COVINGTON — A representative from the Montrose Group, a consultant for the village of Covington, gave a presentation on Downtown Redevelopment Districts during the Covington Council meeting on Monday evening.
Nate Green of the Montrose Group began with discussing the purpose of implementing a Downtown Redevelopment District (DRD), saying that it provides incentives for businesses to locate in the downtown, as well as incentives for existing businesses to make improvements to their businesses.
“The goal … is really aimed at historic preservation,” Green said.
To form a DRD, a municipality needs to have a building or an area on the National Register of Historic Places. The proposed Covington DRD would be anchored by the old fire house, located at 109 E. Spring St., Green said. The area of the DRD would be a total of approximately 10 acres that would include parcels going west to High Street, picking up parcels at North High Street and Wright Street, heading further north on High Street to the intersection of Broadway and High, and including parcels east and west of this intersection. A map of the proposed Covington DRD is available from the village of Covington.
If this proposed DRD were put in place, the village could use approximately 70 percent of any new property taxes to go toward improvements in the DRD. Green said that those uses could include grants to go toward improving the old fire house, loans to property owners in the DRD, investments in public infrastructure, or dedicated to an economic development organization in the DRD. Only 20 percent of the DRD funds could go toward the economic development organization.
“It doesn’t do anything to existing taxes,” Green said. “It’s only new property taxes.”
The new taxes could be brought on by improvements to properties in the DRD that increase the value of the properties.
The DRD could be in place anywhere between one and 30 years. If it is meant to last past 10 years, the village will also need approval from the Covington Board of Education.
From here, the village will need to hold a public hearing on the DRD and pass legislation to implement it.
Following that presentation, residents spoke up during public comment voicing concerns about the basketball courts, the open village services supervisor position within the village staff, and more.
Phyllis Rapp of Covington requested that the police patrol the village basketball courts more often, telling the council how she recently caught kids setting a fire on the courts that another resident put out.
“I would like to see the court patrolled more,” Rapp said. “The fire was put out because we put it out.”
Rapp also expressed concerns for basketballs going over the fence at the courts, asking for a 12-foot fence to be installed, for the village to consider changing where the baskets are located, and for a sign with the courts’ hours to be posted.
Joyce Robertson of Covington spoke out against the village hiring a village services supervisor, asking the village to promote from within and hire an entry level employee instead.
“Please consider the expense to the village,” Robertson said.
Village administrator Mike Busse said the village had already tried to go that route but were unsuccessful.
“We have no problem hiring from within,” Busse said, adding that no one from the village staff applied for the open village services supervisor position. “We’ve tried exactly what you’re saying.”
Busse said the village needs to have a licensed operator onsite at the water and sewer plants for a total of 20 hours each week, but the village is short-staffed on licensed operators and the ones they do have, including himself, are approaching retirement age in the next few years. He explained it is their goal, through the village services supervisor, the village is trying to get someone on staff who can eventually take over after those employees retire.
Busse also said the village has tried to have their employees get licensed, but only one past employee was able to do so. The employee also left the village to work with Miami County and now works in Sidney. The village also has had another employee try to get licensed, but was unable to do so.
Busse also noted that this position is not an additional position being added, but was a position that was previously vacated in December. The village decided to make it a requirement that the new hire is a licensed operator.
Council member Lois Newman also noted that the village needs to be able to provide wages that would get someone to work for and stay with village.
Busse also noted that the village has had only two applicants that meet the necessary qualifications for the position.
Earlier during public comment, Kathy Miller of Covington asked for an update on Casey’s General Store. Busse said the owners have not released the project yet, saying they were possibly being held up at other building projects due to the weather.
Miller also questioned the zoning appeals process in regard to signs for businesses. Busse said that signs that exceed 100 square feet have to go through the appeals process due to that being the maximum regulation in the village’s ordinances.
In other business, Busse went over the village indebtedness and financing for various projects to dispel rumors. Busse noted that the mayor, himself, and the fiscal officer do not vote on or approve proposed capital projects or incur debt for the village. Capital projects and those projects’ financing are approved by the majority approval of the village council.
The current village indebtedness as of June 13 is $3,913,550, of which is $225,000 that is an internal loan between funds. The other debts include low-interest or zero percent loans. The origination amount of the village indebtedness was $6,742,500, which was incurred from 2006 through the present.
At the end of the meeting, council voted to waive the three-reading rule and approve the 2020 alternative tax budget document. The council also authorized the fiscal officer to file the approved tax budget with the Miami County Budget Commission.
The council then approved the budgeted transfer of $46,000 from the general fund to the street fund.
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