Spending review, resolutions spark debate at Highland Heights council meeting

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Highland Heights City Council convened Tuesday evening to discuss resolutions regarding the regional ethics authority and reallocation of funds for a greenspace feasibility study.

The meeting was prefaced with a public hearing that reviewed past funds and program performance of the 2020 Community Development Block Grant Opportunity House project, which aims to provide students with stable housing and resources to help achieve student success. Grant administrator Dennis Elrod opened the floor to council members for feedback on the project.

Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers stated that the housing project is something he is really proud of, one that he hopes can benefit underprivileged students.

“An opportunity for you to go to school, hold a job down and understand what life is about and maintain good grades through that,” Meyers said. “They may possibly have never even thought of going to a college or university.”

Elrod discussed other aspects of the projects that have made it successful, one example being the almost perfect score on the inspection of the Opportunity House. A score of 90 is needed to pass the inspection that takes place every three years; the Opportunity House earned a score of 99.

“The project has gone through a very thorough inspection and examination by outside consultants and they scored 99, which is practically underheard of,” Elrod said.

After the public hearing, Andy Demoss, auditor for the city’s spending, went over the yearly report and felt the year was successful financially.

“I think overall this year the numbers look great. They look like a pretty successful year to me,” Demoss said.

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Council members then reviewed and voted on three resolutions, including the passage of Resolution 02-2023 and Resolution 03-2023.

Resolution 02-2023 focuses on an interlocal agreement with the mayor and Northern Kentucky Regional Ethics Authority to enforce the code of ethics for the city of Highland Heights. This received much praise from those on the council, including Councilmember Steve Franzen, who stated that this will be a great move for the city.

“It is difficult for litigants,” Franzen said. “They feel like whoever is doing that explaining is somehow swaying one or another side. I think it is a really good move for the city. I think that is why there you will see so many people joining up with this.”

Resolution 03-2023 would appoint James Dady for a two-year term on the Northern Kentucky Regional Ethics Authority Enforcement Committee, which begins Feb. 1, 2023 and expires Jan. 31, 2025. Additionally, the resolution would accept Marcus Carey, Darryl Cummins, Robert Sanders, Tom Quirk, Bryce C. Rhoades and Jack Westwood for re-appointment on the committee.

Introduced last at the meeting, Resolution 04-2023 would use the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for an exploration study regarding the greenspace set to be located at 176 Johns Hill Road.

The resolution sparked debate among some council members. Councilman R. Alex Bramel voted against it, stating that the public does not have much knowledge on this resolution.

“This comes back to what I’ve said numerous times, the communication to the citizens and the residents on this particular thing has not been up to par,” Bramel said. “We need to take this to the public a little bit more before we authorize spending.”

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Other members, like City Administrator Michael Giffen, disagreed.

“While everyone in the public may not agree with what the final product is, the intention is that it speaks for the majority of citizens,” Giffen said.

The council will officially vote on this resolution at their next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in council chambers on 176 Johns Hill Road.

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