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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

City Council Round-Up: Property Tax Increase, VA Homes Update

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include City Administrator Don Martin's comments on the decreased appraised value of the VA Homes. - Ed.

By Gina Holt, FTM City Reporter 

New police officers, a proposed cell tower, a city-wide property tax increase, and the VA homes are just a few of the topics that were discussed at Tuesday night’s council meeting. Council member Tom Lampe was not in attendance. Here’s your round-up:

Property Tax   

The second reading of a 4% increase in property tax revenue was passed unanimously by council. This will raise the current tax rate by $0.06 per $1,000 of assessed property value, from $3.72 to $3.78 per $1000.  City Administrator Don Martin said the city is permitted to take an annual tax increase. “We have taken it every year in the nine years I have been here,” said Martin. He added that the annual increase is needed to keep up with the cost of living.

 VA Homes

As reported last week, the city of Fort Thomas has received permission to purchase the VA homes on Alexander Circle in Tower Park. Martin said the city attorney, the city engineer, other city staff, the VA, and the Kentucky Heritage Council plan to meet next week to coordinate the process of finding a developer.

“It could be this time next year before we see physical improvements made to those houses,” said Martin.

He also reported that all of the utilities will probably need replaced. The city looked for a developer a few years ago with no luck. At their earliest appraisal, in 2007, the properties were valued at $2.4 million. Today, that value has dropped to $500,000.

"The appraisers did not indicate why the value decreased," Martin explained in an email Wednesday morning. "I can only speculate that the decreases are due to the economic downturn, the condition of the homes, and the appraiser fully understanding that the homes must remain (and not demolished) -- in other words, this is not a typical development site where profit can be maximized."

“It’s been a long road getting to where we are with this project and I’m very excited to see this is finally coming together,” Council member Lisa Kelly said after the meeting. “It’s been hard to see these historic homes deteriorate over time. I can’t wait to see them restored to their former glory.”

Police Department Report

Two new officers have joined the Fort Thomas police force, FTPD Chief Mike Daly reported to council: Daniel Cropper and Brandon Laffin.

After the meeting, Daly added that the active presence of police in cars and on bikes, especially during second and third shifts, has contributed to the decrease in heroin-related crimes like petty theft. “We continue to battle heroin but everyone is coming together to fight this.”

“Knock on wood, things have been very good in Fort Thomas,” Daly said.

Fire Department Report

FTFD Chief Mark Bailey said the fire department is in the process of hiring one firefighter. He is very happy with the candidates and plans to make a decision by the end of the month.

Cell Tower

AT&T has proposed building a new cell tower at 2400 N. Fort Thomas Avenue. Martin said the city has requested a site plan and renderings from the phone company.  AT&T complied with the request, and it is currently under review.

The Law, Labor, and License Committee will hold a public hearing on the matter, likely in late September/early October, to discuss the proposed 100-foot tower that would be placed in a wooded area.

Duke Energy Easement

Duke Energy needs to place lines to the new facility on Highlands High School’s Campus but there seems to be some question regarding who owns the property. Duke says the city owns it but the city says Highlands owns it. The city attorney is working with administrators at Highlands to work it out quickly and get the utility company the easement it needs.

Of Note
Anthony Bonomini, candidate for council, was in the audience.

Holt, our newest FTM reporter, is no stranger to reporting news. She spent 10 years as a reporter writing for The Recorder Newspapers, The Kentucky Enquirer, The Kentucky Post, Cincinnati Family Magazine and Prep Magazine, as well as several other local publications.

She has spent the last seven years working full-time in public relations but her love for writing has never been forgotten. She is a native of Campbell County and has lived in Fort Thomas for the last 11 years.

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