Covington Council hears State of the Village

COVINGTON — Residents were invited to an open house Monday evening prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting. Covington residents had the opportunity to discuss the village’s future wastewater treatment plant. Several members of village administration were available to answer questions regarding the design, cost of construction, and proposed increases to water and sewage rates.

Mayor Ed McCord shared his State of the Village report to kick off the council meeting. McCord stated that 2022 was a banner year for the village, taking into account that large projects were completed both on time and within budget. The mayor thanked both the council as well as the village employees and police department for their hard work and dedication. In 2022 the council passed 25 ordinances, 47 resolutions, and the mayor issued 14 proclamations. Last year the village promoted internal employees and hired several external employees, bringing the total employee headcount to 19.

The village made updates to their strategic plans, policies and employee manuals, and started a facilities master plan. The village has now established programs and policies for replacement of meters and water and sewer infrastructure and has been proactive in the improvement of underground utilities and the water and sewer facilities.

“These investments will, over time, help the village reduce our annual maintenance cost and allow the village to keep a lower debt,” said McCord.

In terms of branding, during 2022 the village updated its brand logo and seal to form a more consistent message, replaced the sign in front of the Government Center, and received much good press about the village and its projects. Speaking of projects. 2022 was a busy year for the village with the High Street project, which began in March and was completed in October. The project provided a new roadway, sidewalks, and curbs. The village will also have new benches, trash cans, and planters delivered to High Street soon.

The Schoolhouse Park project moved forward in 2022, with the village completing plans and going out to bid. The project, which was supported by 95 different donors who gave a total of $850,000, is set to be completed in 2023. The village received funds from the Ohio Brownfield Grant in the amount of $275,000 to help with costs of demolishing and redeveloping the former Rudy Elevator property. Another project moving forward in the village is its new wastewater treatment plant, and the village has tentatively been awarded $400 million in loan forgiveness on the project. The village received roughly their entire annual budget in federal and state grants last year, totaling $4,190,500.

Plans for 2023 are to begin construction of Schoolhouse Park including restrooms, a playground, amphitheater, and splash pad. Construction is also expected to begin on the new wastewater treatment plant. The village will continue investing in its Government Center, Street Department, water treatment plant, and Community Park. There are plans to open the Stillwater River for fishing, plan bike trails around the village, and update sewer and water regulations, among other things.

In his report, Village Administrator Kyle Hinkelman shared that poles for the new stoplights on High Street had been delivered, but there was a delay on the bases for the lights. He also discussed a banner program for the new poles, which will be formally brought before the council within the next two meetings. The village has extended the bid on Schoolhouse Park to Feb. 14 at the request of bidders.

There was one discussion item on the agenda, which was the Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Program, which would take approximately 1 percent of the interest created from the village’s debt created by the new wastewater treatment facility and place the debt into a pool. The village can then elect to support a state program that would aid in the purchase of land for the Edge of Appalachia Preserve in southeast Ohio. This would be done at no cost to the village, and the village can receive a portion of the pool as loan forgiveness.

In old business, two items were tabled until the March 6 meeting, including an ordinance that would update water and sewer fees and an ordinance that would update trash collection fees. In new business, council heard the first reading of a resolution authorizing the village to enter into an agreement with design firm Garmann/Miller for the redesign of the Government Center. A first reading was also held for a resolution that would authorize the fiscal officer, village administrator, and mayor to all be added as authorized signatories on all village bank accounts. The council waived the three-reading rule and approved an ordinance adopting the American Legal Publishing’s Ohio Basic Code for 2023. This is a standard annual practice.

The council then went into executive session with no action intended. Please note that village offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 20. The next council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.

The writer is a regular contributor to Miami Valley Today.