Friday, May 25, 2018

Inmate Smuggles Heroin Into NKY Jail, Sentenced to 25 More Years After Another Inmate Overdoses

Chad H. Prodoehl, 35, of Independence, Ky., was sentenced today, to 300 months in federal prison, by United States District Judge David L. Bunning, for conspiracy to distribute carfentanil resulting in death.

Prodoehl was convicted in December 2017, following a three-day trial. The evidence at trial established that, while he was an inmate at the Boone County Jail work camp, in Burlington, Ky., Prodoehl conspired with others to smuggle drugs into the work camp. Prodoehl was permitted to leave the camp on work release; and on October 15, 2016, he brought drugs, including carfentanil, back to the camp and distributed them. Several inmates used the drugs and one inmate, Timothy Marcum, overdosed and died as a result.

Under federal law, Prodoehl must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence; and upon his release, he will be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for five years.
Robert M. Duncan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Timothy J. Plancon, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), jointly made the announcement.

5th Street Gallery, Featuring Local Artists, Finds a New Home

Local artists Bill Dirkes (left), Joe Drury and Jerry Warner (right) were instrumental in finding a new home for 5th Street Gallery upon the closing of Macy's downtown Cincinnati.

5th Street Gallery, a collaborative of local artists, relocated to Macy's, Fountain Place, during the 2017 holiday season. When the downtown Cincinnati Macy's location closed in March, the gallery found itself in need of a new home. Enter Millennium Cincinnati.

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Joe Drury, a Fort Thomas-based glass sculpture artist, simply began walking up and down 5th Street. In the Millennium hotel he found a bare-bones lobby and owners who were thrilled with the idea of local artists filling the hotel walls with art. The relocation has been a win-win for all involved.

Today, paintings by local artists adorn the hotel lobby walls – all available for sale. And glass classes – purchased from Macy's, Fountain Place – line a long stretch of the lobby. In it are wood turnings, art glass, handmade jewelry and more. The lobby provides easy access to locals who would like to browse, and the items featured allow travelers to take a little bit of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky home with them.

The hotel also features a large mezzanine, ideal for future art shows featuring selected artists.

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Open from 7-11 six days a week and closed on Mondays, the co-op works the same as it always has, with most of the artists working a set number of hours each month. The set-up allows for little-to-no overhead costs, and allows the artists to interact with customers directly.

Fort Thomas artists also include wood turner Jerry Warner (featured here). Additional artists include Crystal Arnold, Charlie Berger, John Darlin, David Day, Bill Dirkes (a fellow northern Kentucky artist who spent a week with Warner setting up the glass cases and also made new signs for the relocated gallery), Bill Feinberg, Joyce Friedeman, Tim Gold, Margie Lakeberg, David O'Hara, Pat Olding, Debbie Thornberry and David Wright.

"We're meeting all kinds of wonderful people," Drury says, who recently talked to several members of Cirque de Soleil who were staying at the Millennium while performing in Cincinnati. Events throughout the year provide an ever-revolving customer base, key to the co-op's success.

The artists often find themselves serving as ambassadors for the area as well, providing directions, restaurant and sight-seeing recommendations, all the while talking about the joys of living in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

For more information, you can find the gallery on Facebook, here. Or simply stop by – the lobby is always open to the public, and the co-op artists will be more than happy to speak with you.

Johnson Elementary Project Enters Initial State Review Process

A first look at preliminary Johnson Elementary School project plans.

If all goes well, renovations on Robert D. Johnson Elementary School could begin this year.

A formal request for review for the proposed Johnson Elementary School renovation project has been submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). The department has 30 days to review and respond to the request.

Fort Thomas Schools Director of Operations Jerry Wissman shared a first look at preliminary schematics with the board and asked for approval. He said having board approval now will save time. Once the district hears from KDE, the approved schematics can be submitted immediately to the state for its initial review of the project.

RELATED: Town Hall - A New Johnson Elementary School: Designs and What You Should Know 

Looking ahead

While in a rudimentary stage, one that Wissman said was "at this point just colored blocks on paper," the schematics take into consideration the work that has been done on the plans for the renovation since last spring. Divided into two phases, the plans take into consideration the number of classrooms, common spaces and other areas requested and discussed by stakeholders. It also offers alternatives that will be considered as planning continues.

District Superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser praised the board for looking ahead on this issue. "We are very grateful for foresight of this board to go ahead and start plans last spring."

Wissman added that without that work, it could have taken an additional calendar year to get to the point where the district is now.

A brief discussion at the May school board meeting covered issues such as neighborhood concerns about traffic, parking, drop off and pick up areas, the number and size of common areas and classrooms, as well as what would be included in phase one and phase two.

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Wissman noted that many of the plans for traffic flow and related issues will require input and collaboration with the community, the city of Fort Thomas and possibly the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

How we got to here

Cheser shared a recap of the situation. "We were able to secure $7.6 million from the state which we were very thankful went through. And we were able to bond more because the equalization statue was extended. 

We had a lot of help from our legislators, our community, our teachers and our parents. Having enough funding, we are now able to build the school. It will be in two phases, and we anticipate breaking ground possibly (this year)."

"A lot of it depends upon how quickly we can get through KDE," said Wissman "In an ideal world, we can shorten that a little but I think we would be looking at bringing approval of bids and contracts to our (fall) board meetings."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Newport Man Sentenced to 12.5 Years for Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin and Fentanyl

Frederick D. Lewis, 38, of Newport, Kentucky, was sentenced today to 150 months in federal prison, by United States District Judge David L. Bunning, for conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl.

Lewis pled guilty, in February 2018, and admitted that he led a conspiracy of five or more people responsible for distributing more than 100 grams of heroin and more than 160 grams of fentanyl.

Lewis was on federal supervised release, for a 2011 conviction for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, when he committed his new offense. The 150- month prison term includes a sentence of 30 months for violation of the terms of his supervised release.

Under federal law, Lewis must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence; and upon his release, he will be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for ten years.

Highlands Student, Ramey Hensley, Wins First Ever Michelle Chalk Scholarship

It was August 28, 2017 when Keith Chalk sat down with me to record a podcast about the worst day of his family's life.

Just 27 days earlier, his daughter, Michelle, was tragically killed in Fort Thomas.

The Fort Thomas community was shaken to its core and rallied behind the Chalks.

RELATED: Keith Chalks Talks About His Family's Life-Changing Tragedy

During the podcast conversation, Keith revealed that he and his wife, Patty, were planning on organizing a scholarship in Michelle's name.

"It was Patty's insistence that the first recipient be awarded in 2018," he said.

At Highlands' Senior Night, it came to be.

"It was not easy, but thanks to so many people it happened," said Chalk.

In October of 2017, they created the website,, and began discussions with Laura Menge from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to discuss the terms and conditions of having the Michelle Chalk Scholarship Fund under their care.

Then in November of 2017,  they signed a contract with GCF and transferred all the money that was gifted to them through the 5/3 bank account and published their connection with GCF.  As money continued to trickle in to the 5/3 bank account, they would make monthly transfers from 5/3 to GCF.

On the morning of March 16, 2018 Chalk picked up 33 applications from the HHS guidance counselor's office and scanned all of the applications into PDF files and returned the originals to the Highlands Guidance Office before the final bell.

After hours of screening the applications, the scholarship screening committee, comprised of Michelle's adult cousins and their spouses gave their recommendation to the selection committee comprised of the Highlands High School administration.

On May 10th, Elizabeth Roberts Nelson, Michelle's oldest cousin & godmother, made the presentation to Ramey Hensley. You can watch that here. 

PHOTOS: Rarely Seen Historic Pictures of the VA Homes in Fort Thomas

The closing date is imminent.

The historic military homes in the back of Tower Park in Fort Thomas, Kentucky will soon be getting a new owner after years of neglect and abandonment.

After 15 years of the city talking with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Fort Thomas was finally able to obtain the homes for $510,000.

Bloomfield/Schon, the developer who is undertaking the project, will have to oversee the environmental cleanup of lead paint and asbestos in the building before renovations can begin.

The VA will then refund the $510,000 purchase price to offset costs of renovations.

U.S. Army officers lived in the homes until the 1940s. Other federal employees continued to live in some of the homes until the later 1990s. By the early 2000s they were all vacant.

All of the homes are on the National Register of Historic Places.

A New Ben-Gal Role for Highlands Graduate

Reynolds to Focus on Leadership Role in Fall for Ben-Gals
Steve France Photo. Highlands Woodfill Elementary teacher Sam Reynolds will be back on the sidelines as a Ben-Gal for the third season this fall.
Cincinnati Ben-Gals Director of Cheerleading Charlotte Simons likes to see cheerleaders ask what they can do better.

Simons describes it as a "sign of a perpetual winner and overachiever." Simons said Cincinnati Ben-Gal Samantha Reynolds constantly does that. The 2013 Highlands graduate, former Northern Kentucky University dancer, current Middle School Dance Team Coach and Woodfill Elementary teacher just made the squad for a third season.

"She is an overall total pro," Simons said. "She is humble, beautiful and very intelligent. Her work on the field is stellar and her life off the field is exemplary. She works in the community and donates her time to helping people be the best that they can be."

The first thing Reynolds had to do was make it through the process a third time. Simons and Reynolds agreed sometimes do not make the squad again as the result of complacency.

"It is a way to keep everyone motivated as this job requires a lot of energy and intestinal fortitude," Simons said. "We always hope vets will make the cut each year they try out, but it is not a given. The best of the best are chosen, and each year requires a tryout including interviews. They earn it as rookies do. But because of the process, the ladies have a lot of pride in making the team because they know they earned it."

Reynolds said she is in constant communication with Simons and the Ben-Gal coaches. Reynolds said the Ben-Gals have preseason interviews with the coaches to decide what to focus on and reflect on them in postseason interviews. The coaches focused on her fitness last year, specifically lifting weights. Reynolds credited that with making her a stronger dance on the field. The focus is more on leadership this season.

"They said we feel like you're doing great. You're doing everything we need you to do," Reynolds said. "We really want to lean on you in leadership so we want to make sure you want that before we start putting you in those positions. By your third season, you know what the coaches want. You know what they're looking for. You know what the total package NFL cheerleader should look like and act like."

Tina Rigdon and Sarah Livesay. Reynolds said National Football League cheerleaders are expected to be more than just good dancers.
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Reynolds credited the captains from her first two seasons in being great examples in helping her get to her position.

"The biggest thing is leading by example. It's really hard to follow a leader when you don't see them as putting in the team and effort as they're asking you to," Reynolds said. "I was fortunate to have two captains my first two years that were always giving 100 percent effort. They were always on top of their fitness game, good representatives in the community. They were always reliable with events. The coaches really relied on them. I've been fortunate in both cases to have someone that really did resemble the entire NFL cheerleader package - all that it means to be a successful NFL cheerleader."

One event Reynolds enjoys volunteering at is the Christmas Party at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. She made it there in both her first two seasons on the Ben-Gals.

"They have kids as patients that can't all come down to the actual Christmas party in the banquet hall," Reynolds said. "They broadcast on the TV Network in the hospital like a game show type thing. So we've gone down and we work the Christmas Party for most of it playing games with the kids and giving out Christmas presents. But then part of it we get to be on their TV broadcast for the kids that are in their rooms and kind of interact with them. They get to send in questions, act like they're there interacting with us."

Reynolds said the team practices twice a week. The Ben-Gals work out the last half hour and the trainer comes to practice to prepare them for the monthly fitness test. The Ben-Gals can go work out at Terry Bryan Wellness and Training in Kenwood. The trainer also posts workouts on a private Facebook group.

Stories are sometimes told about pro cheerleaders losing their spots on the team because they could not keep up physically. Reynolds said the Ben-Gals have to be able to pass fitness tests such as running two miles in 16 minutes. But with the Ben-Gals, it is not about weight alone.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Staying Put in 5A for Highlands Football

Bluebirds, Colonels Placed in District with Three Boone County Schools

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior-to-be Andrew Wyckoff gets in his stance in a junior varsity game at Cincinnati St. Xavier last fall.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control made it official a week ago Wednesday.

The Highlands Bluebirds football team will remain in Class 5A, District 5 during the 2019 through 2022 seasons barring any huge enrollment changes after 2020. The initial alignment had the Bluebirds slated to move back down to Class 4A based on numbers.

The Laundry Magician | Laundry Pickup & Delivery | Dry Cleaning | Northern Kentucky | Cincinnati Laundry Pickup Service

To try it for yourself, log onto The Laundry Magician here and use coupon code- FREE10 for $10 off your first order.

The Laundry Magician – Now Offering Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning with Free Pickup and Next Day Delivery!

By Zac Ober

Have you ever wished your laundry would just wash itself?

My little family of four somehow produces what seems like five familys' dirty laundry in a week. The kids go through multiple outfits per day, as do my wife and I when they inevitably spill something on us, or accidentally color on us with a marker.

“Doing the laundry” turns into this dark cloud that hovers over my wife and me, neither one of us wanting to look up and acknowledge it, for fear that we’ll actually have to start the process: gather laundry from around the different bedrooms, lug it to the basement, wash it, dry it, fold and hang it. It adds up to quite a bit of work, so I’ve definitely had the thought after a long and busy week, “there’s got to be a better way to do laundry”.

Turns out, there is – and here in Cincinnati it’s called The Laundry Magician, and the process couldn’t be easier.

You create an account on their website, follow the simple steps, and you’re ready. You set your preferences for detergent, softener, washer and dryer settings, you name it. They even have a section for special instructions – I used this to let them know where at my house they could pick up and drop off the clothes. Not long after signing up online, you get a confirmation call from a real, live person who makes sure all your questions are answered – any stress or worries you have about another person doing your laundry is quickly washed away. You can tell the folks at Laundry Magician care about the work they’re doing!

The Laundry Magician also has a new service – Eco Friendly Dry Cleaning!

I was pleased to find out that they are one of the only eco-friendly dry cleaners in the area, as they do not use the hazardous and smelly chemical that most dry cleaners still use. The Laundry Magician has been certified by the Green Cleaners Council because they use a biodegradable, non-toxic and odorless solvent.

Owner, Dave Menz, told me about the chemical, Perc, that the other dry cleaners use, “it is the most widely used solvent in the dry cleaning process.  I have read some reports that say over 85% of all Dry Cleaners still use it, and it is being outlawed in certain locations.  Been around a long time, and frankly it works well, but it is controlled by the state and EPA, reporting and such as a hazardous chemical. It also has a strong smell, and it leaves the smell on the clothes.  We use an Eco-Friendly solvent called Hydrocarbon. It is biodegradable, non toxic, odorless so your clothes don't have that "chemical" smell to them.”

On top of helping me feel good about the impact the dry cleaning would have, just like the rest of the laundry, they will pick it up and return it the very next day! Traditional dry cleaners have always been a bother to me, as I have to remember to take the clothes with me in the car, work the drop off into my routine, then remember to pick it up again three or four days later.

I’m not going to lie, it was a little weird at first to give my laundry to someone else, and trust them to pick it up and drop it off and keep everything together. But once we got our clothes back the next day, I realized I was worried about nothing! I wouldn’t hesitate to use the service again – especially during one of those crazy weeks where I just can’t seem to find the time to get to the laundry myself.

The Laundry Magician cuts all the hassle out, picking it up from my house, and delivering it back the next day, looking (and smelling) great and hanging in my garage in protective bags. My wife and I couldn’t believe how easy it was, how fast it was, and how nicely our clothes were returned to us. My wife joked that the only thing they didn’t do was actually put the clothes away for us!

Here’s a little bit more in depth look at the incredibly simple process:

Your dry cleaning clothes go into a green bag (normal laundry goes into a blue bag), you fill it up, and leave it for the Laundry Magician to pick up. The Laundry Magician will send you text or email updates throughout the process to remind you to set out your clothes, let you know when your clothes were picked up, and when they were dropped back off.

Through your online account you can specify if there are special instructions, like a certain garment that should be air-dryed or washed in a certain way.

Your clothes are returned folded and hung according to your selected preferences. I loved that my dress shirts were so nicely pressed – when I wash them, I frequently have the cuffs or collar roll or fold in the dryer, which means I then have to iron them to have them presentable. However, with the Laundry Magician, my dress shirts all look perfect and can go straight into the closet!

To try it for yourself, log onto The Laundry Magician here and use coupon code- FREE10 for $10 off your first order.

Campbell County Primary Voters Give Mandate to Incumbents on Fiscal Court

A crowded Republican primary field in Campbell County cleared up the picture for how the ballot will look in November and in large part, the Fiscal Court's current makeup will almost mirror its current status.

County Clerk, Jim Luersen, told Fort Thomas Matters that the turnout for the primary voters was 13.5% or 9,961 voters. That was down from the last countywide primary in 2014, which saw a 20% turnout and 13,359 voters. The total number of registered voters increased 8,324 during the last four years.

Judge Executive Steve Pendery retained the right to run for re-election in November by beating first time candidate, Anna Zinkhon of Camp Springs by a 54.58% to 45.42% margin. Pendery, who was watching the results in the Fiscal Court Chambers in Newport with his family, held a comfortable lead all night.

"Running for office is not for the feint of heart," said Pendery. "It takes commitment and everyone who was on the ballot should be congratulated."

Pendery will face Democrat, Calvin Sidle, and Independent, Charlie Coleman, in the general election in November. Coleman, who switched his official party status from Republican to Independent before this year's filing deadline, have had a contentious relationship in the past. Coleman is the sitting County Commissioner in District 2, having won that seat in 2014.

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Despite multiple attempts, Coleman has not been able to be reach for comment. At a Campbell County Republican meeting in Newport, executive member, Larry Robinson, told the group that Coleman felt like the party had abandoned him and that was the reason why we switched affiliations.

The the District 1 race, incumbent Brian Painter batted away three contenders led by Dave Fischer of Fort Thomas. Painter, who trailed Fischer through most of the evening, got a late push by later reporting precincts in the south end of Campbell County to push him over the top. With just 10 precincts to go, he jumped Fischer to get his first lead of the night and finished with a margin 35.38 to Fischer's 28.87%. Former county Judge Executive, Lloyd Rogers, had a strong showing at 25.77% and first-time candidate, Tyler Owen, received 9.97%.

Painter will face Democrat, Connie Grubbs from Fort Thomas in the general election in November, as well as Independent, Dave Guidugli, who also switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent.

The District 2 race pitted a two faces and an Campbell County stalwart against each other. Newcomer, Geoff Besecker beat Pete Garrett by a margin of 43.97% to Garrett's 32.28%. Jerry Gearding received 23.75% of the vote. Besecker faced similar deficits to Painter after the first 50 precincts reported. Then, just as Painter received a boost from the southern end of Campbell County, Besecker's roots in the south end helped him to his victory.

Besecker does not have a general election, so he will be sworn into his commissioner seat on January 1, 2019.

The District 3 race was not much of a race at all. Incumbent, Tom Lampe, raced out to an early lead over Jim Livers and didn't look back. Lampe, who was in the Fiscal Court Chambers watching the results, received 74.28% of the vote to Livers 25.72% for the second highest margin of the night.

A similar result in the Jailer race, as Jim Daley handily defeated Chris Maloney, by the largest margin during the primary by a 75.28% to 24.72% margin.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Flooding Shuts Down US-27 Alexandria Pike, River Road

A flash flood shut down Alexandria Pike near DEPs. Over a foot of rain covered the roadways when Fort Thomas Police and Southgate Police closed through traffic.

No one was hurt. 

Orangetheory Fitness Newport Pavilion.