Covington council considers new fire levy


By Matt Clevenger

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COVINGTON — Members of the Covington Village Council heard the first reading of an ordinance to place a new 3.0-mill fire levy on the ballot for voters in the upcoming November 2023 election.

“The two general fund levies that exist today would not be replaced,” Village Administrator Kyle Hinkelman said. “They would be removed after this year, and this would go in its place.”

“It is considered a new levy, because it is not replacing those two general fund levies,” he said.

Council members heard the levy ordinance’s first reading at their regularly scheduled meeting held on Tuesday, June 20. A second reading of the ordinance will be held during council members’ next meeting on Monday, July 10, and the third reading is planned for council’s Monday, July 17, meeting.

“This is a continuation of a discussion we’ve been having for roughly six months here in council,” Hinkelman said. “The money generated by this levy would only be able to be used for the contract that the village has with our fire service operators.”

In other business, council members also discussed proposed improvements to the government center, including the addition of live video streaming in village council’s chambers.

“This deals with the mechanicals, the internal building and the shell, as well as a potential council chamber addition to this building,” Hinkelman said. “The council chamber, the way that it is proposed today it would be a council chambers with a dais that has a camera that would able to do live streaming.”

“If the number is too high, we’ll look at trying to phase that,” he said. “I would anticipate bringing this back to council for consideration either at the end of July or early August.”

Council members also approved resolutions allowing the village to proceed under an alternative tax document and formally adopting the village’s 2023 strategic plan, and a resolution authorizing the expenditure of $284,798.33 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding towards the wastewater treatment facility project.

“This is utilizing the entire amount of money that the village received,” Hinkelman said. “Every dollar that we received for ARPA is going towards the wastewater treatment facility.”

Council members also tabled a resolution to authorize a $294,737.91 contract with AES to move three utility poles for the Schoolhouse Park project until their next meeting, in order to give the village more time to seek a discount on the project. Council member Julie Blumenstock is currently working with state representatives and PUCO to seek a reduction in the project’s price.

“The village has been working for a little over eight months with AES to try to find a solution to move those poles,” Hinkelman said. “Unfortunately, AES has not supported the village in this project or in our ability to move those poles.”

“They have worked with us to reduce the cost from $420,000 to $294,000,” he said.

The project’s original budget includes funding to move the poles, Hinkelman said.

“It’s always been an anticipated cost of about $200,000,” he said. “That’s what we put in the budget.”

Council members also heard an update on the project’s progress, responding to questions from residents John Montgomery and Jeff Shills during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“The contractor is obligated to finish their work by August 1,” Hinkelman said. “That work includes the road construction, the gravel parking lot, curbs, grading and all the rest of it.”

The contractor was granted an extension on the original completion date of June 16 due to several factors, including EPA issues, weather issues and utility placement issues, he said.

“Aug. 1 is the new obligated date based on their additional six weeks, which is what working with our engineers, they believe is a fair extension,” Hinkelman said. “They asked for an extension until the end of August; the village did not agree to that, we allowed it to August 1 because that is the six weeks that our engineer and the team that is tasked with managing that felt was fair, based on the situation.”

“It just seems like it’s dragging on,” Montgomery said. “It looks to me like they’re just not showing up to do anything.”

“I think they need to be held accountable,” he said.

“Someone has to be holding their feet to the fire to get this project completed,” Shills said. “I just hope the next few months go a little bit smoother, and they’re held to accountability to get this done a little quicker.”

“We’re going to continue to push to get it done,” Mayor Ed McCord said. “I feel your frustration. We need to work together to continue to get this taken care of, and get it done as quickly as possible.”

“We certainly want the project done as fast as we can,” Hinkelman said. “If they don’t do it by Aug. 2, then the village has to make a determination, and we will. There may be some ramifications financially in that.”

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