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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Highland Heights Names New City Administrator; Sets Public Hearing for Opportunity House Project

Michael Giffen, Highland Heights new city administrator will oversee the workings of a growing municipality with a four-million-dollar budget and a staff of 20.


 by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Soon after the Highland Heights City Council voted unanimously at their December 1 meeting to create and fill a new position for a city administrator, the city has announced the hiring of their first full-time city administrator since the 1980s.

Michael Giffen, who is currently serving as city administrator for the city of Dayton, Kentucky, will take on the new position in Highland Heights.

Michael Giffen comes to Highland Heights after serving the city of Dayton, Kentucky, for 10 years, including the last seven as city administrator.

The position is the first time Highland Heights will have a full-time city administrator in more than three decades. Up until now, Mayor Greg Meyers has handled city management duties, aided by Jim Collins, who has provided part-time management services to the city for the past 12 years.

In the announcement, Meyers explained, "Our city is in the big leagues now in terms of growth and economic development opportunities, and we need an experienced professional to help guide us through these opportunities and challenges."

He added, "With the Town Center at Northern Kentucky University ready to kick off at the south end of the city and with the north end of the city a blank canvas for future development opportunities, it’s important we have someone like Michael who is knowledgeable about finances and economic development and issues such as industrial-revenue bonds, tax-increment financing and grant writing."

Giffen will oversee the day-to-day operations of the city, including 18 full-time and two part-time staff as well as a four-million-dollar budget.

Zoning codes cleanup ordinance

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission has worked for the past several weeks on a project to clean up and clarify language in the Highland Heights Zoning Ordinance. The project included bringing some language up to date, amending and clarifying definition terms and adding or expanding various conditional uses in certain zones.

Council heard a first reading of the ordinance to update the code. Some of the changes include:

  • A change from the term "nursery schools" to "day care centers" and the inclusion of adult day care and even pet day care into the definition, as well as child care
  • Amending and changing language in commercial zones to reflect more uses. This involves a change in using the specific term "bowing alleys" to a more inclusive description of indoor recreation facilities that could also include pinball, arcade, racketball and similar indoor recreation
  • Changes or additions in some zones on permitted uses for fast food and drive thru restaurant operations to allow for more flexibility
  • Changing language on restrictions and removal of inoperational motor vehicles to include boats, campers, motor homes and other related vehicles
  • Changing regulations on outdoor storage on properties to not be in excess of 30 days
  • Amendments to regulations for fences, walls and obstructions in both commercial and residential zones
  • Changing language in signage restrictions to reflect a recent state legal case. Content restrictions have been removed, while regulations on size, setback and other physical concerns remain in place.

Other ordinances and resolutions passed

As mentioned above, the ordinance changing employee and various board member pay classifications to add the position of city administrator/manager was passed unanimously. The salary was set to be between $90,000 and $120,000 per year.

An ordinance granting Duke Energy a three-year non-exclusive franchise to use the city’s public streets, alleys and other public grounds for the transmission and distribution of natural gas and electricity for consumption within the city also passed.

City council voted to authorize Mayor Meyers to act as the city’s representative in applying for additional COVID-19 relief funding through the CARES Act. He will make an application to the Department of Local Government. While there are no guarantees the city will receive the funds, the resolution allows the mayor to prepare documents and make the application.

Several municipal orders appointed new or returning members to some of the city’s commissions.

  • Gene White, John McNabb and Scott Reincke were appointed to four-year terms on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
  • Ken Hoffman and Tom Woods were appointed to three-year terms on the Code Enforcement Board.

Wishing Sue Kramer well on her retirement

Assistant City Clerk Sue Kramer announced her retirement from her position with the city after 12 years of service.

"Sue has been a great asset to our city, a great friend and a great advocate to the city," said Meyers.

City Clerk/Treasurer Jeanne Pettit said, "Sue has been a great mentor to me, a great friend, great person to work with and has helped me immensely in my transition into this position. I can’t say enough good things about her. She will be missed. I just want to thank her immensely for all she’s done for our city and for the administration department and everyone who works here at the city."

Setting a date for Public Hearing

The city will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, December 15, to gather comments on the proposed Community Development Block Grant for Opportunity House. The hearing will be held in person at 6:30 p.m. in the city building, 176 Johns Hill Road.

Masks are requested and all safety protocols will be in place. Anyone who would like to attend but who is not comfortable attending in person can contact the city and accommodations on Zoom will be made. Due to safety restrictions, only 25 people will be allowed to attend in person.

Meyers said he feels Opportunity House will be a great use of the building on NKU property and will benefit students by providing them a place to live while going to school.

Dennis Elrod, grant administrator for the block grant and Tammy Weidinger, president and CEO of the Brighton Center for Opportunity House will be on hand to provide information.

RELATED: Highland Heights to Apply for Block Grant to Fund Youth Education and Housing Center

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