Monday, June 12, 2017

City Council Roundup: Budget, body cams and new sidewalk

Fort Thomas City Building. 
by Robin Gee

The city budget, an update on the VA homes project, a long-awaited sidewalk grant and a first reading of a new police body cam policy were among the issues discussed at the June 2 Fort Thomas City Council meeting.

The council also welcomed a new police officer and heard a brief update on the VA homes project and a reminder that sesquicentennial celebrations are just around the corner.

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Budget for FY 17/18 

Mayor Eric Haas presented the budget for 2017-2018. He opened with a letter of introduction that reiterated the city’s emphasis on fiscal responsibility paired with its mission to provide services and meet the future goals set in the Visioning process.

He noted the city’s recent trend to budget a minimum of capital outlay will continue. However, city reserves are being earmarked this budget cycle for larger capital improvements in Tower Park and other projects including street repair and pedestrian safety and for others in keeping with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Budget highlights:
  • Total General Fund reserves are $12,066,656, representing a 7.8 percent increase over last year.
  • About one-half of the revenues come from city property taxes and the rest mostly from city payroll taxes and business taxes.
  • Total General Fund expenditures are $12,037,344, a 5.4 percent increase over last year.
  • Contributing to the expenditure increase are personnel costs and costs associated with the Comprehensive Plan and Recreation Master Plan.
  • As with most public budgets, personnel costs account for about 80 percent of the budget and 20 percent comes from capital outlays, professional services, utilities, insurance and supplies. 
  • Close to $8 million of the reserves are already earmarked for debt service on loans taken for earlier city projects such as the town center and midway, and for the KRS state pension program. 
  • About $400,000 will go to street and sidewalk improvements this year.
  • The budget also anticipates an increase in expenditures from the Tower Park fund for maintenance on historic buildings including $300,000 for repairs at the Armory and Mess Hall.
  • Additional funds will go to support the city’s plans for parks and green spaces and for city events such as those planned for the sesquicentennial celebration. 
The mayor closed with these comments: "We feel that the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 will allow the city to continue its mission of providing great public service to all of its residents. While the majority of this operating budget is conservative in nature, it does include the expenditure of city reserves for exciting projects. The city’s upcoming Visioning process will set the tone for future capital investment in our community. And the continued investment in our parks will ensure that our public green spaces will be enjoyed by future generations."

Sidewalk grant 

Fort Thomas received a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant to fund a sidewalk down North Fort Thomas Avenue from Covert Run to the city limits near Dayton.

The city announced it has received a state-run Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant of $592,300 toward the construction of a sidewalk that will run from the corner of Covert Run Pike and Barrett Drive, down North Fort Thomas Avenue to the city limits near Dayton.

Third time was a charm for the city’s attempts to secure funding for the long-awaited sidewalk project. After applying for the grant on three separate occasions, the city learned it would be one of only two such projects in Campbell County to receive the grant. The other project is for sidewalk repair in Silver Grove.

Funding is an 80/20 split of the $750,000 needed for the project, but City Administrator Ron Dill said the city’s portion will only be about $37,500 in cash with the rest coming through in-kind services provided by city staff.

A public meeting on the project will be held at a later date.

 Fort Thomas Police News 

Police Chief Mike Daly introduced new police officer Kalin Holland, who received two badges — his regular badge (#4450) and the last of the special sesquicentennial badges. He will attend the police academy this summer and begin work at the end of the year.

Officer Holland introduced his wife Courtney and baby son Titus and said without his wife’s support, he could not have fulfilled his dream of becoming an officer. He thanked his friend Ben Hanks who introduced him to people in law enforcement and served as a mentor as he explored his career choice.

He also thanked Chief Daly, Mayor Eric Haas and city officials for the opportunity to serve the city of Fort Thomas. "I look forward to meeting more members of the community and for developing great relationships with the officers…And, I look forward to pressing the fast forward button on the academy and getting back here when it’s nice and cold and there are Christmas lights up. Thank you."

RELATED: Newest Fort Thomas Police Officer Introduced
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Police body cams can be worn on the pocket or attached to an external vest.

Fort Thomas Police Sgt. William Hunt presented an update on police body camera policy and shared news that the department had received a grant for almost $6,000 to cover the approximate $7,000 needed to purchase 23 body cams.

He explained the extensive process behind development of a comprehensive body cam policy, as well as technical issues and needs. This is a first reading of an ordinance to amend the current police policy and procedure manual that will come back for a vote at the next council meeting.

RELATED: Police Department Presents Body Cam Policy

Safety concerns near Rossford Park 

Kathy Henderson of Rossford Ave. addressed council with her concerns about safety near Rossford Park. Many sports games, tournaments and practices are held at the park, and there is a designated drop off area. She expressed concern that during games some people have been parking in the drop off area, forcing children to be dropped off across the street.

She asked that the city enforce the no parking area and also questioned if there might be a way to utilize a practice lot for additional parking during games.

City Administrator Dill said something might be done with game and practice scheduling to allow less overlap between groups of participants and onlookers to free up space. He and Mayor Haas agreed to look into the situation and explore solutions to the parking problem.

Additional business 

City council approved the appointment of Susan Wingard to the Board of Adjustment.

The city administrator shared information on the VA homes project. A development agreement has not yet been signed but participants are busy hammering out final details. The agreement is expected to be ready for council at the next meeting on June 19. In the meantime, Veterans Administration officials are working on the final document regarding the transfer of the property, and that is expected to be available to city officials next week.

Dill also reminded the council and meeting attendees of the big sesquicentennial celebration at Tower Park on July 4. Planning has been in the works for quite some time, and it promises to be a great community event.

--> RELATED: Sesquicentennial Festival Schedule is Jammed with Fun Activities 

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