Sunday, March 19, 2000

Forum studies Covington services

Report signals 'long-term commitment' to improvement

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Residents gathered Saturday to give their opinions on recommendations meant to make Covington a better place to live.

        More than 60 residents took part at The Madison in a public forum on the Scheper Report, a 37-page document listing about 100 ways the City of Covington can improve services while also saving $5 million a year.

        “It's wonderful. The city needs to run with this,” said Michele Halloran, a Covington resident for about 15 years.

        She attended the forum along with municipal officials, firefighters and residents in this Kenton County city.

        They discussed whether they fell in line with the Scheper Report's recommendations on taxes, planning, public safety, financial management, economic development, parks and recreation, and housing and zoning.

        One group's reponses demonstrated the different opinions in the room.

        They all agreed that Covington should reduce its payroll tax to 2 percent from 2.5 percent. But they couldn't agree on the Scheper proposal to reduce tax rates on insurance premiums. The table vote was 4-4. Each table had eight residents, who discussed and then voted in an informal poll.

        Overall, there was mass approval on recommendations for the city to develop a long-range financial plan, strictly enforce tax payment schedules, re-evaluate the city's zoning ordinance and enhance the city's ball fields.

        There was disagreement, though, with the report's proposals to halt city contributions to retired police and firefighter pension funds and to establish a regional taxing authority for fire and rescue services.

        City Manager Greg Jarvis said such input is important.

        The city already has implemented about 15 of the Scheper Report recommendations, mainly in the area of financing, he said.

        The report “is a long-term com mitment the city has made,” Mr. Jarvis said, adding that he plans to pursue the report's recommendations.

        Chuck Scheper, an insurance executive and 23-year Covington resident, chaired a yearlong study that produced the Scheper Report.

        The document also suggests privatizing ambulance services, establishing a regional park authority, developing short- and long-term plans to reduce poverty and expanding partnerships with agencies such as Tri-County Economic Development Corp. (Tri-ED)

        The Covington Neighborhood Collaborative, Friends of Covington and Covington Business Council sponsored Saturday's forum.


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