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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

City Council Round-Up: BSL Discussion Continues, Council Considers City Staff Residency Requirement

Breed specific legislation (BSL), the VA homes, and city personnel policy were all discussed by Fort Thomas city council Monday night. Here’s your round-up:

Breed Specific Legislation
The discussion over breed specific legislation in the city of Fort Thomas continued Monday night, as opponents of the current city ordinance banning pit bull and pit bull like dog ownership within city limits addressed council.

Among the roughly half dozen who addressed council on this issue was Kevin Bungee, owner of Mr. Lawrence’s Dog Grooming on Memorial Parkway. Bungee reported an incident earlier this year, in which he was asked by a Fort Thomas Police officer to leave the Fort Thomas dog park, in Highland Park, because of “what [the dog] looked like.”

This was despite the fact that Bungee had been approached by law enforcement about his dog before, in 2012, which prompted him to initiate DNA and temperament testing for the dog, determining his breed as an American bull dog mix.

According to Bungee, his encounter with law enforcement this time around was amicable, professional, and the officer moved along without removing Bungee and his dog, Buddy, from the park.

“He’s never shown any signs of aggression or caused any problems,” Bungee said. “That’s why I’d like this law repealed.”

Shana Bockelman, a canine behaviorist with clients living in Fort Thomas, also asked council to remove the breed specific language from the city’s ordinance.

“I keep hearing emotion in this discussion,” Bockelman said to council. “What you need to hear is fact... the fact is any dog can hurt any other dog.”

Tammy Nolan, a vocal resident on this issue already, also presented council with a petition signed by 96 area dog owners, expressing their opposition to the current ordinance. Council member Roger Peterman asked Nolan if anyone refused to sign the petition. “Not one,” Nolan said, “everyone signed it.”

Like the last meeting, no one spoke out in favor of the current ordinance.

Council member and Public Safety Committee chair Tom Lampe mentioned that the next step will be a second committee meeting on July 7. “This is a safety issue, we’re not going to rush into this. We’re not close enough to make a decision, but we’re not going to make a quick one either.”

Amending City Personnel and Pay Classification
Council also faced the question of whether city staff should or should not be required to live within city limits Monday night.

Martin presented to council Monday night an ordinance which would amend the personnel and pay classification plan for the city, which currently requires city staff to reside in the city of Fort Thomas.

Among a few other city staff members (including emergency personnel and law enforcement), Mr. Martin does not currently reside in Fort Thomas. The issue came to Martin’s attention when a resident inquired into Martin’s eligibility to hold position of city administrator.

Martin explained that the requirement was slated for removal several years ago, before his hiring, but the requirement was never removed. The new legislation would resolve the issue.

Council member Eric Haas and Mayor Mary Brown both described it as an oversight that the requirement was not removed, as it had become, as Brown put it, “no longer applicable.”

Martin also stated that, during his tenure in Fort Thomas, a number of city staff members have been hired with the understanding that they were not required to live within city limits.

Haas recalled when , “I was originally in favor of the requirement, but some pointed out that we’d miss out on a number of good candidates.” As a result, Haas changed his position.

Peterman echoed Haas, saying, “We have a lot of good people here not from Fort Thomas, and I’m happy they’re here.”

Council member Jay Fossett, however, moved that the drafted ordinance should go to committee for review before being read before council.

Fossett himself has experience in this area, having served as Covington’s city administrator while living in Fort Thomas.

“I got grief for it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the right thing or the wrong thing, and I don’t necessarily have a problem changing it. It’s just a long standing requirement and warrants discussion.”

Council voted that the ordinance go before the Law, Labor, and License committee for review.

FTFD Promotions

Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey was pleased Monday night to present two of his fire officers with promotions. Captain Jeff Parker was promoted from Lieutenant, and Lieutenant Tammy Webster was promoted from fire fighter.

“It’s a privilege to be able to hire these people,” Bailey said.

Baily also announced that the FTFD is currently hiring a certified fire fighter/licensed paramedic. The application is posted on the department’s website and due June 27.

VA Homes

City Administrator Don Martin reported that a typo has been discovered in the city’s agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs, concerning the city’s bid to purchase the former military homes in Tower Park.

The typo, Martin explained, was in the referencing of a particular piece of legislation. The typo has been fixed, and the VA has assured Martin the mistake should not cause a significant delay, but does require new signatures from some involved in the agreement.

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