The City of Park Hills is also moving forward with an application to the Kenton County Planning Commission to change the zoning to a PUD in regard to their portion of the campus.

If approved, the PUD will allow for a mixture of land uses through flexible regulations to encourage creative design. As a result, developers will gain latitude to maximize the potential of the property.  

The Mayor and Commissioners also approved a proposal from Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS) for the City of Covington and the City of Park Hills to facilitate a small area study for this site since redevelopment is imminent. The two cities plan to work together with PDS to evaluate the highest and best use of the Gateway Hilltop Campus Site creating one shared vision for the redevelopment.

CMAQ Grant & Riverfront Commons Project Update

Also included at Tuesday’s meeting, the Mayor and Commissioners approved the order resolution to execute an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) in accepting $3.9 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant money.

The CMAQ grant will assist in funding the Riverfront Commons Project taking place between Riverside Place and Madison Avenue including: a roundabout at the foot of Riverside Place, walking trails, a public plaza, lighting, decorative fencing and landscaping.

The grant will also fund the West Walk from Madison Avenue up to the sidewalk along Highway Avenue developing a multi-use path of the river side of the levee. It will include lighting and an up and over the levee component that ties in near the Brent Spence Bridge to provide better connectivity to the hotels. This is part of a four city grant including Ludlow, Bellevue and Newport.

To view the Riverfront Commons Project renderings, please click here.