Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fort Thomas City Council Roundup (12-15-14)

Mayor Mary H. Brown presiding over her last council meeting on 12-15-14.
The end of an era has nearly come to a close, as city council and Mayor Mary Brown concluded their final meeting of 2014. Brown as well as Councilmen Tom Lampe and Jay Fossett are concluding their tenures at the Fort Thomas local government level. Lampe will take higher office after winning a seat in the general election on the county fiscal court as County Comissioner. Fossett will be leaving the public sector and will continue his consulting and public relations career at Strategic Advisors.

Departing members of council, Jay Fossett and Tom Lampe. 
For Brown, a council member since 1977 and mayor since 1999, it's certainly been a long ride. "This council and past councils have made my job very easy for the most part," she said. "This city has benefitted greatly from the service of our citizens. Fort Thomas is truly blessed. It's kind of sad, leaving, but I am assured that (the city) is in good hands."

At the end of business, the majority of council members took turns giving Brown public accolades. "The attitude you've continued and fostered will be one of your best legacies you're leaving behind," said Councilman Roger Peterman. "From the parks to the city streetscapes, you've done a lot of good in Fort Thomas."

Mayor-Elect Eric Haas, in what will be his first mayoral act, read a proclamation that January 9th, 2015 will be known as Mary H. Brown Day in Fort Thomas. 

Mayor-Elect, Eric Haas, signing his oath of office in council's chamber. 
Fossett and Lampe also talked about their time on council and thanked Brown. Fossett said, "Thanks for all your years of service. We don't always agree on everything, but we always have the city's best interest at heart. We can disagree with each other, but we also can respect other's opinions. It's been very eye-opening, but I've enjoyed it."

Lampe, who was elected to six terms in Fort Thomas, agreed with the sentiments of the evening. "This is democracy at its finest."

To tie a bow on the evening, Lampe gave out parting gifts to each of his members of council. Working on council together for many years and living in the same community for longer with one another, council develops "inside jokes" with one another, regardless of how heated the issues become. Lampe echoed Fossett's sentiments. "We respect each other's opinions, regardless of how we feel about them. Jay and I didn't always agree on everything, but we would get together after meetings many times in a friendly capacity."

Lampe gives fellow council member, Lisa Kelly, a parting gift. Lampe had gifts for each of his members of council. 
Lampe's gift to Fossett mirrored that response. A gift card to Fort Thomas Pizza and The Olde Fort Pub. He also gave Lisa Kelly a toy bow and arrow set, which was a nod to her disapproval of the vaunted deer hunting ordinance which spurned her to run for council in 2008. He presented council members Haas and Peterman with an self-autographed picture of himself throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Rossford Park, which he claims, in jest, as a personal highlight of his time on council. Finally, he gave Ken Bowman a toy revolver, with a disclaimer to wait three days to open it, which was a nod to Bowman introducing a resolution for a three day waiting period on the purchase of firearms.

"Tom's gifts were a great gesture to us all. My gift of a bow and arrow was perfectly ironic because I have been opposed to the deer hunt since day one and I'm sure I've been a thorn in everyone's side whenever the issue is brought up. His gift shows that often times we disagree on issues but we still respect each other and  can find some humor in our disagreements and don't hold grudges," said Kelly. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: If I can take a moment to editorialize a bit, as an observer, this was great to see. It's been a contentious year at the local level in Fort Thomas and moments like these remind all of us that we are on the same team. We choose Fort Thomas because we believe that Fort Thomas is the best place to live and raise a family. Thank you to all of our public servants. Not an easy job.  

Onto the rest of the business of council:
- Fossett, Lampe and Haas' departure from council left openings for three new members of council. Adam Meier, John Muller and Jeff Bezold will step into those positions after winning elections in November. Meier and Muller were in attendance to take their oaths of office. Bezold was not in attendance and will be taking his oath at a later date.

The Meiers. Collin, Laura, Elle and Adam

The Mullers. John and Terri. 
Health Insurance Contract for City Employees
- The biggest bit of news came from the consideration of health insurance for city employees. The city had budgeted for a 15% increase with the uncertainty of increased premiums due to the Affordable Care Act. Crawford Insurance, located in Bellevue, is the City of Fort Thomas' insurance agent and shopped three companies, Anthem, United and Humana. Anthem and United declined to submit a bid because they would not submit a blind bid. 

As the sole contractor bidding, Humana offered a 10% increase. After agreeing to also switch dental coverage over to Humana, the city accepted the bid and received an overall increase of 6.9%. The city has averaged a 4.47% increase in premiums over the last three years. 

The three unions in the city are Fire, Police and Public Works. The proposal was sent to a joint committee made up of members of these three unions for approval. The majority of the council, police and public works, agreed that the new proposal was suitable. 

Local 1958 is Fort Thomas' Fire Union. They rejected the component of the new plan that would force their members to switch their dental plan. They believed that switching the dental plan would force their members to have to move out of network, because Humana's Dental Plus plan did not include many of their current providers.

Councilman, Ken Bowman, asked city staff if the bidding process included any Fort Thomas insurance providers. "This would certainly be a substantial contract for one of our local businesses. If we could keep this within the city, that would be a good thing," said Bowman. 

City Administrator, Don Martin, said that it was more about a comfort level with Crawford Insurance, which is located in Bellevue. "We ask our employees if they are satisfied with our current provider and they have been very satisfied with Carolyn (Dean of Crawford Insurance)," said Martin. "If council would like us to, we can certainly look at that next year."

Dog Park Rules
Council voted 6-0 changes to the ordinance that would include: all dogs must have current and county rabies tags, dogs must be spayed or neutered, no squeaky toys permitted, no pinch collars and no retractable leashes. 

Donnelly Drive Speed Report

Residents on Donnelly Drive requested a speed survey on their street that they hoped would lead to the installation of speed humps. According to Martin, their survey indicated the 85th percentile speed was 28 MPH. The speed would have to be 35 MPH to warrant further study. 

Martin went onto say that the traffic study did provide the police department with target enforcement times that would hopefully help curb the speeding. Additionally he added that many times the speeding is being done by "1 or 2 residents on the street" and that often times "a talk with (FTPD) will help bring that speed down."

Councilman Lampe added that he had a request from a resident for another survey to be down on Southview near Southside Deli Mart. 

"I can't imagine anyone speeding down that narrow street," added Mayor Brown. 

Engineering Contract
An engineering contact with CT Consultants, formerly CT Engineers was considered. 

Highlander Coffee House Alcoholic Beverage License
A meeting was scheduled for January 5th to discuss. 

Police Report
Chief Mike Daly reported the success of Operation November Blitz, which combated drug trafficking along I471 and 275. Daly reported that the operation led to 36 citations of which 26 were drug related. There were also 24 arrests, including one by Campbell County Police on the AA Highway which brought an alleged serial burglar to justice. 

Daly also talked about the ongoing scam involving the elderly in our city. Allegedly a "phishing" scam is occurring in which the scammer will call Fort Thomas numbers and wait until they hear an elderly voice on the other end. The scammer will tell the resident that they have won a car or money and instruct them to go to a bank and make out a money order in the amount of $400-$500. "Our residents are reporting it's a foreign voice on the phone. Luckily no crime has been committed in Fort Thomas yet, because no citizens are out any money," said Daly. 

2015-2017 Fort Thomas City Council: Adam Meier, Roger Peterman, John Muller, Lisa Kelly and Ken Bowman. Not pictured, Jeff Bezold. 

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