Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Business group urges Covington action

By Jeff Carlton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The city received a gentle reminder Tuesday from an organization representing area businesses: We're watching you.

        The Covington Business Council asked the City Commission for specific plans on implementing recommendations from the Scheper Report, a study suggesting about 100 ways to improve city services while saving $5 million a year.

        “It's very important that the commission not drop this because we worked so hard to get (the report) started in the first place,” said Cindy Shirooni, chairwoman of the business council.

        At Tuesday's meeting, the business council endorsed five of the report's recom mendations and asked city commissioners when they planned to implement specific recommendations and how they will inform the public of progress.

        Among the recommendations endorsed by the business council were development of a long-range plan for capital improvements and more customer-friendly service from Covington's housing department. So far, the city has hired a consulting firm to focus on achieving some of the changes recommended by the report. The firm is headed by Jerry Newfarmer, a former city manager in Cincinnati, as well as in San Jose and Fresno, Calif.

        Covington has adopted about 18 of the report's recommendations, mostly in the area of financial operations, City Manager Greg Jarvis said.

        Chuck Scheper, a Covington insurance executive, headed the yearlong study that produced the report last October.

        In March, about 85 Covington residents offered feedback to city officials on the report's recommendations during a public forum. Most residents agreed the city should reduce its payroll tax from 2.5 percent to 2 percent, enhance the city's ball fields and develop a long-range financial plan.

        The city has not acted on those recommendations.

        Some of the report's recommendations, however, sparked disagreement. For example, the report's suggestions to create a public relations position and cease contributions to the pensions of police officers and firefighters di vided forum participants.

        Also at Tuesday's meeting, the commission approved a $110,750 loan and refinanced an earlier loan to Madison Entertainment LLC over the objections of Commissioner Butch Callery.

        The company is trying to restore the old Madison Theater, which closed more than 20 years ago. Mr. Callery said he was concerned about an earlier loan from the city that Madison Entertainment has not repaid.


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