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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

City Council Round-Up: BSL to Stay, City Staff Residency Requirement Up in the Air

Due to an air conditioning malfunction in the City Building on Monday, Fort Thomas City Council convened in the meeting room at the Armory Building in Tower Park Monday night. Here's your FTM rundown of what they discussed:

Breed Specific Legislation

The debate came to a head Monday night over whether or not City Council should repeal and/or revise the city's current ordinance banning residents from owning or having "pit bulls" or "pit bull like" dogs within city limit, or just leave the ordinance be.

After a number of highly attended and equally contentious committee and council meetings involving residents arguing both sides, Councilman and Chair of the Public Safety Committee Tom Lampe recommended, on behalf of the committee, that City Council do nothing to amend the current ordinance, leaving the breed specific ban in place.

The Public Safety Committee, which consists of Lampe and fellow Councilmen Eric Haas and Jay Fossett, came to this recommendation after a special committee meeting held Monday morning. The recommendation came to council with 2-1 approval from the committee, with Fossett dissenting.

"We arrived at this after careful and thorough consideration," Lampe said as he delivered the committee's recommendation. "We're trying to represent the entire city."

Among council, members Lampe, Haas, and Roger Peterman voted to adopt the committee's recommendation to keep the current ordinance. Members Fossett, Lisa Kelly, and Ken Bowman voted against, resulting in a tie.

Mayor Mary Brown cast the tie-breaking vote to adopt the committee's recommendation, saying, "I have been asked to lead this city in as safe a manner as possible. This ordinance has the city's safety in mind."

City Staff Residency Requirement

The Law, Labor, and License committee, consisting of Council members Fossett, Peterman, and Kelly, convened just prior to Monday night's City Council meeting to discuss the current ordinance requiring that city administrative staff live within Fort Thomas city limits.

The ordinance came up as a point of discussion when a resident inquired as to City Administrator Don Martin's eligibility to hold the position earlier this summer. Martin lives in Kenton County. There are currently a small handful of city employees, including Martin and Fire Chief Bailey, who live outside Fort Thomas.

The current ordinance reads that city administrative staff -- which does not include police officers or fire fighters/EMT -- are required to live within city limits, but also stipulates that the mayor has the power to waive that requirement on a case-by-case basis.

The ordinance was scheduled to be revised, removing the requirement, at roughly the same time that Martin was hired as the city's administrative officer, but never was.

"It's an outdated rule," Brown said. "We are living in a different age now than when they put this requirement in place over 75 years ago."

But Fossett, who chairs the committee, feels that the city might be missing out when its top-level administrators do not live within the community.

"This is not a comment on Don [Martin]'s or anyone else's performance; I think he's done a great job here. But wouldn't it be beneficial for these folks to be here on the weekends, off-work hours, getting to know the community?" Fossett asked the committee. "I want these folks to live in my community. I want their kids to go to school with my kids."

Fossett himself has personal experience with this issue, as he has previously served as Covington's City Administrator while also living in Fort Thomas. "If my kids weren't already in the school system here, I'd have moved to Covington, in order to do the job as well as possible."

For Peterman, though, it's a case of "ain't broke, don't fix it." "It seems we're doing well with the people we have," adding concern that a residency requirement could deter otherwise qualified candidates from applying for city positions.

Martin nuanced the discussion a bit by mentioning that some cities do not require, but rather incentivize residency in other ways, to encourage employees to live in the city they serve.

Ultimately, the committee did not present a recommendation to council.

FTFD to Hire

Fire Chief Mark Bailey reported to council Monday that the FTFD has begun the process of hiring two new fire fighters. They are currently in the midst of the interviewing process, after receiving applications through the end of June.

FTPD to Hire... Soon

Police Chief Mike Daly reported to council Monday that FTPD Information Officer Lt. Ken Fecher and FTPD Sgt. Dean Windgassen will be retiring from the Fort Thomas Police force. "We've all been extremely fortunate to have these guys on our team," Daly said, adding that the FTPD will begin the internal promotions and hiring process soon.

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