Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Kenton go-to guy looks for solutions

Program a catchall for concerns, complaints

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Whether it's a dog doing its business in a neighbor's yard, queries about trick-or-treat hours or a question about how to start a small business, no concern is too small for Kenton County's new ombudsman.

"The way I look at it, if somebody calls, it's my problem," said Scott Gunning, coordinator of the new Kenton County Cares program. "I've been frustrated myself when I've had to go to different agencies to get an answer to something."

During his first weeks on the job - from Sept. 22 to Oct. 31 - Gunning had 128 phone calls and e-mails. That excludes the 236 postcards that the 22-year-old Erlanger resident received from county residents lobbying for a local dog park - a fenced-in area where dogs can run.

All but three of the concerns were addressed within 24 hours, said Gunning, who's working toward a degree in criminal justice and political science at Northern Kentucky University on nights and weekends. No matter what the issue, he pledges to respond to a question or concern within 24 hours and monitor issues that take longer to resolve.

Gunning divides queries into five categories: requests for information, concerns and suggestions, expressions of support for a program, service requests and general complaints.

He said about half of his contacts have tried to resolve a problem elsewhere before turning to him.

For the woman who called him about a neighbor's dog that was creating a nuisance, Gunning mailed her copies of the Kenton County and Covington dog ordinances.

For another caller, Gunning helped track down a deceased grandfather's marriage records from 1913. When someone failed to get child support, he contacted the proper agency to have the offending party's wages garnished.

Gunning refers all legal queries to Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson. People who need help with rent, utilities or medicine are referred to the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission.

Sally Roebuck of Independence is pleased with the quick response she got.

"I'd had a car sitting in front of my house for three weeks that was a clunker," Roebuck said. "I called the police and asked them to check on it, but nothing happened."

Roebuck remembered a brochure she'd gotten in the mail with the Kenton County Cares number and called Gunning.

"He said he'd call the police to check on it, and a couple of hours later, the car was gone," she said. "He did a wonderful job."

Kenton County Cares program

For a question or complaint: Call (859) 392-1999; e-mail, or fill out a customer service card from a county department.

Hours: Scott Gunning, Kenton County's new ombudsman, works 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. If Gunning is out of the office, his calls go to a voice mail system. In Gunning's absence, another county staff member will check his voice messages and e-mails and respond.


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