Covington Council discusses School House Park developments


By Kelsi Langston

For Miami Valley Today

COVINGTON — Discussions on various developments surrounding the School House Park project was held during the July 17 Covington Village Council meeting.

Prevailing wages for contractors working on the School House Park project was discusses along with rumors that some sub-contractors were not being paid. All contractors are required to meet prevailing wage, and the village is required to confirm contractors are meeting that requirement. To do that, the village typically requests information on the prevailing wage and performs spot checks quarterly, monthly or at the end of the project depending on its size.

“From the village’s perspective, I would not want to get involved in individual business owners’ dealings in terms of their finances, or what they did or did not do. That part is probably not our purview. But, the prevailing wage part, the pay app requests, those things come to us. So, we have to verify with the federal government through those pay apps that [contractors] are meeting the obligation of that agreement, which is that they paid prevailing wage,” said Hinkelman.

The conversation then turned to a discrepancy in the amount of gravel needed to complete the current phase of School House Park. The original estimate showed the project would require 190-cubic-yards of stone, but the contractor has found the project will require 600-cubic-yards of stone to complete.

Frustrations were shared from council members, as they felt that there was a lack of communication in regard to issues that could potentially bring important projects to a halt. Hinkelman advised he will work with the contractor on a solution, as the overall goal is complete the project. He said he is willing to bring forth updates on every project to the council, but that doing so would both be a substantial obligation on his time, and would delay the completion of projects. Tension mounted as visitors to the meeting commented that residents may lose trust and confidence in village administration if mistakes continue to happen that are not openly communicated.

Mayor Ed McCord said Hinkelman had only learned about the discrepancy earlier that day and had not yet had the opportunity to address the contractor.

“Every Friday, all of you get a report. Every Friday, you know what’s going on in this village … we should at least give the village administrator an opportunity to talk to all the parties involved and come to a resolution. It’s a big screw up, no doubt about it. We’ve got to solve it, and that’s what the village administrator does, solve problems in the village,” said McCord. “… if you all are interested in doing it, I will certainly start a committee and put you in charge of it and you can run it.”

Hinkelman added that he could include a more detailed update in his report, for those council members who want to be kept in the loop, but that he needs more clarification from council as to what details are most important to them. Hinkelman stressed that ultimately, solving the problem and getting the project done so the village can move forward is the goal.

Also, discussed during the July 17 meeting was the naming of a new School House Park roadway. An alley that used to exist is being expanded and will become a public road that will require a name. The road is very likely to be named as a “Lane” or a “Way” versus a “Street”. After a brief discussion, the current road names on the council left on the table are School House Park Way, Rowdy Way, Rudy Way, and Buccaneer Lane. The village put together a survey online asking residents for their suggestions. The link can be found on the village’s Facebook page. A final poll will be released on July 25 asking residents to vote for the top few names. The council will make a final decision on what to name the road.

Also during the Monday, July 17, meeting, council waived the three-reading rule and approved an ordinance that will formally modify the village’s Downtown Revitalization District (DRD). This ordinance will formally modify the DRD map and parcels within. It will reduce acreage to 10 acres. This will allow the state to move forward and formally adopt the DRD in the village, with the hope that relative funds will be reflected in a settlement during April or August of next year. The funds related to the DRD come from village property taxes. Residents will not be paying more in taxes for this purpose, rather, the funds will be distributed differently.

In other business on the docket for discussion was the High Street light pole Christmas decorations and the options available. The village would like to get decorations ordered ahead of the holiday season. Several of the options include lighted wreaths or garlands. There are 28 light poles to be decorated. The cost of a lighted wreath is $500, and a lighted garland would cost $170. Adding for backups, the village would need to order a quantity between 30 and 35 units. Taking cost into consideration, the village is looking for something durable and low-maintenance. Each pole would potentially need two wreaths or garland if the council wanted them placed on both sides. Presently, the village does not have enough funds in its budget to buy something as costly as a wreath for both sides of each light pole but is open to considering that option if there are any citizens or community organizations who would like to make a donation towards the decorations. No formal decisions were made. Hinkelman advised he will do more research and will bring the topic back for discussion in August.

The council heard the second reading of a resolution allowing Village Administator Kyle Hinkelman to enter into agreement with AES Ohio for the removal and relocation of above ground utility poles that need to be removed from the vicinity of School House Park. This is due to a stipulation in a grant the village received from the land and water conservation fund. Hinkelman said he had further discussion with AES, but nothing had changed in terms of the cost associated with the project. The council voted to waive the three-reading rule and approved the resolution.

The council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would amend the village employee manual. The sections of the manual being modified are related to exempt employees and the definition of the 80-hour work week versus the 40-hour work week. The ordinance allows flexibility as long as salaried employees meet the 80-hour requirement over the two week pay period. The second section change relates to cell phone reimbursement and dictates the number of employees who receive that reimbursement. Hinkelman explained that in the current environment, most village employees are expected to access their work emails and be able to respond when called for emergencies. The ordinance will update list of those who receive $60 a month in reimbursement (this applies to department heads) and $20 in monthly reimbursement, which applies to the remaining village employees. Hinkelman added that these changes are an effort to offer incentives to its employees that will hopefully make their lives better and encourage them to stay employed by the village.

A first reading was held for a resolution which would update and replace the village’s record and retention policies and schedules. This resolution updates the policy for records retention, public records requests, management of records, and schedules. The resolution would also update standards, provide clarification, help citizens understand how to make record requests, educate on how long the village stores records, and more. Hinkelman said that if passed, all of this information would be posted very publicly so residents would understand what the village keeps, for how long, and where. Council members heard a first reading for an ordinance that would update the village fee schedule adopted in 2021. The ordinance does not change fees, but updates them to relate to zoning, subdivision regulations, and other permits and licenses. This will also update the fee schedule to reflect other ordinances that were approved including water, sewer, trash rates.

The council also waived the three-reading rule and approved a resolution declaring surplus property. One year ago, a speed trailer belonging to the Covington Police Department was vandalized. Insurance has reimbursed the department for the cost of new unit, which has been on backorder for a substantial amount of time. The police department plans to dispose of the speed trailer that is out of service rather than paying for its upkeep.

The Village Planning Commission recommended council approve the replat of two lots located at 722 E. Sprint St., which are being utilized as a single-family home, owned by the same property owner. The owner would like to consolidate the two into a single lot and is considering building an addition. This replat will help the owner come closer to meeting regulations. This resolution was waived of its three-reading rule and approved by the council.

Councilman Keith Warner was absent. The next council meeting will be held on Aug. 7, at 7 p.m.

The writer is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Today.

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