Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Plummer Replaces Dowling as City Administrator

The City of Union has hired David Plummer to serve as City Administrator.

Plummer replaces CAO Matthew Dowling, who resigned to accept the same position with the City of Elsmere, Kentucky in February.

Matt Dowling. Provided. 
“David is exactly what we were looking for in a candidate,” said Mayor Larry Solomon.  “We were impressed by his experience and his enthusiasm for the position.  We look forward to a long-term relationship with him guiding our city forward.”

Plummer’s main focus will be on economic development and public works, in addition to day-to-day city management.

Plummer comes to Union from Moscow, Ohio, where he served as Village Administrator for the past two years.  In that position, he performed a variety of functions, including managing village staff, overseeing the operation of the village’s waste water treatment system, and serving as village zoning officer.

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Prior to his work in Moscow, Plummer spent eight years working with the Campbell County Fiscal Court, serving as the solid waste coordinator and administrative analyst.  In that time, he implemented and directed a variety of waste and litter projects throughout Campbell County, in addition to managing the solid waste budget for the county.  He also served as the primary contact for the county web inquiry system, and served as a grant writer and public information officer for the solid waste department.

Highlands Theatre Department Fundraiser this Saturday

Taste of the Season is almost here.

The event, which benefits the Highlands Theatre Program, takes place on August 26th from 7-11 p.m. at the Highlander Event Center.  The evening promises plenty of great food and drink, music and dancing, silent auction, and convenient parking.

This is the primary event to raise funds to provide costumes, technical support, and many other items needed to produce high quality student theatre productions at Highlands Middle School and Highlands High School.

Taste of the Season features an array of delicious tastings from local restaurants and other vendors, live music by The Leftovers, performances by the HHS theatre students, and one-of-a-kind silent auction.

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Dinner by the Bite is being provided by Fessler’s Pizza & Legendary Hoagies, Nittha Siam Kitchen, Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beer, Chick-Fil-A, Midway Café, Oakley Pub & Grill, York Street Café, and Colonel De’s Gourmet Herbs & Spices, to name a few.

Fort Thomas Man Conquers Mount Rainier and So Much More

Mount Rainier. Courtesy Jason Weier
I can imagine Edmund Hillary sitting around one day staring at Mount Everest and saying to a friend something like, “Hey, what do you think is up there? What do you say we go up and have a look?”  And so he did. That strikes me how a lot of adventures begin.

Jason Weier, 39, and his brother, Jeff, 35, just returned from an expedition up Mount Rainier.  Some significant adventures begin rather casually and dismissively.

Jason Weier says, ”Actually two years ago a friend asked me to climb and I said ‘No. No. No chance I was going to climb it. I wasn’t interested.’  I like to do the hiking and everything else but that was a whole different level.” But once a great notion has been planted, though, it just needs a little nudge.

Weier continues, “So my little brother called me in September and said, ‘I just signed up to climb Mt Rainier.’ 

I said, ‘You're nuts. Good luck.’ 

“So do you want to do it with me?’ he asked. 

So when he put that offer on the table, I said, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ You know, I wasn’t in shape. So Heidi (wife) and I talked about it because the training would be a 5 day a week commitment for 9 months. I thought it would be fun to do it with my brother. It would be cool. So I called him back and told him I’m in!”

“It wasn’t on my bucket list. But I thought it would be awesome to climb it with him and train with him,” he says. And so the adventure begins.

Monday, August 21, 2017

PICTURES: The Great American Eclipse

Pictures by Dr. Karen Cheser, Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent and Mark Collier.

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Heidi Neltner and Dr. Dawn Laber. 

WATCH: Dr. Josiah Young Talks About Eclipse

Start time in northern Kentucky: 1:01 p.m.
Peak time in NKY: 2:29 p.m.
End time in NKY: 3:52 p.m.

Opticare Vision Centers optometrist, Dr. Josiah Young has a message for parents here:

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RELATED: EVERYTHING you need to know about how Fort Thomas Independent Schools is handling the eclipse 

'A Letter To Michelle'

By Nick Stegner

The sun is shining today yet a darkness still looms
Heartache, loss, anger consumes
Confusion wraps the wanting eye
You’ve earned your wings…embrace and fly
Youth eternal, an endless smile on your face
Tripping on each moment we try to retrace
Questions unanswered and pain to conceal
Comfort in silence, words can never heal
It’s like catching a butterfly as the wind blows
Frustration swells and the pain of loss grows
A priceless stone was held tight with love
Now an angel dancing eternal above
A life that touched many, a smile that was true
A rhyme with a reason now written for you
Watching over us in our dreams and from above
You are the air we breathe…a mother’s precious love
Happy High Five Friday, Michelle!

A Local Story: Bike Helmets Save Lives

Gracie Leftin practices helmet safety while riding her scooter.
What was a relaxing day on summer vacation turned into an event the Leftins of Fort Thomas will never forget.

The Leftins 8-year-old daughter, Gracie was out for a ride on her scooter when she hit some uneven pavement and fell to the ground hitting face first. Katy, her mother who was on a bike ride ahead got the call from the relative who was with Gracie and remembers hearing the ambulances, rushing back and seeing her daughter scared with no color in her lips.

"It was one of the most frightening moments as a mom," Leftin said.

At the scene, paramedics and police officers thanked Gracie for having her helmet on and commented that it probably saved her life and from more serious injuries. Fortunately, Gracie only suffered some cuts and scrapes to her face and hands. At the hospital, Leftin said the nurses and doctor also thanked Gracie for wearing her helmet.

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Although Leftin says she often let Gracie take her scooter out at home without a helmet, she now says never again. She and her husband also plan on buying helmets because they are not just for kids. This incident has made them realize how extremely important bike and scooter helmet safety is. Leftin also commented she often observes kids in the neighborhood riding in the street without them.

According to statistics, helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injuries up to eighty percent and the odds of head, face or neck injury by 33 percent.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that in 2015 in the United States, more than 1000 bicyclists died and there were almost 467,000 bicycle related injuries.

Wearing a properly fitted helmet and following bike/scooter safety procedures such as riding in a bicycle lane where possible can greatly reduce these stats.

Although it is not illegal not wearing a helmet, Lt. Rich Whitford of the Fort Thomas Police Department says he encourages everyone to wear a helmet.

"Helmets protect bike accidents in 8 out of 10 wrecks involving head injuries, said Whitford.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Highlands-Cooper Sidebar

Bluebird Defensive Improvements Show in Win

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior defensive back Joe Steiden (27) records one of his four interceptions against Cooper on Friday. That is a new school record for most interceptions in a game.
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich (center) goes over strategy with Highlands senior defensive lineman Nick Biltz (77) and the defense Friday. The Bluebirds did a great job swarming to the ball all game defensively.
It turned into a performance for the ages for the Highlands defense Friday.

Highlands-Cooper Game Story

Bluebirds Revert to Old Form in Season Opener

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Cooper Schwalbach (middle) powers his way through two Cooper defenders on his way to the end zone for a five-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the second quarter. Schwalbach earned the team's Most Valuable Player award rushing for 150 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns in the 42-22 Bluebird victory.
UNION - The defense came out and quickly showed it is many miles ahead of last year.

It just took some time for the offense to catch up. When that happened, the Highlands Bluebirds football team played up to its reputation of dominant football. Highlands pulled away in the third quarter for a 42-22 victory over the host Cooper Jaguars.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Bellevue Police Chief Wayne Turner Named Chief of the Year

Bellevue Police Chief Wayne Turner, a Fort Thomas resident, was recently named the Chief of the Year by the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police at their annual conference in Paducah, Kentucky.

Tuner has built an exemplary 32-year career in law enforcement, serving as the Chief of Police at his current agency for the past five years following a two decade career as a lawman in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.

Additionally, he has also served more than 24 years in the United States Army and Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and serving under General David Petraeus in Iraq.

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Chief Turner is a combat veteran who was awarded a bronze star for his actions in Iraq.  He served first as a warfighter and later as a peacekeeper and peacemaker helping restore law and order to a violent war torn country. In 2017, Chief Turner was inducted into the Kentucky Veterans Hall of Fame culminating in a formal ceremony at the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort.

Belladance to Try A Few New Moves

Belladance takes on NYC.
The earliest records of dancing date back to 3300 BCE but despite more than 5,000 years of history, Belladance is trying a few new moves!

Belladance, owned and operated by Fort Thomas mother-daughter duo Julie and Bella Keller, has had an exceptional first year and finds itself expanding its facility and also its class offerings.

The currently vacant first floor of the Hiland Building will soon become additional studio space for the Kellers and other members of the Belladance team.  The additional space will allow them to offer a warmer welcome to the dancers as they enter the first floor and will also give them more flexibility in their studio space. Coincidentally, the space is also where Keller had her first ever dance class as a young student.

Perhaps more excitingly, Kristen Smith who danced this past season with the Cincinnati Ballet will begin offering adult ballet classes this fall at the studio.

However, the “most exciting and incredibly fun course that (Belladance is) offering”, according to Keller, is a tap class exclusively for boys called Tap Dogs.

Following the success of their summer classes geared toward aspiring male dancers, the Kellers have decided to expand to reach this underserved demographic.  Kelly Kuhnhein, Fort Thomas mother of three boys, two of whom participated in the summer tap instruction, said of the class, “It was a really great introduction to dance for my sons and it was so fun watching not only their skills develop, but also their love for and appreciation of the tap dance art form.” Teacher Maria Massa was more impressed with the way these young men presented themselves in class. "They listened and retained information so well and their unique presence made dance class that much more fun!"

Tap Dogs 
Keller is equally as excited for the new class based on the experience she had over the summer watching the boys learn tap skills with some of their favorite movie soundtracks playing in the background including Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Batman.  John Kuhnhein, one of the students, said, “I loved performing the tap steps for an audience (...and) it was great to dance with my cousins and the other boys.
Ben Kuhnhein dances during Tap Dogs.
In addition, the young studio is celebrating a successful run at the New York World Dance Championships. Belladance streamed the competition live on Facebook where more than 5,000 people watched the competition team perform an exceptional tap routine before a large crowd and professional judges.  Keller was thrilled with the performance of her team, calling it the “Best Birthday Present Ever!”  

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Keller went on to say, “the senior girls exemplify the true meaning behind ‘team effort’; they work together like an incredibly well-oiled machine. They made their robes, do each other’s hair and makeup, made tie-dye shirts (…) and truly care about one another.”  Bella Keller stated that "this past year has been unimaginable! There were so many times in New York where we girls would just stop, look at each other, and say "Can you believe we are actually here!?" To think that this is just the beginning is so crazy. I'm even more excited than ever to see where this studio adventure takes us!" For many of the girls on the team, the highlight of this trip (aside from dancing) was the private tour of Radio City Music Hall to see where the Rockettes perform; in addition, many members of the team were able to catch Broadway musicals, including ‘Chicago’, ‘Kinky Boots’, and even ‘Hamilton’.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fort Thomas Police Need Your Help To Identify Theft Suspect

Fort Thomas Police are investigating a theft caught on video at Top This Donut Bar in Fort Thomas that occurred on Monday, August 14 around noon.

Top This is located at 18 N. Fort Thomas Avenue in The Hiland Building.

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The theft of a $300 pair of sunglasses was caught on security video. The alleged suspect can be seen picking up the sunglasses on the counter and tucking them into her purse as she completes a purchase at the cash register.

Police have asked for help in identifying the suspect. The likely charge would be Theft by Unlawful Taking, a class A misdemeanor.

If you have information, you can call Lt. Rich Whitford at 859-572-1228.

See the footage below, the left occurs at 0:40:

WATCH: "Judy the Crossing Guard" Profiled by WCPO

Fort Thomas Matters media partner, WCPO, was in Fort Thomas this morning, interviewing Judy the Crossing Guard. 

"Fort Thomas crossing guard has kept kids, drivers safe for over 30 years."

By Timyka Artist, WCPO

There’s hardly a Fort Thomas driver who doesn’t know Judy Kiskaden.

Kiskaden has been directing traffic and keeping kids safe near Moyer Elementary School for over 30 years.

As kids head back to school across the Tri-State, Kiskaden said it’s important for drivers to remember to pay attention to their surroundings.

They have to pay attention," she said. "They’re usually on the phone, texting, talking, in a hurry, not paying attention, some of them sit there and gab on the phone and you’ve gotta holler at them to keep moving … they usually pay pretty much attention to me." 

No one has ever been hurt for as long as Kiskaden has been on the job. She credits her vigilance.

Highlands-Cooper Preview

Bluebirds Seek Strong Start Against Jaguars

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior running back Larry Wilson (21) breaks free for a nice run during the scrimmage against Cincinnati St. Xavier. The Bluebirds hope to see more runs like that in the season opener at Cooper.
Since 2002, the Highlands Bluebirds football team has dropped its season opener one time.

Highlands will head back to the scene of that loss Friday in Union against the Cooper Jaguars at 7:30 p.m. in the Skyline Crosstown Showdown. The Jaguars beat the Bluebirds, 37-13 two years ago in Union in the first-ever meeting between the two squads before Highlands took out Cooper, 52-42 last year in a shoot-out in Fort Thomas.

That marked the lone win the Bluebirds have recorded against a team with a winning record in the last two years. The Jaguars finished 7-5 last year losing 49-20 at Class 6A, District 5 rival Ryle in the second round of the playoffs after knocking off Lexington Bryan Station, 35-7 to open the playoffs.

Both teams will have a number of players that will be playing for the first time on Friday Nights. But Highlands Head Coach Brian Weinrich and staff have long believed in keeping things simple and Friday is no exception.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sen. Wil Schroder Calls for Removal of Jefferson Davis Statue at Capitol

A conservative northern Kentucky voice in the Kentucky State Senate spoke to give his opinion today at a rally in Frankfort to call for the removal of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis' statue, from the Kentucky State Capitol.

Wil Schroder (R-Wilder) said he would like to see the statue removed because he didn't know what to say to kids who visited the Capitol and asked why the statue was there.

"Why would Kentucky want to showcase what has become a symbol of hate in one of its most sacred of spaces?" he asked.

The One People, One Commonwealth rally was organized by Jordan Harris, the executive director of a bipartisan think tank in Louisville called the Pegasus Institute.

Schroder called for the removal, not destruction of the statue.

"As a piece of history, this statue should be removed and placed in a museum along with other important historical markers from the Civil War, including other pieces honoring those who opposed slavery," he said.

Some prominent Kentucky Republicans backed Schroder in his comments.

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson,said the Davis statue should not be in the Capitol and voiced appreciation for the “leadership” of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

State Treasurer Allison Ball, a Republican, said “I agree with Sen. Schroder and what he’s saying.” She did not specifically mention the statue, however.

Former State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, a Democrat, called Schroder’s comments “morally courageous.”

Previously, Sen. Mitch McConnell had called for the removal of the statue from the Capitol.

Fort Thomas Matters has obtained his speech in its entirety, below:

Fort Thomas Independent To Use Solar Eclipse As Learning Experience

Students will be kept until 4:00 p.m. for safety 

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 will come and go on Monday, August 21 for approximately a three-hour span, but the impact will affect millions throughout the day.  An estimated 12 million people live within the path of totality and the number of people within just one day's drive of the totality zone is around 200 million.

In northern Kentucky, you'll be able to experience a 93% totality of the eclipse, but viewing the eclipse without the proper eyewear can be potentially dangerous.

Image: USA Today. 
Although it may seem like this historical event may have snuck up on society, eclipses of the sun can be predicted thousands of years in advance. Astronomers has had this eclipse on their calendars for decades now.

RELATED: See How The Eclipse Will Look Near You

Several northern Kentucky school districts have announced classrooms will be closed Aug. 21 for the rare solar eclipse, while others are incorporating the event into their curriculum. 

Fort Thomas Independent Schools, along with Beechwood Independent, are taking the latter approach. 

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Highlands Middle and High School students will be dismissed at 3:50 p.m. , while elementary students will be dismissed at 4:00 p.m. Schools will alter class schedules or have planned events up until dismissal time.  No after-school activities will begin until 4:00 p.m.  

Parents may sign out students earlier in the school office if absolutely needed and each child who wishes to participate must have a signed permission slip turned in. Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent, Karen Cheser, said those would be sent to parents via Schoology, Infinite Campus and with students. 

"This will be an extraordinary educational opportunity for our students as the last solar eclipse occurred in the USA in 1918," said Cheser.  "While the event is extremely exciting for our students, we must also acknowledge the importance of proper eye safety."

Cheser reported to the board on Monday that the district has purchased NASA-approved, ISO-certified viewing glasses to help the schools navigate this day safely. With foresight, that shipment will arrive this week. 
"The eclipse must only be viewed through ISO-certified glasses, " said Cheser. "Please help us reinforce this with your child.  Our teachers will provide the glasses and brief supervised viewing of the eclipse." 

Dr. Josiah Young, owner of Opticare Vision Centers, is a Fort Thomas resident with children in the district. He said he applauded the decision of the district to not cancel and to keep the kids in class. 

"I think the school is doing a great thing to protect the students and make it a great learning experience at the same time. The school district is in a unique position to be able to help these kids safely enjoy one of the great astronomical events of our lifetime. Because of the timing of the eclipse,  the kids would be let out right as it is occurring," he said.