New online tools empower residents

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Faster ways to report property issues, apply for zoning permits

COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington has rolled out additional online tools that allow citizens to more efficiently interact with the City in two critical areas: 

  • The reporting of unsightly, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions on private property in neighborhoods.
  • Applications for zoning permits and historic preservation certificates. 
The tools can be accessed via the City of Covington’s website as well as a phone app. They use the same software as the iWorQ Public Works service request, an online tool unveiled last year that allows the public to report problems like potholes and broken sidewalks by creating a “work order.”
 
“This is all about using technology to create better customer service,” said Kendall Huff, the City’s System Analyst/Project Manager. “We want to empower our residents to better communicate with us about problems, issues, and concerns.”
 
Property upkeep
The code enforcement tool adds two huge benefits, Code Enforcement Manager Walt Mace said.
 
1)    It allows the public to communicate code enforcement concerns 24/7.
2)    And it creates a process for updating citizens periodically as to the status of the issues they raise - i.e. what the City is doing about them.
 
“Now residents don’t have to wait to catch us during normal business hours,” Mace said. “And if they use this tool, they will get the feedback we were unable to provide before.”
 
Mace said code enforcement “violations” typically include things like:
  • Extremely tall grass (which can harbor vermin and encourage break-ins by creating the appearance of a vacant property).
  • Trash and debris.
  • Standing water that gives mosquitos a place to breed.
  • Dilapidated and unsound structures.
  • Inordinate amounts of pet feces which create overwhelming odors. 
The new reporting system is designed to reassure residents that their concerns and complaints are being pursued, he said.
 
People who report an issue will receive an email acknowledging receipt of their notice. Then, when the status of the complaint has been changed, they will get another email. That might include things like “assigned to an inspector” or “property owner has been fined” or “referred to the City’s Code Board,” Mace said.
 
“Right now, people call in to report a problem and then assume nothing is happening because we don’t have the staff to make the hundreds of phone calls to update residents about every step we take,” Mace said. “Code enforcement issues can involve complex legal processes that can take months or longer to resolve. But because the public isn’t aware that the cases are moving forward, they get frustrated.”
 
Most people don’t understand how difficult it can be and how long it can take for the City to force private owners to keep up their property, said Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith, who oversees the Code Enforcement Division. There is also confusion about the role and goal of code enforcement.
 
“At its core, the goal of our inspectors is simply to protect residents,” Smith said. “Inspectors work to get rid of both unsafe or unsanitary conditions that, left unfixed, can threaten residents’ health and of conditions that create blight and invite break-ins.”
 
Zoning requests
The third iWorQ online tool allows residents to begin the process for applying for zoning permits for everything from fences to new signage to new buildings, as well as for certificates of appropriateness for exterior changes to structures in historic districts.
 
City officials will ask follow-up questions as needed to fine-tune applications, but the online process should lead to quicker decisions, said Christopher Myers, the City’s Preservation and Planning Specialist. “This doesn’t completely replace the old process but gets it started,” he said.

The new tools can be accessed via these icons at the bottom of the City’s website.


 
Using the system
Both tools can be accessed via the website www.talktomycity.com or by clicking icons at the bottom of the City’s website, www.covingtonky.gov.
 
One says “CODE ENFORCEMENT CONCERN” and the other says “ZONING/DESIGN APPLICATION.” See attached for images of the icons.
 
Likewise, the infrastructure complaint software can be accessed via the icon that says “PUBLIC WORKS SERVICE REQUEST.”
 
Residents who have previously registered within the iWorQ system in order to use the public works request tool should use the same account. If asked to apply an “agency code,” they should use “Cov01” for the Public Works complaint and “Cov02” for both the code enforcement and zoning/design permit form. To get to the agency code field, they should click on the magnifying glass-shaped “search” button.
 
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