Monday, October 23, 2017

City Council Roundup: Updates on Traffic, Road Stabilization and Police Work Details

Adam Blau, who owns property on Burnet Ridge, shares photos of the degrading roadway.
by Robin Gee

City Administrator Ron Dill welcomed all to the October City Council meeting with a brief update on Mayor Eric Haas. He suffered a heart attack on October 8, and had surgery but is doing very well and is expected to return home soon.

Council Member Roger Peterman served as Mayor Pro Tem for the meeting.

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Traffic safety is an ongoing challenge

Prior to the meeting, council participated in a review and discussion of city traffic issues.

At the council meeting, Ron Hans, an engineer with CT Consultants, summarized the traffic meeting and addressed a request for a all-ways stop at the intersection of Holiday Lane and Garden Way.

He reported that, after studying traffic at the corner, it does not warrant stop signs on Holiday Lane.

Still, council members expressed concern that more needs to be done to combat speeding and unsafe driving in general within the city.

"Traffic safety is of highest concern," said Peterman. "For me personally, the worst experiences I’ve had on this council are the times when we’ve had pedestrian deaths from car accidents. Anything that can be done that makes sense is what we want to continue to be vigilant about….It’s more complicated than just that people are driving too fast."

RELATED: Fort Thomas City Council Explores Traffic Safety Issue

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Burnet Ridge stabilization project bids too high

A project to stabilize the Burnet Ridge roadway hit a bump when bids for repair work came back much higher than anticipated. Parts of the road are failing, and a fix is needed for the immediate and the long run.

City engineers studied the area and determined the best choice for permanent stabilization would be to extend the culvert, said Dill. Initial estimates for the cost of repairs were around $81,000.

Dill and his staff were surprised when three bids came back much higher than expected, with the lowest bid at $145,000.

He said it is unclear why the bids were so high, but staff will take another look, re-evaluate the project and rebid it. For now, council voted to reject the current bids and follow the plan to review the project.

Adam Blau, who owns property on Burnet Ridge, said he was very concerned that the project not be delayed.

"My brother and I own property there. I’m concerned that we just keep slapping band aids on it. The cost may escalate to the point where you may get close to that $140,000-plus bid…Dirt has eroded around the catch basin, and the hill continues to slide…Winter is coming on. It’s a serious issue."

Dill agreed something must be done to shore up the road and get the catch basin functioning as soon as possible. While staff is rebidding the project, city crews will address the immediate concerns of erosion and drainage.

Police policy for outside city details

Police officers in other Campbell County communities and throughout the state pick up extra money by serving in events outside of their own municipality. Commonly known as outside city details, the practice helps with crowd control and safety at special events.

Fort Thomas police officers are not permitted to take on this outside work except within city limits due to concerns over insurance liability, pension, Social Security and taxes.

The city has been approached numerous times recently with requests for officers to work outside details, and so, staff looked at the issue again and presented a proposal for a new policy to council.

The policy would allow officers to take extra work outside the city limits but payment, and therefore all associated payroll costs, would go through the Fort Thomas Police Department.

"Essentially, the policy creates a standard for what type of details would be available, and requires authorization," said Dill. At this time, the activities are limited to Campbell County.

The policy also sets out parameters on what types of activities would not be permitted, such as venues whose primary function is to serve alcohol, he said. In other words, police officers could not serve as bouncers for bars with crowd control issues. They could serve as support for high school football games or similar activities.

City staff looked over a list of details attached to the proposal, each with different pay rates, and proposed an average rate of pay that would include associated costs to the city.

Determining the average pay, however, proved to be concerning for some council members. The proposal included a list of work details for approval with the policy, including those that paid hourly rates below the city’s average base rate.

"I want the officers to have any option to go out and use the badge that they earned as long as it doesn’t affect what’s happening with their primary position in Fort Thomas," said Council Member Jeff Bezold. “But on that note I don’t want to subsidize private institutions."

Council members asked for more time to discuss the payment portion of the proposal and examine it further in committee.

Dill said the most pressing need is for officers to help with the BB&T Arena for Northern Kentucky University games, which is also currently hosting University of Cincinnati basketball games.

Council agreed to consider the proposal in first reading with only the BB&T Arena detail attached, and to discuss the rest of the list of work details separately after committee review.

Other business 

Ann Winkler suggested Fort Thomas begin a community garden program.

- Fire Chief Mark Bailey reminded council that October is Fire Prevention Month and the theme is "Every Second Counts, Plan Two Ways Out." He also noted that the special month serves as a good reminder for people to check their batteries in smoke detectors or replace detectors that are more than 10 years old.

- Dill reported that the VA homes project is on track with a hearing set for November 14 that will finalize financing for the developer.

- He also reported that the City Managers Association of Northern Kentucky met with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife last month. The agency is working on a statewide urban deer management ordinance.

- The community plan visioning process is off to a great start, Dill reported. Committees have met, and the website is up. He encouraged community members to go to and participate in the discussion.

- Ann Winkler, of South Fort Thomas Avenue, proposed the city consider a garden plot or community garden program. Council Member Bezold, who chairs the Parks and Open Space Committee, invited her to join in the planning process underway. Her idea is exactly the type of project community members should bring forth to the visioning process, he said.

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