Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported that city staff and council members had spoken with the Department of Homeland Security regarding the walking paths surrounding the reservoir, when in fact the city had discussed Homeland Security restrictions with the Northern Kentucky Water District. Language has also been edited to more accurately reflect that the decision to reopen the walking paths surrounding the reservoir belongs to the NKWD, and not the City of Fort Thomas.
Council members and city staff were decked out in their St. Patty's Day green for Monday night's City Council meeting, where the South Fort Thomas reservoir, a city-commissioned audit, a firefighters' union agreement, and the city's website were all topics of discussion:
South Fort Thomas Reservoir
The final item brought before council yielded the most discussion Monday night, when council member and chairman of the Public Utilities Committee Ken Bowman proposed that Council consider working with the Northern Kentucky Water District (NKWD) to reopen the walking paths surrounding its water treatment facility off S. Fort Thomas Ave.
The fences currently surrounding the reservoirs were erected shortly after the September 11th attacks in 2001, as part of an increase in security mandated by Homeland Security.
"I think enough time has passed that we can consider reopening to the public," Bowman said.
City Administrator Don Martin has consulted NKWD and confirmed that, if the the immediate vicinity surrounding the reservoirs were reopened to the general public, the city would have to assume all liability should an incident occur that would endanger the city or the region's water supply. "We'll need to check with our insurance company to see how that would impact our premiums," Martin said.
Council member and current mayoral candidate Eric Haas, who participated in discussions with NKWD, noted that prior attempts to reopen the walking paths were met with strict resistance, but added, "In our latest talks, there was a willingness to at least have a conversation." Haas is the chairman of the Public Works Committee.
Haas also wonders, though, if current demand for access to the walking paths is as high today as it was when they were closed, before the city had invested in several parks projects. "Now that the parks are improved, it didn't seem to be as much of an issue," he said.
In a post-meeting comment, Martin also added, "(The city's) parks are a tremendous asset to our residents and include multiple walking paths. The NKWD property is a water treatment facility, not a park. This facility provides the water supply for most of Northern Kentucky. This fact must be taken into consideration."
Ultimately, there is little that the council can actually do to reopen the walking paths, according to Martin, who has broached the issue with NKWD on several occasions during his time with the city. "This is not a city council issue. There is no vote or action they can take to compel the NKWD to open the path," Martin told FTM. "A better approach would be for residents to petition NKWD... It is solely their decision."
Council member Roger Peterman, chairman of the Finance Committee, reported Monday that the city finished fiscal year 2012-2013 in a "sound financial position," as reported by an independent audit. Peterman applauded City Treasurer and Director of Finance Joe Ewald for his work preparing for the audit. "We got very high compliments from the auditor on Joe's work," Peterman said.
IAFF Contract Renewal
City Administrator Martin also reported that the city has extended its working agreement with the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), adding another two years and a two-percent increase in base pay for Fort Thomas fire fighters over the next two years. The renegotiations also added more health care options and revised the disciplinary process.
"It's always a pleasure to work with (IAFF) through this process," Martin said. Martin recommended council adopt the extended working agreement, which passed unanimously.
Following up on council members Bowman and Jay Fossett's comments last month about the state of the city's website and email accessibility, Martin also reported that the city is currently looking at formats for websites and designers to implement a redesign of the website. Changes can be expected, Martin said, by July at the "absolute earliest." After the new website is built, site maintenance will remain in charge of city staff.
Photo: Fort Thomas City Council/FTM file