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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Weather Siren Policy

We have talked about the use of weather sirens in Campbell County in previous posts and on the Facebook page.  While the topic may seem a bit dated now that balmy summer temps have moved in and the stormy weather from last week seems like a distant memory.  However, an observation from last week that we failed to discuss was the absence of sirens on the night there was an actual tornado within 50 miles of Fort Thomas and even some damage in the south end of the county.  There were no tornado warnings but there was a severe thunderstorm warning in conjunction with a tornado watch.

Keep in mind that the policy was to sound the sirens if there was a tornado watch and a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning.  We have been critical of this policy in the past because it creates a situation that waters down the impact of a warning in the event of an actual emergency.

It now appears that this policy has been changed.  I could not get a confirmation of a change but the absence of a siren this past week seems to indicate a shift.  If a shift has occurred or is about to occur this would be following a trend in the region and in the country.  Two recent examples:

1. The NY Times explores the high number of deaths from tornadoes this spring.  Many possible reasons were cited but one of the featured reasons is this very 'boy who cried wolf' mentality.

2. Hamilton County's shift in policy similar to that suggested for Campbell County

As a side note the poll for May regarding this policy has been archived on the polls page - the clear winner was a change in policy at 54%.

Collinsworth to coach WRs at Highlands

From Chris Collinsworth's Twitter feed this morning:
" I am so convinced that the NFL will not start on time, that I have taken a job as the receivers coach at Highlands High School. Start today" --

Notice the new poll on the right hand side bar with your pick for the next former Highlands or NFL star to be an assistant for Highlands

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend News & Notes

As we all get ready for the eight back yard BBQs we are either hosting or attending check out the few tidbits from this past week:

1. As Mark discussed in an earlier post Highlands is kicking off phase II of the building campaign.  This phase will cost just over $3 million and will focus on the south building which still lacks air conditioning.  The original plan was for a new heating and air system, a wrap on the building, and a new roof, and other upgrades.

However, as I wrote on our Facebook page earlier this week, there was some talk that bids had come in much higher than expected and it sounds like the second phase may come in phases.

2. TANK also announced this week that they are making cuts to routes and Fort Thomas wasn't spared.  Although I doubt the changes will have much of an impact.   TANK also is looking at eliminating the No. 11 Fort Thomas / NKU route on Saturdays and the final run for that same route on weekday evenings. I would love to hear from anyone who uses the routes that will likely be axed.

3. Finally, there is a lot going on at the Y in the coming weeks.  Don't forget this weekend is the Open House and the summer opening of the pool.  In addition to open house, there is the upcoming World Famous Mountain Bike Race on June 19th, followed by the activities for the Fourth of July including the parade and the Firecracker 5K.  Registration for the Firecracker is now available on

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bit by Bit, Infusing Pergola into the Olde Fort Pub

Date night last Friday was on the back deck at the Olde Fort Pub. I was going to write about it last Saturday, but I was distracted by that bright glowing orb hanging in the sky. Priorities.

Last November, I had written about some of the Pub's changes and coming changes. Well, the coming changes are here and they are family friendly and functional.

"I just don't know if people realize we've built this really nice deck area in the back," said Danny Krebs, formerly of Pergola, who now runs the kitchen at the Pub. "It's a nice place to sit outside and enjoy the food and drinks."

The seating area extends off the family friendly non-smoking part of the premises and allows a little more distance from where bands and DJs set up at night. It's open year round, equipped with heaters in the winter and umbrellas in the summer.

Additionally, The Pub is planning on capitalizing on the new deck area to keep momentum moving forward.

NKy River Monsters Violate League Salary Cap Policy

The Northern Kentucky River Monsters had wrapped up the number 1 seed in the UIFL playoffs after dominating the competition this season, but after leading an internal investigation into the team's inner workings, it was determined that the team had gone over the league's salary cap policies.

The result being dropped from that number 1 overall seed to number 4, which basically means losing one home playoff game and possibly more.

The Ultimate Indoor Football League (UIFL) is announcing sanctions against two teams, Saginaw Sting and Northern Kentucky River Monsters.

The most extensive of the sanctions, however, were levied against the Northern Kentucky River Monsters. In games throughout the season, it was determined that the River Monsters went over the weekly player salary cap.

Since the league policy didn’t extensively spell out the sanctions for the violations, the UIFL didn’t require a forfeiture of any games.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

HHS Phase II Groundbreaking Ceremony Scheduled

Highlands will hold a Groundbreaking Ceremony to kickoff Phase II of the Highlands High School Renovation on tomorrow at 2pm.

A short program will include student performances by the the Jazz Ensemble with remarks from school and district administrators. The Fort Thomas Education Foundation will be presenting a check for $750,000 to the Board of Education to help fund this project. A ceremonial groundbreaking will be held to conclude the program.

Phase 2, an estimated $3.3 million project, will be focused on the south academic building. The south academic building houses 40% of the classrooms in the high school, including the entire English and Social Studies departments. The renovation will improve the educational climate in these classrooms, accompanied by renovation of offices and hallways. Phase 2 will also provide a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system to this building and equip it with a geothermal energy system.

Electrical and technological upgrades will be made to enable state- of-the-art teaching tools in this part of the high school campus, bringing it up to the level of the north academic building completed in Phase 1 of the renovation. The project will also include new energy efficient windows, as well as a new 30-year roof to complete the envelope of the building. This spring, the Fort Thomas Education Foundation offered $750,000 to the Fort Thomas Independent School District to begin Phase 2. This envelope project is the first piece of Phase 2, and the piece that will be most visible to the public as you drive by the high school.

Monday, May 23, 2011

YMCA Open House on Sunday

To kick off the summer of 2011 the Y is hosting an open house this Sunday from 12 to 6pm.  The event is completely free to the public and celebrates the opening of the pool.  In addition to a celebration of summer water fun they will have the following activities:

  • Bounce house for little kids in the play area (or gym if rains) next to splash pool from 12:30-5:30pm.
  • Deck Games led by staff 12:30-5:30pm
  • Kona Ice will be coming at 4pm
  • Crafts for the kids will be available as well (may be inside if rain)

A few quick reminders to families enjoying the pool for the first time or as a friendly reminder for veterans of the Y pool; only US Coast Guard approved flotation devices in the pool (leave your water wings at home).  Also, if your kid needs a flotation device then you are required to be in the water with them within arm’s length.  There will also be swim testing for any kids 16 and under. 

Feel free to bring food and drink for your family and enjoy the sun and pool.

Friday, May 20, 2011

5 Things to Know About the Highland County Club

via The Community Recorder.

I think The Recorder has a tough job. Filling the pages of a weekly newspaper when there is no real news is hard and the results sometimes lead to boring, if not uninspired stories. Have to give it up to Chris Mayhew, who did a really interesting piece about the course at the Highland Country Club this week, though.

Without further adieu, here's Chris:

1) Highland Country Club was opened in 1915 by the owners of the former 25-acre Inverness golf course in Southgate, making it 100 years old in 2015. The owners decided to close the Southgate course and open in Fort Thomas because it was never a big course and developers were buying up the land around it

2) The club maintains a shrine to its most famous member with photos and trophies of John Fischer, who won the U.S. Amateur tournament in 1936 at the Garden City Golf Club in Long Island, N.Y. Most clubs can’t claim to have a U.S. Amateur champion as a member in their history.

3) It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the 9-hole golf course first built in 1915 was expanded into an 18-hole course. The first nine holes remain indicative of an “old-style” course that was built to suit the land’s terrain as it already existed with raised greens and sand traps all around the greens.

4) The Highlander,” is claimed to be the “Midwest’s oldest invitational tournament” by the club at its website

5) The club was established in 1915 with 78 members and an elected board with Harry Stegeman as president. Membership has grown in the past year from about 250 people in 2010 to 350 people this year.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Send the Police Your Contact Information... Wait, What?

Nixle was nixed because they dropped a $3,000 invoice without notice to the FTPD. Good for them. The first alternative out of the gate is get a list of interested citizens on a distribution list to see how many people would like to be informed via these new technological information blasts. From there, the police department will figure out how best to copy Nixle's format.

Here's their message:

The Fort Thomas Police Department would like to take this opportunity to invite you to send us your email address so that you can stay in the loop of communication during our move from Nixle to a new system.

Although one of the appealing benefits of Nixle is that no one (including the police) are privy to your contact information, it has somewhat tied our hands in successfully moving to a new service and not leaving anyone behind. The account representative for Nixle has not returned our calls and thus we are left not knowing how many people they service from Fort Thomas. How much research and work we put into developing a new system now resides with our current subscribers. Let us know that you are interested in (receiving) notices, alerts and tips by sending your email to Your email address will not be sold or distributed to anyone for any other purpose. Our first move is to simply develop a group-based distribution list that allows us to keep our current Nixle subscribers "in-the-loop" and for which, if any, system we choose to move to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fort Thomas Mid Week Links

Over the weather. I'm sure the Renaissance Committee is too. Spruce up for Spring has been scheduled 3 times thus far and, to my knowledge, has yet to be held. Maybe a Stay Spruced during Summer would be more viable.

- Former Fort Thomas Police Officer, Thomas G. Fritz, 59, of Goshen, was killed last week after being thrown from his motorcycle in Waverly, Ohio.

- If you've been down Route 8, you've noticed the damage to the road caused by the massive amount of rain we've had over the last few months. If it gets much worse, I don't see how this road would be passable.

- The city of Fort Thomas has put out to bid the 14 historic officers' homes in Tower Park. The large houses have sat vacant for about 10 years while the city and federal government worked through red tape. City leaders hope developers come forward willing to pay $1.6 million for all 14 homes and rehab them.

- The Nky Rivermonsters are 10-2 and have their final regular season home game this weekend. The picture (above) the photographer took of Jared Lorenzen is great. Nothing else I can say about that.

- At about 4:30 yesterday at my polling location (Johnson Elementary) I was the 48th registered voter in my party to vote. Obviously it's just a primary and granted it was probably right before the after work voting rush, but 48 people all day is pretty darn pathetic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fort Thomas Census Update

As I mentioned in a recent post, the US Census Bureau has released its city level demographic data for the state of Kentucky.  There are some really interesting comparisons to be made from this data from 2010 and the last census in 2000 that give a snapshot of how our community is changing.  Following is a summary of the high points:

1. Age groups - Generally more people are aged 35 - 54 in 2010 then 2000 - by a lot.  685 people more despite the total population remaining flat at 16K+.  This was largely at the expense of the 65 - 84 age group. I believe this represents a fairly significant shift in trends in Fort Thomas as more younger families are moving into Fort Thomas as the older generation is moving into retirement communities.  The other surprising group was 'Non-family households' which increased from 2,404 to 2,568.

2. Housing - Total housing units increased from 7,028 to 7,290, a fairly significant increase.  Occupancy slipped from 95.9% to 93.1% - mirroring a national trend.  Rental vacancy rates jumped from 4.2% to 9.5%

3. Race - Fort Thomas became only slightly more diverse with only a 1% improvement in those indicating a race other than white.  Still a surprisingly non-diverse 97%.  Most of this change came as a result of an increase in the Latino population of over 100 people.

So there you go, our changing community probably has more to do with age than it does with race, housing, family makeup or anything else.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Woodfill Boosters Golf Outing

If you've been by Woodfill Elementary lately, you've probably noticed the amazing transformation to one of the most state of the art elementary schools in the state. Next Saturday, you can get your chance to add to the school's forward momentum.

The Woodfill Boosters is holding the annual Golf Outing Saturday, May 21 at Flagg Spring Golf Course. It will be a 2 pm shotgun start. The annual fundraiser raises money to support all extracurricular clubs and teams at the school.

The cost is $75 per person. Includes a hot dog lunch, golf, cart, drinks, dinner. Events include raffles and door prizes. To sign up to play, contact Matt Birkley at

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fort Thomas Resident Vying for National Makeover Contest

Fort Thomas resident, Melissa Mayse was selected as one of ten finalists in a national makeover contest from Crocs.

The “New Crocs, New You” wardrobe makeover contest grand prize winner will receive a trip to New York City for a wardrobe makeover with national style and beauty expert Jenn Falik, (that's what she said), as well as a trip to a trendy New York City salon.

Out of nearly 900 entries, my essay was selected and as a result I won 9 pair of Crocs from their new spring translucent line, a Flip Mino HD video recorder and lots more," Mayse said.

Not only has Melissa Mayse been selected a finalist, but Fort Thomas Matters readers can potentially help her win the grand prize by visiting from now until May 20. Once on the site, you can watch videos of one or more of the finalists and rank them.

In addition to helping Melissa win the grand prize, you will also be entered to win a pair of Crocs™ shoes. Each day during the judging phase, Crocs is giving away a pair of new Crocs shoes at random to someone who has ranked one or more finalist.

"I’m asking (everyone) to help me help myself," Mayse said. "I’ve been hoodie and blue jean clad all winter long and would really like to break into summer with something a little more girly!"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Update on Possible Retail

It has been a while since I have provided an update on any retail developments in and around the Fort - so here you go:

1. Mios is out.  I have contacted the hopeful owner multiple times and has not returned my calls but heard the financing fell through.  The price of the property may have had an impact on the ability to secure financing.  I guess sitting an an abandoned retail property is better for them then lowering the price and ridding themselves of the carrying costs.

2. Now that it is summer time the question on everyone's mind is when can I get my Graeter's ice cream in a sundae - i.e. when is Graeter's grand reopening date?  It appears they will be opening around the middle of July.  If you have been by in the past week or two you may have noticed that they have gutted the entire building down to the studs.  While they are working fast it will be no small task to rebuild in time for the heat of summer.

3. Chinese restaurant - no movement beyond the posters hanging in the window since early February.

4. If you ever run into Convenient for the last minute item for that item you are making or have wondered in for an ice cream cone you may have noticed the mess in there.  They indicate that they are remodeling and it likely involves the small liquor store on the other side of the wall from the cashier.  As an aside if you are looking for a liquor license I hear the owner is selling his but the price is steep.

Convenient is also serving made to order pizzas as well.  Has anyone had a pizza and what were your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fort Thomas News - Midweek Update

1. Dale Mueller hosted an online chat at today - part of a series this week featuring local high school football coaches at the powerhouse schools around the area.  Here are a few of the points discussed during the chat:

  • He expects more guys from this team to give Division I commitments
  • Discussed the tough schedule this year including Boyle Co, Elder at the Pit, and Ryle
  • Addressed questions about recruiting players
  • More or less indicated that Simon Kenton will not play Highlands.  In response to a question about whey Highlands hasn't played Simon Kenton said, 'we'll play anyone that says yes'
  • The game against Dixie on September 1st will be on Fox Sports

2. The US Census released demographic data today for Kentucky towns and cities.  There is an absolute treasure trove of information in this data that I plan to do a post on in the coming week.  I'll give you a slight teaser - despite the median age going up slightly the age group of 35 - 54 increased by 4% of the total population while those in their 70's decreased by 1.1% of the total population.  That is a percentage of the total population not a percentage increase.

3. Highlands Drama Department received 9 Cappies nominations - 7 of which were for their recent production of Chicago.  For more information about the Cappies program see my previous post from last year's nominations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nixle System to End

Nixle, the service our police department was employing to alert citizens of real time emergency and ongoing legal situations is coming to an end. Without previous notice, the service sent the department and invoice of $3,000. Obviously ridiculous, but not surprising. We recently experienced a similar situation with our email blast list.

Nixle was a cool service, and I definitely do think communications are trending in that direction, but I was glad the police department didn't just revise their budget to continue it.

Here's the message from Lt. Ken Fetcher:

The Fort Thomas Police Department regrets to advise that Nixle is not going to be a viable avenue of communication. This change took place April 26th. Nixle has announced that Departments using Nixle will be charged $3000.00 per year for their service. They will allow us to continue free, but we would ONLY be able to use it for emergency crisis situations. Fort Thomas Police Department is not immune to the current economic difficulties, and our agency is unable to budget for this service.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

State of Kentucky News & Notes

I thought I would focus a post on a few interesting reads about some of the problems our fine state is facing.

Kentucky grows more Urban - very in-depth review of demographics shaping the state.  Among those discussed of interest to Fort Thomas and Northern Kentucky include - a shift toward urban areas (NKY featured in the discussion) and population increases (largely due to living longer and Hispanic immigration).  Read the full article though as there is some great analysis

Kentucky named the worse run state in the USA report appeared on referencing a site called 24/7 Wall Street naming Kentucky as the worse run state.  As with all these rankings you could debate the use of certain measures as a real benchmark of state performance.  A great example of this is the GDP number which has Delaware the far and away leader largely because of its favorable tax policies related to incorporation.  The analysis includes the following summary:
Although Kentucky doesn’t place 50th in any one category, its overall poor scores secures its place as the worst-run state on our list. It is 43rd in GDP per capita, 47th in median household income, 47th in citizens with high school diplomas, and, at 18.6%, is 48th for percentage of the population below the poverty line.  Kentucky also has an extremely weak S&P rating of AA-, supporting our assessment that it is the worst-run state in the country.

Friday, May 6, 2011

5 Things to Know For Small Business Collections

Fort Thomas has a lot of small business owners.  I'm not talking necessarily about small mom and pop retail business owners but a lot of sole proprietors working out of their homes or with small operations with a few employees with offices around Northern Kentucky.

Kevin Welsch, Owner and CSO of Cipher Recovery is a great example of such a Fort Thomas resident.  Not only does he run one of these businesses but he also provides services to these small business owners that keep them out of trouble with cash flow concerns.  Kevin answers this week's '5 Questions' regarding small business to small business collections.

1. Why is it important to have a good partner in collections as a small business owner?  In January 2010 (around the time the economy began to recover from a steep recession) there were 900 businesses going out of business each day.  Those 900 businesses each day represent a lot of credit that suppliers were left holding and may never be recovered without the help of a service like Cipher Recovery.

Also, unlike consumer collections it is easy for a business with an LLC or sole proprietorship organization can easily dissolve the company and stay out of reach of creditors.

2. Are there any services that allow businesses to gauge collections risk prior to extending credit that do not require a credit check? - Cipher has a service called Talon that does just that.  TALON is a free and confidential proprietary software program that helps finance professionals from every industry analyze the integrity of any customer’s credit. The TALON system is an alternative to expensive credit reports that are issued by most agencies. The difference is that TALON is updated daily to provide you with the most recent information on how your client is paying other creditors. TALON can help in-house collection efforts by alleviating any concerns about a client's ability to pay. It can also help in planning the next step in the collection process by finding out that the client not only owes you money but owes multiple creditors. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The School Funding Dilema

This week saw many more ballot initiatives related to school funding in the area go down to defeat.  Some districts just can't seem to get any new funding passed and now face the prospects of possible state take over.

Meanwhile in Fort Thomas we keep chugging along, churning out Blue Ribbon awards, future college grads, and NFL stars.  While Kentucky school funding is quite different than Ohio (with its own set of challenges I might add) we don't seem to be in the annual fiscal crisis that many schools in the area seem to be in.

Yes, we have higher taxes but there is no loud cries for tax cuts.  We line up for every fundraiser that the Education Foundation throws and we do so gladly.  So why are we so different?  We clearly have a respect and appreciation for education that transcends an extra $100 / year in property taxes.

With all that being said, Fort Thomas has another built-in advantage that most other districts do not have the luxury of - no need for school transportation.  Fort Thomas gets the added benefit of being an older neighborhood that was planned prior to the urban sprawl seen in communities like Mason and West Chester.  This is beneficial in a lot of ways but one of the biggest as it relates to school funding and budgets is the ability to avoid the costly requirement of providing busing to our children.  

Fort Thomas is a safe community that is densely populated with schools spread out appropriately to provide a short, safe walk for our children.  A look at other districts show that it is not uncommon for a school district to spend up to $650/student on transportation.  On average a district can use about 5 -7% of their annual operating budget on transportation and that is only going up as gas prices increase above the $4/gallon mark.  That percentage applied to Fort Thomas' annual operating budget would be an extra $1 million per year.  No wonder Lakota schools have scaled back their transportation with more cuts looming.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hey, "Chicken" People, Click Here

We've found the University of Kentucky, "Big Blue Nation" effect for website clicks: talk about backyard chickens.

After our story entitled, "Chicken Story" became one of the most read stories on the site, which really didn't shed any new or groundbreaking information and after the blog poll received more than double the amount of votes any other poll got, we now know the power of the chicken is great.

I say all of this in jest, but it is pretty interesting how a story can garner the type of feedback this story has gotten. I purposely didn't add anything about the chickens after summarizing my city council notes on 4/4/11 because I thought it was ridiculous. It just goes to show you what you think is newsworthy and what isn't really doesn't matter.

I guess I should just throw everything up on the site from now and just to see what sticks.

After the council meeting on Monday, the Law, Labor and License Committee had recommended that the city allow residents to keep chickens with the same restrictions (obtaining a license, keeping chicken at least 50 feet away from other residents’ houses, in sanitary conditions and where they can not run at large) but changing the amount of chickens from 100 to 10.

The council will vote on this ordinance at a later date.