Friday, December 31, 2010

NYE: Fort Thomas Edition


Feels like spring today in the rolling hills of Fort Thomas, but lo and behold, December 31 is here. It's time to ring in 2011. I'm sure by now, you have your plans, but just in case you don't, here's what your hometown is offering you.

Cheers:

1) Old reliable. The Olde Fort Pub is offering probably the best deal around. $40 all inclusive. DJ. Band. Food. Drink. What more can you ask for? I shimmied around town today to try to talk to businesses that were open tonight and besides The Pub, only one other business seemed to be on top of their game as far as offering entertainment for the night.

I saw three Arnzen's there in the wake of the UK-UofL post game massacre and I'm sure reinforcements were on their way.

"It's the only time we do this all year," said Bob Arnzen, owner. "We want to provide a home town place to unwind on New Year's Eve. People in Fort Thomas want have a long way to get home from here."

Josh McIntosh was there taking in the Kentucky game and had bought tickets for the festivities for later that night.

"It's the best deal I've heard around," he said. "Going out anywhere else will cost you so much more. It's just easier here and it'll be a blast."

2) Vito's Cafe. I walked in when Vito and Mary were getting the serving staff prepped for the night's action. Vito gave me a sly smile as he frenetically explained the intricacies of the 5 course menu which would cost $60 a person.

Mary explained that they were sold out. Which is always good to see. Let me know if you went and how it was as I was not able to get a ticket.

A for effort:

DEP's Fine Wine and Liquor store was open and will be open till 10 PM tonight. I grabbed a bottle of champagne as they were restocking the Cook's. Looks like some will be enjoying the finer things tonight.

They had their always helpful staff helping patrons pick out their spirits for the night and my personal sommelier had told me they were steady, if not jam packed all day. I was a little surprised there wasn't some type of event going on. A champagne tasting. A cigar sampling. Something to get more people in than would normally come in.

Jeers:

915: Walked in and asked a manager if they were doing anything for New Year's Eve. She looked at me for about 5 seconds without saying anything, and shrugged her shoulders as if I had asked her what the square root of 98342 was.

The Midway: Same story, different day. Big contrast walking down the street from The Pub, which had already begun their undertaking of their night to The Midway Cafe, which again had their doors closed. Pretty inexplicable.

All in all, I love the fact that some of these businesses are doing what it takes to provide a safe and close alternative for one of the biggest "night out" nights of the year. You would think, though, that if your core business is food, drink, etc. you would go all out to ensure that you were lock stock and ready to go for the night's festivities.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kingdom Hall for Sale


I ran across a listing online the other day for office space for sale on Memorial Parkway.  This obviously piqued my interest since I could not recall where office space existed along Memorial Parkway.  As I clicked on the link it became apparent that the facilities (Kingdom Hall) for the Jehovah's Witnesses is for sale and the listing agent is framing the property as potential office space.  Not a bad strategy for selling a church that has limited market opportunities.

I spoke with the real estate agent for this listing and identified that the group has combined their congregation with one in Butler Kentucky.  The new combined congregation is now meeting in Cold Spring has been for a few weeks.

The only question that now remains is whether or not we hear less knocks at our door and see fewer copies of the watchtower.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bipartisan Cheering Sectors


Been on vacation for a while, sorry for the lack of posts. It took me a while to catch up on all my emails, tweets, facebook updates, etc.

Most of all, I was very interested in the comments (and lack there of comments) in the last two articles I posted.

1) A simple post on the 20th state championship, which Highlands attained this year turns into a internet nerd fight between NCC and Highlands parents - which gets 12 comments published.

2) A post three months in the making about the process of a citizen turning a thought into a possible ordinance - which gets 0 comments published.

I guess that goes to show what strikes a nerve in the readership and what strikes a nerve with the writers can be two completely different things. From now on, just as our political counterparts call for obligatory partnerships, we at Fort Thomas Matters will do our best for bipartisan cheering.

Perhaps the Wendy's in Newport decided to even up the score with the above picture after reading about said internet nerd fight. After congratulating NCC's state championship by proudly boasting "NCC Congrats at State" on their marquis - then making no mention of HHS state championship. It's too bad the marquis writer doesn't have an editor. Not sure "20 years running" applies itself correctly in this scenario.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of December 13

1. Smoking Ban - As expected the Campbell County Court passed the smoking ban this week with Ken Rechtin the lone hold out on the vote.  There was a bit of drama during the session as it opened with a surprise amendment that would have exempted any businesses that have 18+ year age limit.  The ammendment introduced by Pendery as a compromise was eventually defeated.

Some quotes from the proceedings courtesy of Amanda VB who does a fantastic job covering these events and providing live tweets from such events.  No one else is providing anywhere near the quality coverage.
  • Mark Hayden: "I didn't come to this (decision) easily. I am abdolutely convinced this is a critical public health issue."
  • Ken Rechtin: "I believe we can protect the rights of all: the smoker, the nonsmoker & the business's right to choose."
  • Dave Otto: "For me, it's always been about health. To me, health trumps any argument about rights."
  • Pendery: "Without an amendment, no one would be protected...In the end, you have to accomplish the most good for the most people you can."
The ban is scheduled to go in place April 15th 2011 but questions remain with a new group of Commissioners taking office after the first of the year that are largely anti-ban.


2. This week there was an asset auction for Bear Creek Capital assets.  The sale did not include the Pavilion but was interesting nonetheless.  I am not sure what BCC's ownership interests are in the site but I believe it is still embroiled in some litigation.  Regardless the construction of Target continues to move along great.  The difficutl part for those that are impatient is the hiring and planning for a store opening which should be less than 3 months away. 

This opening should coincide with the start of additional construction for outlots and the space between Kroger and Target.  Still no indications on when the Kroger Fuel Center will open but it would be good to have a cheaper fuel option than the Marathon and BP.

3. Lastly, I ran across a promotional website for CDS Associates - the company that led the redesign of the Midway.  It was interesting to see their perspective of the streetscape improvements.  Let me know if you think this is an accurate portrayal in the comments section below.

It will likely be fairly quiet around the site for the next couple weeks.  Enjoy the holidays with friends and family and I am sure things will crank back up again after the first of the year.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parks Investment Misguided

My three year old son has recently fallen in love with the trails around Tower Park and by proxy I have fallen in love with them as well.  We went hiking this weekend (despite the cold and mud) and it gives him a chance to run, jump, get dirty, and generally burn off some energy so he doesn't destroy our home.

While the recent work to rebuild the picnic shelters had bothered me it did not feel like a complete waste until I discovered some of the opportunities that Tower Park has in the trail system that are frankly under-utilized.  It is not that I felt the previous shelters were great, they just weren't that bad and really didn't need replaced.


Lets talk about some of the ways that this money could have been spent instead of replacing what were functional picnic shelters.

Example #1 - the Old Fort Supply Trail.  This is a fairly popular trail because it is lined with gravel, is wider than most of the trails, has a fairly open clearing, and is one of the longer trails in the park.  At the midway point along the trail (I have marked this spot on the picture above with a circle) is a giant clearing that the trail loops around with a giant dirt / mud pit in the middle.  The recreation department has used this area in the past to burn brush but it is horribly under-utilized for what it could be.  This would be a great spot for a dog park.  During my most recent trip along the trail I saw five groups of people walking their dogs.  Perhaps this would not be that impressive if it weren't for the fact that it was 40 degrees and we were there for less than an hour.  Having a bench to sit on while their dog burns off some energy in a restricted area that prevents them from chasing squirrels is a much better use of funds than new picnic shelters.

Example #2 - the Motor Poll Row trail.  This was a more rustic trail until some recent work to clear out space around power lines leading from the Ohio River (this is marked on the map by the polygon shape).  Now that this work has been done a major opportunity has been presented to expand the trail network and open a few additional trails.  This would be a much more functional addition to the park than replacing very functional picnic shelters to just create an architecture that is consistent with the new amphitheater.


The final piece that is also horribly under-utilized is the river views and the old pumping stations that sit along the river (marked on the map with a square).  As you continue down the Old Supply Road you reach a turnaround spot with amazing views of the river and the nearby pumping stations.  Benches to allow hikers a little rest to enjoy the scenery would be a great add.  Admittedly I don't know whether these pumping stations are still in use - it appears to be owned by the Cincinnati Water District.  However, if we were thinking big we could even consider a foot bridge across Route 8 to the Input station and half bridge that exists (pictured above).  What a great asset that sits along the river - whether it is limited to just the views or incorporation of the old water buildings it could be so much more. 

How would you rather see your .25% tax spent?  The tax, enacted in 2003, was originally intended for street improvements and if we are going to spend it on parks then lets add some real updates to the park.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fort Thomas News - Week of December 6th

A few news and notes from this past week that you may be interested in:

1. Received a Nixle message about a "Pre-Winter Advisory" for this weekend from the City of Fort Thomas.  The instructions were to remove your cars from cul-de-sacs and turnabouts to allow plows to clear the streets more easily.  The message was sent on Thursday and prior to a moderate downgrading of the snow storm.

2. Did anyone happen to notice news this week of Merril Hoge and his family moving to Fort Mitchell and away from Fort Thomas?  Merril has been in the news recently for stories related to his overcoming of cancer some years ago as well as his story on concussions.  You can read the fact that he moved in the linked article.


3. How awesome was the Holiday Walk last weekend?  I have included a picture of my son with Santa at the Firehouse.  The event just keeps getting bigger and better and the use of transportation (horse drawn carriages and vans) finally allows residents to reach each and every business whether in the Midway, the Central Business District, or Inverness.  It also allows the kids to reach every event from Santa's arrival to the tree lighting.  Great Job!

4. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association is now providing online video replays of Highlands historic state championship game as well as Newport Central Catholic's state championship.  If you couldn't make the trip to Bowling Green last week and you are looking for something to watch while the snow is falling tomorrow then check it out.

5. Smoking Ban - by now you have probably read the step forward that the smoking ban took this week as the Kenton County Court had the first reading of the smoking ordinance.  The court must have a second reading which will likely take place along with a vote on the 21st.  Meanwhile Kenton County communities such as Fort Mitchell, Erlanger, and Fort Wright have all voted a somewhat symbolic vote against the ban.

6. Also, don't forget that the Y is hosting the annual Frostbite 5K run / walk.  The race is on New Year's Day at 10:30am.  You can register here.

Al Salvato, a long time YMCA volunteer and avid runner, began the Frostbite Five Mile Run as a fundraiser to help ensure families without the financial means can still benefit from the programs and services of the Campbell County YMCA.

“Al is a great example of the wonderful diverse group of people who share in our passion for wanting to engage people of all ages in leading healthy and socially responsible lives,” said Dana Ensley, executive director of the Campbell County YMCA.


Cost for the race is $30 if pre-registered through www.sprunning.com and $35 for day of registration. The race will begin and end at the Campbell County YMCA, 1437 S. Ft. Thomas Ave in Ft. Thomas, Ky. Day of registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. For more information, the public can call the Campbell County YMCA at 859-781-1814.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anatomy of an Ordinance


I get emails all the time from citizens who are having issues with something, and would like Fort Thomas Matters to help get it more publicity. I know most, if not everyone, has a little problem that bothers them about their neighborhood, street or city in general. Take a look at these comments from a previous post to get a flavor of what bothers some of you neighbors in Fort Thomas.

No, this post isn't going to be a clone of the School House Rock video, "I'm Just a Bill" which was no doubt shown to you in grade school. I'm just not that clever. But to see how an ordinance gets adopted by the city, I decided to take a personal nuisance of mine to the city.

I love my neighbors. They are all great people. And I love the fact that our city is lined with huge, mature trees. Obviously, when summer transitions to fall, these trees beget huge amounts of leaves, which find their way from adjoining houses into the street. Hopefully, you know where I'm going with this.

I wanted to see if council could help remedy an annual problem that I have with my neighbors leaves getting into my driveway and clogging my drain, and subsequently, getting my basement wet.

Do these carelessly disregarded leaves infringe on my personal safety? Of course not. But do I think that council could easily tweak or create a new ordinance in order to relieve a hardship on a citizen of Ft. Thomas? Absolutely.

I suggested that the city review the sustainability of an ordinance that would prohibit citizens from putting yard debris in the street without some type of regard to the leaf pickup schedule.

Of course I wanted the city to take this request seriously, and hopefully they did, but more than anything, I wanted to see how efficient they could be when handling a citizen's problem.

Below is a timeline of correspondence between myself and the City of Fort Thomas.

10/27/10 - Phone call placed to Ralph Hopper, General Services.
Result: Directed me to Don Martin, City Administrative Officer.

10/27/10 - Email to Martin. Explained my problem, offered possible solution.

10/28/10 - Martin responds to email.

Result:
He let me know that the proposed ordinance may have merit. He would bring up the proposal at the appropriate council meeting to get their thoughts.

11/15/10 - City Council meeting.

Result:
Talked to some council members as well as Martin. I was informed that the committee who would hear the proposed ordinance (Public Works Committee - Eric Haas, Chair; Tom Lampe, member) had not yet met.

Martin also let me know to call if there is an extreme excess of leaves and if the city workers had extra time, they would come by.

12/7/10 - Martin responds to reveal the discussion by the Public Works Committee on the proposed ordinance. See email below:

Result:
See transcript below:

After reviewing the leaf collection schedule and the operations method for leaf collection, the committee feels that such an ordinance would hamper the city's efforts. The crews regularly will finish the scheduled leaf collection route a little early each day. This allows them to pick up leaves that are not scheduled for pick-up. This helps to allow our crews to remain on schedule. Additionally, most folks like to rake leaves on the weekends. If they are scheduled for collection on a Friday, they may not be able to rake leaves during the week. The current operational methods allow property owners the flexibility to rake on the weekends.


So there you go. It took about a month and a half to get an answer to my question. Obviously, it didn't turn out favorably for me, but overall I was pleased with the communication and efficiency in our local government. I still think there may be a different solution, but I'll get to that at a later date.

Has anyone else had experience (good/bad/indifferent) with trying to get council to hear their pleas?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Highlands Blasts Christian Co. 50-0 - Wins State Record 20th State Title


The heading says it all. Highlands executed its game plan to perfection. To view the video replay, go to Highlands-bluebirds.com. The win gave Highlands their school best, 4th state championship in a row. The replay should be available to watch around 8:30 tonight.

Game MVP goes to Patrick Towles, junior QB. They held Christian Co. 5A player of the year RB Ryan "Bubba" Tandy to a net of 39 yards on 13 carries.

Barring Towles entering his name in the NFL draft, he will lead the team next year - and has undoubtedly put his name atop the list for Mr. Kentucky Football. They have plenty to look forward to. Both Freshman and JV teams went undefeated and will step up to fill the void of departing seniors this year.

Also on tap for next year, Highlands will be leaving 5A, departing as the only 5A champ since the realignment 4 years ago. The Birds will be joining the more competitive 4A next year, with the likes of Boyle Co, Bell Co, Lexington Catholic, and Cov Cath.

They open with 4A champ, Boyle Co. and also have a matchup with Elder next year.

Congrats to the Birds.

Editor's note:
Oh yeah, NCC won too.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You may have seen my recent post on the third anniversary of the site. To avoid an overly lengthy post I avoided talking about the top events, people, and places that have driven the interest and growth in the site. I combed back over the site statistics to identify the most popular topics on the blog and here they are:

1. Newport Pavilion - far and away the leader in terms of interest, traffic, and judging by internet search terms that brought people to the website. While Fort Thomas would never want or allow a big box store or fast food clearly our town and area is vastly underserved in terms of shopping and dining options. (Related terms - Bear Creek Capital)

2. Kroger Marketplace - I know this is somewhat similar in nature but again the excitement just prior to and after the opening was evident. Having a strong grocery option this close to home was sorely lacking. You can make comments about the fact that Remke has been there for years and there were two other Kroger nearby (Bellevue & Cold Spring) but options that this store brought (including the fuel center that has yet to open) along with the convenience of getting there has been unmatched. I expect a similar surge in interest in Target just prior to the opening and just after the opening.

3. Pergola - the drama around the closing and subsequent disappointment in losing a decent dining option in Fort Thomas after such little time. Of course this disappointment has subsided as Danny Krebs took some of his menu options to a more family friendly Fort Thomas Pub.

4. Fort Thomas Swim Club - the level of interest and traffic related to this topic probably has to do with two things - 1.the lack of a decent website for the swim club and 2.the large waiting list of people interested in gaining membership.  It is one of the more sought after memberships in Fort Thomas.

5. Chipotle - keeping with the 'what's coming to Newport Pavilion' theme, there has been a lot of traffic related to the possibility of Chipotle coming to Newport Pavilion. You may remember that Chipotle was in the original site plan but once the financial troubles hit Bear Creek their plans were shelved and a store was opened a couple exits down the highway at the entrance to NKU. Recent plans call for the build out of Chipotle and other fast casual options once the Target is completed.

6. Vernon Swim Club - while the original posts were related to the need for a new pool (which was subsequently completed with a nice upgrade) one of the primary drivers for traffic related to this topic was people looking for a blog site of an irate neighbor whom started their own blog critical of the swim club.

7. Highlands Drama Program - this blog seems to be providing the best coverage of the Highlands drama program including the beginning of a new booster group for the drama program.  The theater and related programming is truly a gem for the community.

8. The Candy Cottage - This small candy shop has been a nice addition to the Central Business District.  It was fun watching kids after school play around at the corner of Highland and Fort Thomas Ave.  This is a good Sunday afternoon diversion for the kids and their first few months have been quite successful.

9. Memorial Parkway Apartments - I believe this interest in this one is the curiousity factor.  Everyone wants to know who cut down all the trees, letf the sidewalk undone, tore out a hillside, and then let the weeds overgrow everything rather than completing the additional apartment buildings.

10. Cake Towne - this new addition to the Fort Thomas dining scene has had high interest in the past couple months as residents are curious about menu.

Honorable mentions:
A. Deer Hunt (related ordinance)
B. Fort Thomas Snow Days - a topic that may heat up again soon as winter weather approaches. I suppose we'll see if the administration learned anything about a reasonable closure standards from last season's fiasco
C. Highlands High School Football