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Monday, January 31, 2011

Ft. Thomas Sister Cities and week of 1/31/10 Links

Not a lot going on in and around Ft. Thomas this week, so I decided to dig up a few "time killing" websites. is great way to wade your way out of the Monday haze. Below is a list of cities around the nation that are most like Fort Thomas, our sister cities. You can modify your search parameters to get different lists.

City, State

1 Person Houses65+College GradsCommute MinutesFamily IncomeKids 0-4Non WhitePop.Poverty


1. Fort Wright, Kentucky

2. Fairview Park, Ohio

3. Seward, Nebraska

4. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

5. Scotia, New York


- Also, on the Enquirer's Fort Thomas page, I found two anti-tea party letters to the editor written on the same day - both from Fort Thomas residents. Can't say I recognize either name, but the timing of the two letters makes me kind of think it may be a Clark Kent/Superman thing.

I won't mention their names, but if you feel inclined they are here and here.

- The Statewide Smoking Ban is heating up.

- #snOMG 1.4 to come our way tonight? The groundbreaking reporting continues.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fort Thomas Business Association Annual Dinner

That's right - it is Ken Bowman of Bowman's Framing on the drums.  I attended the Fort Thomas Business Association annual dinner last night at the Carnegie Event Center in Newport.  The annual event is a great opportunity to recognize the achievements of Fort Thomas businesses and business people as well as provide an opportunity for business owners to network and support each other's goals.

Ken Bowman (pictured above) played with his band, Barney and the Howlers, which has become an annual tradition of the event.  Other annual traditions include Sarelli's catering the event - and they did a wonderful job as usual.  I highly recommend them for any of your catering needs.  In addition to Sarelli's, Cake Towne donated desserts for the evening that included chocolate covered strawberries (pictured below), pineapple upside cake, brownies, and possibly the best delicious coconut cream pie I have ever had.


Awards were handed out during the evening as well.  Among those recipients included:

New Business of the Year - Concrete Concepts of the Tristate
Business of the Year - Hospice of the Bluegrass / Northern Kentucky
Volunteer of the Year - Andrew Modrall, Modrall & Associates CPA
Community Leader - Debbie Buckley

Congratulations to the all the winners.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fort Thomas Schools: Escaping A School Budget Crisis

Stories recently in and around Cincinnati is littered with school districts mired in financial crisis.  I have included links a summaries to each below:
  1. Lakota Schools (West Chester) - $12 million+ deficit that requires busing cuts, teacher layoffs and possibly more
  2. Mason Schools - $5.8 million deficit that requires administrative and teacher cuts
  3. Boone County Schools - $8 million
  4. Little Miami Schools - this one is a broken record after 7 failed attempts to raise funding levies
  5. Clermont Northeastern - looking at cutting timber on un-used school land to raise funds to avoid teacher cuts
  6. Loveland schools trying to raise $2.7 million
I am sure there have been others recently but you can click on the links for details.  Bottom line - some of the cuts are staggering and if you pay attention to any Cincinnati media it is fairly broad based.  Many districts with a strong reputation are having to make fairly aggresive cuts in order to avoid a fiscal crisis.  While Fort Thomas students are used to no air conditioning and walking to school (even when it snows) - parents in these newer districts just don't know how their students could possibly learn in that type of environment.

In light of so many districts with their backs against the wall Fort Thomas Matters checked in with Superintendent of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools, John Williamson.  I have included my questions and his answers below - enjoy.

Q (FTM) - How is the upcoming budget year shaping up?

A (JW) - We have formulated a draft budget. The “state” has not yet told us how much money we can expect for our SEEK grant. For the 2010-11 school year, Fort Thomas Independent Schools was reduced $150,000 in January from what we should have received. The was part of a $49million dollar statewide mid-year reduction. Unexpected mid-year reductions are difficult because these funds have been budgeted but we don’t receive them. The majority of our district’s budget is personnel and utilities. Since our personnel are under contract, we cannot reduce staff mid-year, so in essence, any reductions have to come from any reserves The District has. Superintendents have been told for the 2011-12 school year to expect less from SEEK than we received in 2010-11.

Because the state supplanted some of SEEK the last two years with federal stimulus dollars, it is difficult to know how the legislature plans to make up the difference. Because of these unknown factors, preparing a budget for the 2011-12 school year is even more complex for the school board.

On a positive and completely ironic note: Because only about 40% of our budget comes from SEEK (the other 60% is generated from local property taxes), Fort Thomas Independent Schools is not impacted as negatively as other districts when SEEK grants are cut. The cuts are still there and are very real for us; however, other districts who receive larger percentages of the general fund budget from the SEEK grant are impacted even greater when SEEK funds are cut or reduced.

Q (FTM) - I appreciate the transparency that the district works with including the distribution of the annual report to all taxpayers. If I remember correctly you had a balanced budget in the most recent fiscal year - how are you able to do that with such little funding relative to other districts from the state?

A (JW) - Over the past four years, our board has been strategic in budget planning. For the 2008-09 school year, we reduced nearly $500,000 from our annual spending to be put in a contingency or reserve account. For years, the district had maintained a 2% contingency (emergency fund). Beginning in 2008-09, the board increased that number to 5%, and has maintained between 5-7% each year since. This prudent and fiscally responsible approach has allowed the District to remain in a positive position.

Q (FTM) - Why is Fort Thomas so different than larger districts such as Lakota or Boone County that have recently announced multi-million dollar deficits? Does this have to do with the growth these districts have experienced in the past decade compared to our relatively stable enrollment and community population?
A (JW) - The Fort Thomas student population is not a stable as many might think. In 2007-08, the District’s enrollment was 2483. Today, we have 2646 students. That is an increase of 163 students in four years. The average graduating class at Highlands is just under 200, so you might think of these as another whole grade of students in our schools. Some of these students live in Fort Thomas and are coming from parochial schools, some are new residents moving into the city, and some are tuition students who pay from $2500-$5000 annually. (As a side note, tuition students provide the district with approximately $700,000 in revenue annually). The increase in student population over the last few years has actually helped increase our budget in a very positive way.

Because of the actual size of the other districts you mention, it is difficult to make comparisons. I would assume that in terms of percent, their cuts are similar, but they seem so much more dramatic because of the dollar amount.

Q (FTM) - These other districts have also had a very difficult time raising additional funds for the school systems - why is Fort Thomas so different than these other large districts when it comes to our support for additional funding beyond state taxes?
A (JW) - Raising funds in this economy is a challenge for any district. Unlike Ohio, Kentucky districts don’t have the challenge of tax levies – they are just not part of the typical funding structure. There was a special tax levy in 2003, which as targeted an increased teacher and staff pay, because Fort Thomas teachers had fallen below many other northern Kentucky districts. Now, Fort Thomas teacher pay is among the most competitive in the northern Kentucky region.

The major challenge now for the district is facilities. The Fort Thomas Education Foundation has been a district partner in the Highlands High School renovation project. The state provided much of the funding (although not enough for the entire project) for Woodfill Elementary. There are still significant facilities needs throughout the district.

Q (FTM) - I have spoken with board members through the electoral process about the state funding formula and the possibility of litigation against the state - not directly supported by the district but by those that are concerned in the community. Are you aware of these activities and how successful they may be in getting any change to the funding formula?
A (JW) - I am aware of past initiatives; however, to my knowledge, there are not current activities. Because the SEEK formula helps most districts and penalizes so few Districts (Fort Thomas being one), there is not much momentum in other school districts. We have been advised that a lawsuit could cost upwards of $250,000 or more, and there is no guarantee of success. There is no doubt, however, that the current state SEEK funding formula penalizes Fort Thomas students.

Q (FTM) - Are changes to the funding formula (which appear to be a long-shot at best) the only good solution for long-term fiscal relief or are there other options beyond the work that the Foundation does each year to supplement the educational budget?

A (JW) - The Fort Thomas Education Foundation is a strong partner to the district. As I mentioned before, the Foundation has contributed significant dollars to renovation at Highlands High School. Through the efforts, Highlands has upgraded learning spaces that would not otherwise be funded such as state-of-the art science labs, wi-fi and enhanced technology in the North building, upgraded arts facilities including a performing arts center and studio theatre, new business and family and consumer science facilities, as well as a renovated library media center. Additionally, they provide annual grants to teachers for innovative classroom projects. At this point, the Foundation has not taken on the challenge of the funding formula or support for the district’s general fund.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Update on St Elizabeth's Plans

It has been a while since I last spoke about the changes coming to the former St Luke hospital that is now a part of the St Elizabeth health network. Gone are the shrubs on the hillside that spelled out St Luke and all the signage now shows the St Elizabeth logos. The traditional hospital services have been scaled back in favor of an enhanced, specialized women's health center.

I mentioned in a previous post about how the City of Fort Thomas was out maneuvered for property that sat next to the hospital and adjacent to the old Mildred Dean Elementary School which was based in Newport. The City of Newport realized that this land was unincorporated and quickly added it to the city to compliment the site of the old Elementary School.

Now we read in a story about St Elizabeth's expansion plans that part of St Elizabeth's $45 million in capital investments in 2011 could include a medical office complex on the site of the old elementary school which will surely include the annexed property.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Update on VA homes

Cliff's Notes version:
  • Last fall the city met with engineers to inspect properties and solicit non-binding letters of interest bids from developers.
  • At least one letter was returned by the deadline date of last Friday.
  • At the next council meeting (Feb. 7), city staff will determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with development. If not, the homes will stay with the VA. (I'll be there to cover this)
  • If city staff deems that there is enough interest in the properties, they would request proposals from developers, which would include a right to purchase the land.
  • If a developer is found that will purchase the property, the city will buy it and immediately transfer it to the developer, which would have 2 years to complete the project.

Verbatim from the city website:

Update on Military Homes in Tower Park

On September 21, 2010 staff met with city engineers to conduct a cursory inspection of the
property. As a result of this inspection, at the November 1, 2010 city council meeting the Board
of Council directed staff to solicit “Letters of Interest to Bid” to determine if there was sufficient
interest by the development community before contracting with civil and environmental
engineers to prepare the necessary documents for inclusion in a bid packet. This step is
important to prevent spending funds unnecessarily for engineering work if it is determined that
developers are not interested in acquiring the properties.

On December 7, 2010 information was mailed to potential developers. Included in these packets
was a copy of a “Letter of Intent to Bid”. The developers were asked to complete this letter and
return it to the city no later than January 21, 2011 if they thought they might bid on the
acquisition of the properties.

At the February 7, 2011 council meeting, the Board of Council will discuss the “Letters of Intent
to Bid” to determine if there is sufficient interest to proceed. If council determines there is not sufficient interest to proceed, then the homes will remain in the possession of the VA.

If council determines there is sufficient interest to proceed, then staff would be directed to work
towards preparing a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking interested developers to acquire and
develop the site in compliance with the environmental abatement requirements (both State and
Federal) and in accordance with the deed restrictions, covenants, design guidelines, etc.,
prepared by the engineer and approved by the city.

Under this scenario the city would not commit to purchasing the property (signing the MOA)
until we had a developer contracted to purchase the property from the city for more than the
predetermined minimum bid. If the city is successful in finding a developer who will pay the
minimum required bid, then the city would acquire the property and immediately transfer it to
the developer. The developer would then have two years to complete the infrastructure
improvements and rehab the exterior of the homes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Newport Pavilion Aerial Shot and Other Sunday Morning Links

1) Just a few quick Sunday morning links to piggy back on Darrin's last post. I can visualize plans better with real landmarks, so if you're like me this will help.

Click here for an aerial shot.

2) Just a quick reminder, you've got a little over a week to sign up at the Y to cash in on the no enrollment fee. The New Year's Resolution crowd should be about cleared out by now, so it's a perfect opportunity to start now. Click the banner link above to take you to the Y's website.

3) Congrats to Ft. Thomas resident, Amy Scalia, CEO/Publisher for, an online publication for women, who celebrated its fourth year in publication last night with a birthday party featuring music, dancing, cocktails and cake at the Lexus RiverCenter in Covington.

Cincy Chic, which is an affiliate of the Cincinnati.Com network, is the only local online lifestyle publication for women.

View pictures from the party here.

4) Carson Palmer is demanding a trade or he will retire. Ft. Thomas native, Dave Young and co-founder of Mike Brown should be a good news source for all things Bungles. I'm embarrassed to be a fan of this team.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Newport Pavilion Site Plan Posted

A fan of the Newport Pavilion Facebook page has posted an updated site plan for the entire development.  While there are really no new names on the plan it is a confirmation of previous posts about retailers committed to the development.

The list of names that are confirmed on the map include:
Cincinnati Bell store
Mattress Firm
Aspen Dental
Edible Arrangements (I am assuming they are moving from the Fort Thomas plaza)
Famous Footwear

No additional retailers beyond that are listed which leaves a lot of retail space, primarily out-lots that are unleased at this point.  I am disappointed that a Chick Fil A does not appear to be leased at this point.

UPDATE - Alert readers noticed that Chick Fil A was indeed shown on the map near the entrance from Grand Ave.

Another interesting point of the map is the layout.  This includes a 4 unit strip located just next to the Kroger Fuel center, three outlots next to the entrance near the Kroger Liquor store, and two junior anchor locations near the off ramp of 471 at Grand.

The site map comes from Goodman Retail, the leasing agent for the entire development.  You can find more about the development at their website - the Newport Pavilion is property 249.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

#snOMG 1.3

So apparently this has been the 6th most snow this area had seen before this version of White Death. Up until today at about 2:00 or so, the roads had been absolutely fine. I'll continue to take some photos.

I realize I'm not breaking any news by any means, but it's still fun to see the progress of the storm. Also, Ft. Thomas Independent Schools were not off.

9:00 AM

11:00 AM
2:00 PM

3:30 PM

4:30 PM

City Council Notes 1/18/11

Aside from Big Bird, Elmo and the Cookie Monster districts that came from the city council meeting on the Tuesday following MLK Day, there were some other points of interest that came from the meeting. Here's a quick run down:

1) Letters of interest are due to the city by this Friday to purchase the VA homes by the Fort. City Administrator, Don Martin, said that the city is already in possession of 1 letter from a developer which is very good news. Generally, developers take all the way until the deadline to submit bids. It'll be interesting to see who has plans for these homes, and what's in store for them.

2) Friday also marks the end of the archery season in the city, otherwise know as Bambi Beware 2K11. Martin reported that the same firm that completed the aerial deer census will be doing another census after the season commences. At that point, we should have an apples to apples comparison from last year to now and a report will be made public in April.

3) Good news for the team I coach - and the rest of Campbell County North Soccer League - as the city has renewed their lease of the Ft. Thomas Soccer Park, next to Pendery Park for the next 10 years. This really wasn't that newsworthy, just told them I would get them on the blog. GO LADY HAWKS!

In a funny moment for me during the meeting, surrounded by a Boy Scout Troop getting their civic duty merit badges, the person taping the meeting for public access and one other person I know (and that's it - seriously), Mayor Brown had the city clerk read a letter from a citizen regarding litter through the streets getting out of control.

After she finished reading it, Mayor Brown seemingly looked through me, and sort of propositioned, "I don't see the (Community Press) here. If there are media here, I'd ask if they could get the word out about this issue. Don't litter!"

I kind of chuckled to myself. She could have just asked. I guess she didn't want to interrupt the meeting to call me by name. Or she doesn't read the site. My bet is on the latter.

So anyway, don't litter, please.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fort Thomas Divided into Three

I went to the council meeting tonight and I'll get some notes out tomorrow, but just wanted to do a quick post about an item that I thought to be interesting.

Assistant City Manager, Jay Treft and Debbie Buckley of the Renaissance Board are working on finalizing designs for pole banners, which fly on the street posts and light poles on the city streets. They are looking to have each pole banner sponsored, although I can think of a better way of advertising your business (shameless plug - winking emoticon. I just can't bring myself to actually use one).

They are working to brand the three districts by color, by flying yellow banners in the Midway District, blue banners in the Towne Centre and red banners in the Inverness district.

Mayor Mary Brown said she liked the "very clear and simplified design." Adding that the last one "was far too busy."

I really don't have anything to add to this, but I'd love to know why they chose those colors for those districts. There has to be some sort of inside joke among the city administrators regarding why each was relegated their portion on the rainbow color scheme.

Personally, the first thing that came to my mind were the Big Bird, Elmo and Cookie Monster districts. I have no idea why. What's everyone else think?

Monday, January 17, 2011

YMCA In the News & Special Offers

There has been quite a few changes at our local YMCA that include a new Executive Director, a new training program, and for the month of January a new member promotion.

Lets start with the new Executive Director - Dana Ensley.  In the fall Shane Ruffin left our local Y for the Big D and a larger market.  In came Dana from the Clippard YMCA (Cheviot) in August.  Dana has been with the Greater Cincinnati YMCA for 5 years so she is no stranger to the area.  Prior to moving to the Cincinnati area Dana worked in NC for the YMCA for 2 years.

We asked Dana what plans she had for the YMCA into the New Year and she outlined the following points.  "Our board of volunteers and staff strategically planned around the three focus areas of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.  Some highlights are expanding our sports programs/offerings, increasing our already licensed,1 star rating after school programs to 2 stars, adding innovative health & fitness programming that aligns with current industry trends, expanding our family fitness and senior fitness opportunities, and make sure all members current and new are supported in their health & wellness goals for themselves and their families.  We also want to connect with the community and we will do this by providing volunteer opportunities in all areas of our YMCA including programs, services and our board.  We also plan to partner on events, causes and needs in Ft. Thomas and the surrounding communities."

The Greater Cincinnati YMCA is also featuring a new training program - ActivTrax that features an in-gym kiosk that creates a personal workout and a web-based component that allows you to track your workouts and progress towards your health goals.  I have included a recent video from Channel 12 that was filmed just after the New Year.

Lastly, the YMCA has a massive promotional campaign right now.  Some of this is seasonal as the best opportunity for new memberships at the YMCA is after the New Year when everyone has guilt from the holiday eating binge and they are fresh off their New Year's resolutions.

You may have seen the billboards around the city that feature tag lines such as "Our Cause is You".  In addition to this promotion they are also offering Fort Thomas Matters' readers a free joining fee.  Feel free to click the banner above and find out all that the YMCA has to offer.

I have heard others in the community question their YMCA membership when there are cheaper options in the area but the YMCA is so much more than just a gym.  To illustrate this point Dana talks about one of the larger missions of the YMCA:

Raising almost 90K every year [from generous families in the community] allows us to not turn anyone away based on their ability to pay.  The need has been great these past couple of years and we have seen so many people benefit from joining the Y and or continuing their membership with us.  Families and individuals have been able to count on the Y as constant in their lives during tough times.  Many have commented that the Y has helped them to keep down their stress levels, stay healthy and have a social outlet for themselves and their families.
Ft. Thomas is wonderful community rich in history and family values.  I believe the Y compliments what the city and the surrounding communities want for their residents.  At the Y you can find licensed quality after school care for your child, quality babysitting (and we get the kids active) while you workout and get healthy, and a variety of youth sports for your children to choose from.  We have a wonderful aquatics program that includes swim lessons, water fitness and swim team, along with other small group activities.  The Y is a place with the entire family can find something to do on their own and together.  The Y looks to partner, collaborate and provide support to community strengthening efforts as well. 

Fort Thomas - An Ideal Neighborhood for Gen Y

There was an article this week in the Wall Street Journal about the housing needs of the newest generation purchasing homes and finding neighborhoods to locate to - Generation Y.  The article entitled "No McMansions for Millenials" focuses on what attracts millenials to a community and housing.

I have discussed in previous posts the importance of a shifting demographic of the Fort Thomas community and what things we need to be accentuating to attract this younger demographic to avoid becoming an aging and dead community.  This article reinforces all of these previous arguments.  Some of the highlights include:

  1. Gen Y is actually larger than Baby Boomers (80 million people compared to 76 million)
  2. Gen Y wants to walk everywhere. Surveys show that 13% carpool to work, while 7% walk
  3. A whopping 88% want to be in an urban setting, but since cities themselves can be so expensive, places with shopping, dining and transit such as Bethesda and Arlington in the Washington suburbs will do just fine.
  4. One-third are willing to pay for the ability to walk,” Ms. Duggal said. “They don’t want to be in a cookie-cutter type of development
  5. Outdoor space is important—but please, just a place to put the grill and have some friends over. Lawn-mowing not desired
  6. Smaller rooms and fewer cavernous hallways to get everywhere
Each of these 6 points represent an opportunity for Fort Thomas to seize the shifting demographics and use it to its advantage.  The current housing stock of older homes, smaller lawns, established sidewalks, TANK lines, and proximity to Cincinnati and shopping in Newport is everything that is mentioned as attractive to Generation Y.  It will be interesting to see the results of the most recent census to see if the shifting demographics we discussed previously is continuing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

St Catherine's Starts All Day Kindergarten

With all the successes of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools it is easy to lose sight of the success of the Catholic schools here in town.  Just recently St Thomas was named a Blue Ribbon school and the successes don't end there.

St Catherine's school is another example of this success and it is growing.  They will be holding an open house on January 27th from 6:30 to 8pm.  The entire Fort Thomas community is invited as they introduce their new expanded all day kindergarten.  To set the stage for the open house Fort Thomas Matters interviewed the principle, Doug Lonneman - here is our discussion:

Q - What led you to try an all-day kindergarten? Did you have half days prior and was the success of those programs the reason for the expansion? are you now the only all-day kindergarten in Fort Thomas?
A - We decided to go to all day kindergarten to meet the needs of our working parents and better prepare our students for 1st grade. We will continue to offer a half day option for those who still wish [to use] it.

Q - What makes these programs unique?  Is it the additional faith based teaching or are there other components that set them apart?
A - Our program is unique because we offer a top notch academic program in a faith filled environment. Our teachers are able to balance the demands of a strong curriculum with teaching the beliefs of the Catholic church. Our small size also is a plus as it allows us to know and meet the needs of all of our students.

Q - As a protestant the idea of a catholic education can be intimidating - what do you say to non-catholics who perhaps have never considered a faith-based education? Do you see many non-catholics enrolling in these programs?

A - We have always had non-Catholic students at St. Catherine. We do our best to make them feel a part of our school in every way while still respecting their beliefs. They get an opportunity to learn about the Catholic faith in a setting that allows for honest, open discussions.

Q - What is the cost?
A - As a parish with a long standing tradition of stewardship, our tuition is the lowest in the diocese. This year, in parish tuition is $1500. Out of parish is $4030. With our new All Day Kindergaren, we wanted to stay competitive with all of the local schools so our out of parish tuition will be $2000.

Q - Do you subscribe to any teaching philosaphies that could be interesting to parents such as Montessori or other educational approaches?

A - St. Catherine is a school that combines traditional approaches to teaching combined with the latest in educational practices. Our teachers use technology (we have Smart Boards in every classroom) to enhance their teaching and better meet the needs of the various learning styles of their students. An up-to-date curriculum and individualized student profiles allow students to be well prepared for high school and beyond.

Q - What is the history of the school at St Catherine's?
A - St. Catherine school was established in 1950 and has a long history for providing quality education in a faith filled atmosphere. Our students are actively involved in service to the community and learn the power of prayer from the very beginning. This along with their many academic successes, gives our students the confidence to succeed in whatever challenges that face them.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Photo Journalism: White Death version 1.2

My bride texted me around 3:00 on Monday while I was working. I was caught up in the moment, so when I read "heading to Kroger after work, anything specific you need?" - I didn't really think twice.

My reply - "Not that I can think of, maybe some Apple Jacks."

Had I checked some on the trending topics on twitter, I would have found the hash tag #snOMG was trending number one. (New to twitter? Follow me here and Darrin here). The White Death was coming and I hadn't warned her. Terrible planning on my part.

5:30 rolled around. 6:00. 6:20. Finally 6:24 came and before I could say anything, with her hands clenching 4 bags of groceries in each fist she said, "Kroger is insane right now. People are crazy."

Anyway, fast forward to 10:30 Tuesday and I'm working from home, although I'm pretty sure Highlands is in school. Below are pictures of the storm's progress.

10:30 AM

11:30 AM - roads looking better

1:00 - Roads still clear. Maybe it's just because I'm on a main road, but it seems as if we have again succumb to the White Death. #snOMG. I'm going into the office.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fort Thomas News - Week of January 10th

The new year started off right with more news than all of December from the previous year.  Let's jump right into the run-down:

1. First a quick clarification on Mark's comments regarding the Enquirer furlough.  We received a message from Amanda Joering, the Recorder's beat writer for Fort Thomas.  To clarify, she was not on a furlough week recently and will not have a furlough week this month.  The Enquirer is furloughing their writers it just wasn't Fort Thomas' week yet.  She also clarified the fact that she covers Newport, Dayton, Wilder, Southgate, Highland Heights, and Bellevue in addition to Fort Thomas.

2. Newport Pavilion update - There is a sign announcing the new Fifth Third location and indications of a buildout of the open retail spot between the Kroger Liquor store and the jeweler.  Also I have not heard good reviews on the New China Buffet which opened recently (you can read a few reviews on the Newport Pavilion Facebook page).  I can honestly say I haven't visited a Chinese buffet in some time and I have no desire to do so anytime soon.

3. State politics - It was a bit of a historic week in Frankfort as the new Kentucky Senate (which has become more Republican since the last election) moved with speed perhaps never before seen in Kentucky politics.  Speed doesn't necessarily mean you have to agree with everything that was approved but you have to impressed that any form of government could pass that much legislation in one week.  The highlights of which include:

     A. Allow the creation of charter schools and addresses which schools students can attend
     B. Immigration bill that makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be in Kentucky (sound ironic?)

The one bill the full Senate did not vote on was the Pension reform bill which I have been watching closely.  The proposal would move all new state workers (except teachers) into a new defined contribution program - much like a 401K.  It is about time we tackled this issue and I think the proposal is fair.  It leaves the current program intact for current employees but moves new workers into a plan that the state contributes up to 8% match - which is much more generous than most corporate 401K plans. 

The state of Kentucky has a huge future liability and is one of the 10 states with plans in the worse financial shape.  Kentucky’s six pension systems had a combined funding level of 63.8 percent, and a total liability of $34 billion in fiscal year 2008.  A final vote on this proposal will not happen until February but this is definitely one to watch.

On a lighter note - is it just me or does Senator Thayer of Georgetown have a striking resemblance to Dwight Schrute?

4. The storefront at 16 North Fort Thomas Avenue and houses the Ford-Ellington florists was purchased this week by Orion Constellation Properties LLC.  A quick search of the registry database shows that Orion is registered to Kevin Ford of Ford-Ellington.Glad to see a business owner purchasing the property they lease. Community support for their business must be strong to make a commitment like that.

5. Also a quick reminder of the upcoming arena football league opener in February at the new Bank of Kentucky Center on NKU's campus.  A new team, the River Monsters, has formed in a farm league of the Arena Football League, and will be based out of neighboring Highland Heights.  Other than the obvious proximity to Fort Thomas there is another Fort Thomas connection as Jared Lorenzen is the team's general manager.  Make sure to head out and support the team.

6. The Cheryl McCafferty parole hearing was also this week.  No consensus was reached and the hearing now goes to a 9 member panel next week.  The hearing was the source of much discussion on talk radio circles today with nearly all personalities on 700 WLW discussing the case.  While I am no attorney, the possibility of parole is especially shocking considering a self defense argument was not used during the original trial and to serve less than two years is nearly unprecedented.  This decision is definitely one to follow for next week.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Corporate Neighbor Leaving Fort Thomas

The Business Courier reported this week that Fort Thomas is losing a business to Cincinnati.  Real Property Management, a company that has been featured multiple times in local media, has apparently decided to move across the river to Cincinnati.  Real Property Managment's current location is in a small office complex behind the YMCA near the intersection of Alexandria Pike and Fort Thomas Ave.

Real Property Management has taken advantage of the current market conditions and individual investors snapping up foreclosed properties on the cheap and renting the properties out to residential tenants.  Real Property Management provides property managment services to these individual investors and takes some of the worry and frustration out running residential rental income properties.

I spoke with Sam Thompson of Real Property Management and he indicated the move is strictly in the best interests of his business.  The two primary reasons for leaving Fort Thomas for Cincinnati is that the majority of their managed properties are in Cincinnati which will result in fuel savings and an office address in Cincinnati will help more people find Real Property Management in internet search.

While Sam lives in Cold Spring his kids go to Blue Bird and his family has many connections in Fort Thomas.  He would have loved to keep the business in Fort Thomas but a move made the most business sense for Real Property Management.  Lets wish them the best of luck on their move.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Campbell Co. Commissioners to Repeal Smoking Ban

Per an Enquirer article by Mike Rutledge -

The Campbell County Fiscal Court's new members took steps at their first meeting to revoke the countywide smoking ban their predecessors approved in December.

At the end of a standing-room-only meeting that earlier had been attended by several dozen opponents of the ban and some proponents, the court's three county commissioners, led by newly elected Pete Garrett, indicated they plan to revoke the ban, likely within the next two meetings.

On Garrett's motion Fiscal Court voted 3-1 to direct new Campbell County Attorney Steve Franzen to write legislation repealing the ban so it can receive the first of two required readings during their Jan. 19 meeting in Newport. The second reading and vote likely would happen Feb. 2 in Alexandria.


Garrett was joined by newly elected commissioner Brian Painter and Ken Rechtin, while Campbell Co. Judge Executive, Steve Pendery was the remaining vote in favor of the smoking ban.

I gotta say, while I do not agree with Pendery on this issue, I have to admire his cajones. (Can I say that on a blog?) After a nationwide decimation of bigger government that did not leave out our local races, and knowing full well that this meeting for repeal was going to take place, he stuck to his guns.

You'd have thought his constituents resounding message would help move him off of this stance, but apparently not.

I'd like to point to a few local examples of business owners making their own choices, regardless of a government interventions.

1) The Olde Fort Pub transitioning it's "family friendly" dining room. Giving customers the freedom of being able to eat without being bothered by smoke.

2) The 915, which according to comments on Fort Thomas Matters, has gone downhill. Almost every person that comments negatively mentions being engulfed in smoke. I don't see their balance sheet, but these comments generally take the temperature of the community. I would bet that the overpowering smell that billows from the restaurant is hindering sales.

3) The marquis at the Skyline Chili on Carothers Road boasts "smoke free starting March 1." I'm sure for whatever reason, management of that restaurant deemed that decision to be the best possible one for that location.

The common thread among all three of these examples are that the owners of these businesses have made a conscious choice - to allow smoking or not - and have deemed their decision the best possible thing for their individual situation. Customers could patronize these businesses based on this decision alone, but at the end of the day, no government official should tell any business owner how to succeed or fail.

Target Opening Date: March 6th

Any time I drive down Carothers Road or Memorial Parkway, I crane my neck to look for progress. It's no doubt the Kroger Marketplace has added a lot to our community, and the Target anchor to the development will only help to cement that shopping center in this market.

The above picture is on the front of the new Target store, which proudly displays the opening date on a Target red blazoned banner.

As I snapped that photo, I saw some workers moving in and out of the store. I decided to walk in like I actually belonged there to poke around and get a better idea of how the layout of the store would work. Below were the fruits of this impromptu project. (Editor's note: camera having technical difficulties - will post more pictures later, but you get the idea)

My initial thoughts:
1) It's huge. K Mart near NCC is closed within a year. It's everything K Mart used to be and wishes it still was. Oh and if you didn't know, K Mart sucks.

2) Parking lot is a big upgrade over the Kroger Marketplace.

3) What struck me by looking at the way the aisles were labeled, this Target will compete with its neighbor in a lot of ways. Obviously with both of the anchor stores being "super stores" you knew there would be some overlapping business interests, but there are a lot.

For example a pharmacy, a bigger that I thought food section including a fresh produce and grocery section, home items and a Starbucks cafe (which now technically makes for three Starbucks in about a mile radius).

4) Definitely will fulfill a niche in this market as a good, "go-to" store.

5) 14 checkout lines. Not 2, like at K Mart.

As soon as I get over this picture glitch, I'll make sure to post a few more pictures, so check back for updates.

--- On an unrelated Target note, Fort Thomas Matters will be partnering with the YMCA for the last few weeks of the month as they continue to roll out special offers for new member enrollments. Make sure to keep a lookout for these promotions, which will be available on the website, our twitter feed and our email subscription list.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Deer Hunt to End?

After not seeing many stories published at all from The Community Recorder over the past few weeks, I checked out my bookmark on The Fort Thomas Community Page on and saw a myriad of stories.

Turns out the paper and its reporters are being furloughed, so they had to turn out double the amount of stories they normally would to make up for not working this week.

Bad news, yet again for print journalism, but good news for FTM and its readers as it gives us plenty of information to sift through.

Sure enough, everyone's favorite Fort Thomas hot topic is coming back to the forefront, as the Deer Hunt Ordinance is set to expire on January 21 of this year. The city council will consider whether to renew the bow and arrow ordinance to control the deer population this spring.

The council will also look at traffic crash statistics involving deer and the number of deer killed in the city in the past hunt in November and January. Reporting deer kills to the city is voluntary and no tally from November was available. The first hunt in December 2007 and January 2008 had 42 deer reported killed. The November 2008-January 2009 hunt culled 16 deer. In November 2009, 13 deer were reported killed.

A deer count in March 2010 performed by a company using thermal infrared cameras and a helicopter found 205 deer in the city limits and estimated a total population of 238 deer, or 37 per square mile. That was greater than what many council members thought

Other than Lisa Kelly, I'm not sure which other council members are against the deer hunt, but from the article written by Scott Wartman, it seems as if other members, including Roger Peterman, Eric Haas and James Doepker, are now unsure if the ordinance should continue.

I would love to ask them why. Obviously the hunt has at least had some impact on the deer population. And those statistics given are given voluntarily. Who knows what the actual number really is. They are still a problem. No one has been hurt. Let's keep the ordinance as is and beef up efforts to control the population with some additional deer management techniques.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Judy the Crossing Guard - Keeping our Streets Safe

Each weekday morning as I head to work I am filled with a moment of dread as I approach the intersection of Highland and Fort Thomas Ave on my way to 471 and eventually to my office.  It is inevitable - the moment of indecision as you look Judy the Crossing Guard in the eyes trying to decide if it is OK to turn right on to Highland.  Even a seconds hesitation leads to scorn and ridicule for not understanding her slight head nod as agreement to make the right turn.

Judy is Fort Thomas' version of the Soup Nazi, she just happens to keep our streets safe for our children instead of serve soup in styrofoam containers.  She takes her job very seriously, so much so that I thought she might actually come after a driver on foot for disobeying her orders.

Within the past month Judy was away (I suppose for vacation) and total chaos ensued at the intersection.  People couldn't figure out how to navigate a simple three-way stop as we have been so conditioned to follow her every order.
With nicknames like Jude Judy, she is becoming a bit of a cult hero and to add to her ever growing reputation someone (anonamously) has created a Facebook page for Judy that now numbers 1,200 followers.  She is only a few hundred away or a short YouTube clip away from being an interenet sensation.
So the next time you approach the intersection of Highland and Fort Thomas Avenue be sure to obey her commands and what ever you do - don't look her in the eyes or hestitate more than 2 seconds or you will suffer the consequences.