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Monday, December 31, 2018

HHS Girls Basketball Alumni Game; Highlands Hoops Update

Highlands Girls Take on NewCath on Friday

PHOTO: Dale Dawn. Highlands senior Ben Sisson comes down after a dunk in a recent game.
It's a streak not mentioned much.

But when teams go out and take care of business continuously in these type of games, the streak becomes a product of the consistency. With four straight 36th District championships and a win over Dayton earlier in the season, the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (11-3 overall) has won 25 straight over district opponents.

Highlands has also earned the top seed in the district tournament in each of the five seasons since the district went away from the blind draw. The last time the Bluebirds lost to a district opponent came on Feb. 27, 2014 at Newport Central Catholic in the district title game.

Highlands takes on the Thoroughbreds in Fort Thomas on Friday in another district game at 7:30 p.m. The Bluebirds have beaten the Thoroughbreds (8-5) seven straight times and nine of the last 10 meetings.

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"It's a seed game coming on Friday and we have to be ready to go," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "We just have to treat them like we do any opponent. We have to be prepared for them, know what they're going to do and know what we need to do offensively and defensively against it."

The Bluebirds have outscored opponents, 825-630 on the season for averages of just under 59 to 45. Highlands is coming off two holiday tournament runner-up finishes. The Bluebirds led Conner by five with 47 seconds left in the LaRosa's Holiday Classic championship game. But the Lady Cougars rallied for a 54-46 overtime win.

Senior guard Zoie Barth continues to lead Highlands with 17.9 points per game. She's had a lot of help from different people including junior Piper Macke and sophomore Rory O'Hara. Highlands has five seniors on the team.

"I think the girls understand that these seniors are leaving it out on the court every game and they have to do that, too," Richey said. "Every play matters. We have to learn from that."

Highlands has made 282-of-630 shots for 45 percent including 80-of-234 three-point tries for 34 percent and 179-of-247 free throws for 73 percent. The Bluebirds also have 366 rebounds for an average of just under 26 per game. Barth and senior Chloe Jansen lead the way averaging just more than five per game.

NewCath comes into the game off an 84-56 loss at Campbell County. The Thoroughbreds have a new head coach in Ralph G. Meyer, III. They are led by senior Kara Zimmerman.

Highlands Boys Hoops Update:

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Highlands Students Earn Top Honors at Career-focused Leadership Competition

Fort Thomas students "go for the red" and bring back the gold and more at national career and technical competition.

Four Fort Thomas students decided to "go for the red" at the annual Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Competition held in Louisville last month and brought back the gold, silver and bronze.

FCCLA is a career and technical education student organization designed to promote personal growth, leadership development and career opportunities for students interested in family and consumer sciences careers.

Highlands High School freshman Ashley Counter won first place in the Junior Division Knowledge Challenge Test. Fort Thomas students swept the Early Childhood Education Challenge with Highlands Middle School eighth grader Katie Deshler taking first, freshman Ceceila Wira taking second and eighth grader Lexi Wilson taking third.

"Go for the red" refers to the cherry-red jackets members wear. The organization has more than 160,000 student members and 5,300 chapters in 49 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Highlands Boys Hoops Has Shown Plenty of Promise

Bluebirds Coming Around This Year

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Ben Sisson (30) goes up for a shot against Hamilton (Ohio) on Saturday.
Following the season-opening 77-28 win at Boone County, one huge thought went through the mind.

"That was the best I've seen them play in the seven seasons I've covered them."

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team ventured to Ryle and pulled off another win in two days. I told Head Coach Kevin Listerman my thought after the Boone County win that Friday night after the Bluebirds moved to 2-0 on the season.

When Listerman took the job in 2013, he stated his goal was for his enthusiasm for the game to rub off on the players. As a point guard, Listerman guided the Northern Kentucky University Norse to four consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament berths and back-to-back national championship game appearances in 1996 and 1997. Listerman wanted the Bluebirds to experience similar post-season successes.

It has taken some time. Highlands finished 13-15 last year for the best record in Listerman's six years as head coach. The Bluebirds came up just short of their first 9th Region Tournament appearance since 2014 in a 61-59 defeat to Newport Central Catholic in the 36th District semifinals.

The first six teams played hard. They unfortunately struggled with consistency. Last year's team missed several opportunities down the stretch thus falling short of their first winning record since 2010.

For different reasons, Highlands has had consistency in either the outside or the inside game, but not both. That allowed defenses to focus on one area and force the other to beat them.

But the balance has been there so far this year. Senior post Ben Sisson has been dominant averaging 18 points and just under nine rebounds per game.

But Highlands has also been consistent outside meaning teams can't double or even triple Sisson a lot. Sophomore point guard Sam Vinson averages 10.5 points per game and senior Ryan Leigh averages 8.4. A number of others such as seniors Will Salmon, Alex Starkey, Grady Cramer, Tristan Thompson, Jack Hegge and Nate Roberts have had their moments this year.

Highlands has recorded a huge win over Covington Catholic this year. The Bluebirds last beat the Colonels in 2010.

The thing that has eluded the Bluebirds lately in their losses to Newport and Hamilton (Ohio) is defensive lapses. But Listerman said a few days of practice should fix some things there.

Highlands still needs to prove it can make it out of the 36th District Tournament. The Bluebirds take on Newport Central Catholic at home on Jan. 22.

NewCath is struggling at 4-6 after losing its top seven scorers from last year. But the Thoroughbreds have three players averaging in double figures and have not lost to Highlands since 2010.

Highlands last won a district championship in 2008. The boys basketball team was the only one of seven 36th District teams at Highlands to not win a district championship last year.

Alleged Felony Lane Gang Member Arrested in Highland Heights

A gang well-known along the East Coast has likely struck again in Highland Heights, shattering windows and stealing purses.

This time, at least one of the members was caught and arrested. 

The gang is a national crime group known as the "Felony Lane Gang," a name given to the group whose members use the farthest bank drive-thru lane to cash in stolen checks with stolen IDs.

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Police said they've targeted parks in areas like Fort Thomas previously and they're getting away with people's valuables.

According to arrest records, Michael Dominick Lotito, 42, of Margate, Florida is in custody at the Campbell County Detention Center and being held on a $10,000. He was arrested last month and was charged with theft of identity, criminal possession of a forged instrument in the first degree and receiving a stolen credit card. 

Highland Heights Police Chief, Bill Birkenhauer, confirmed that Lotito was arrested but said that his department is still trying to determine if or how the suspect is involved with the national gang. 

The Felony Lane Gang Task Force, which tracks the gang's activities nationwide and raises awareness of the syndicate's crime circle congratulated the Highland Heights Police Department on the arrest of Lotito. 

"Great work Highland Heights PD.

They referred Fort Thomas Matters to the department for further details, which Birkenhauer said were still under investigation. 

"(That group) is usually pretty helpful with these kinds of cases," said Chief Birkenhauer. "They are pretty spot-on." 

The Felony Lane Gang Task Force said thieves like to "target moms" who are dropping off kids, watching kids at events or going to the gym and to be hyper-vigilant when you are engaging on these activities. 

The Felony Lane Gang is notoriously tough to catch and has left victims in Fort Thomas feeling violated. 

"They go to local areas, set up shop for a couple of days and do surveillance. They're looking for female victims," Lt. Rich Whitford of Fort Thomas Police told Fort Thomas Matters last year.

Whitford said they'll pull up next to cars or walk to cars in lots at places such as zoos, parks or sporting events and use a small tool to shatter the window. It all happens in seconds. 

In May of this year, one criminal was caught on camera at a business on S. Fort Thomas Avenue in broad daylight. See the video here. 

He said they also actively try and recruit drug addicts or prostitutes to try and use the stolen items to go to a bank.

Police said you can do your part in preventing more crimes like this by hiding your valuables out of plain site. 

"Put it in your trunk. Keep it with you, or put it under the seat, somewhere someone who walks by a car, they do not see it," Whitford said.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Sock Kid Returns: Fort Thomas 9-Year-Old Donates Over 2,000 Items to Hosea House

Amy, Aidan and Ian Silverton. FTM file. 
By Jessica Stringfield-Eden

It’s that time of year when we’re reminded to think of others but it takes a very special person to go out of their way and really devote themselves to making a difference. Well, a very special KID technically.

We’re talking about “The Sock Kid” of Fort Thomas.

Aiden Silverton, 9 (AKA “The Sock Kid”), has devoted his time and energy to collecting 1,879 pairs of socks, 54 pairs of gloves, 40 hats, 32 coats and 21 scarves, some undershirts and snow boots to donate to the homeless at Hosea House in Newport. This is the second year he’s collected donations.

Why? Aidan says he’s always liked helpings homeless people.

“Me, my mom, sisters and my sister’s friend went to see a play downtown one night and I saw a homeless person and I just wanted to help them.” he said.

The community has rallied around and supported Aiden in his sock mission but Aiden and his family brought the mission to life. “Aidan has always been very adamant about helping the homeless,” said Amy Silverton, Aidan’s mother. “We told him if he would like to help, he could use $40 he had made on a paper route to buy socks for the homeless...and then we matched it to help him buy even more socks.”

It wasn’t long before even MORE socks, scarves, coats and gloves were coming in. Through ‘calls for donations’ via Amy’s Facebook posts and a strategically placed collection box on their front porch, the Silverton family grew their collection with the help of the community. “Sometimes friends bring socks to school to give me or they drop them off in the box on our porch,” said Aiden. “One guy even donated 600 socks!” 

The man who donated 600 socks has always supported Aiden’s endeavors. “He’s a family friend and he’s been so good to Aiden,” said Amy. “He asked ‘how many did he have last year..oh, well, I’ll match that.”

Besides being “The Sock Kid”, Aiden is a pretty ambitious kid. His hobbies include soccer, basketball and he’s even working towards his Black Belt in Taekwondo. In school, his favorite subject is science and he hopes to be an engineer someday.

Ian, Aiden’s father, assisted with the drop off to Hosea House. The Silvertons had to take two vehicles to transport the donations. “I heard an advertisement for Hanes or something the other day bragging about how they’ve donated thousands of socks and I thought ‘well you guys make them. I have a 9-year old that collected and donated almost 2,000!”
Aidan loading some of the donated items with some help. FTM file. 

There is no denying the fact this kid is pretty extraordinary.

“Aiden did this last year and this year he’s quadrupled his efforts! This is so much more than just socks,” said Hosea House Director Bruce Stelzer. “These socks provide comfort, warmth and healthy feet. Even the best day for the homeless that we serve is a trying day. This means so much.” 

Aidan and Bruce. 
Hosea House happily accepts donations that correspond with the current weather (meaning cold-weather items in the colder months and warm-weather items when its warm, socks are always a great donation) between 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Friday, December 21, 2018

St. Thomas Evolves to Meet Needs of Parishioners

Article submitted by St. Thomas Catholic Church

At a point in time when our nation and world are looking for signs of renewed faith in humanity, many have sought out newer and more modern religious faiths. Some have simply turned away from church altogether.  While many explore spiritual alternatives, a local Catholic Church is out to prove that one of the oldest faiths in the world can be as engaging and fulfilling as current popular Christian churches, and perhaps can offer even more.  Saint Thomas Catholic Church, a staple in the Fort Thomas community since 1902, is evolving to meet the needs of their parishioners today and in the future.  Many of the efforts are being led by Pastoral Associate, Charles Marks, who also teaches religion classes at the parish school.  Here are three of the ways they’re attracting the interest of the community.

Weekly Family Mass
Every Sunday at 9 a.m. (since the kids are already awake), bring your household to their weekly family Mass where the music is led by Pastoral Associate, Will Panagakos, who puts a modern spin on classic hymns through a guitar-led worship.  In addition to the innovative music, youth from the parish share the Mass readings and fill other roles normally done by adult parishioners.  Following Mass, everyone is invited next door to the church’s activity center for their weekly “coffee and donuts” to catch up with friends and welcome new guests.

Faith is not One-Size-Fits-All
Recognizing that not every parishioner has the same needs from their faith, Saint Thomas has created several programs that tailors the right message for each group within the parish.  Marks leads a dynamic high school youth group through immersion in the Catholic Sacraments, regular gatherings, and retreats. He also heads up a Men’s Group on early Friday mornings that addresses the pressures men face as individuals, husbands and fathers in our modern culture.  Will Panagakos, a member of the Pastoral Associate Team, in addition to playing music at the 9am Family Mass hosts monthly worship events where all are invited to participate in a night of prayer through music and scripture. Will also coordinates an outreach to homeless neighbors twice each month in Covington at which many parishioners volunteer. Catie Panagakos, also a Pastoral Associate and wife of Will, is leading a renewed women’s ministry that can be as casual as a quick stop for coffee and conversation after dropping off the kids to school or a more immersive retreat designed specifically for women.  The Panagakos’ moved to Fort Thomas from Philadelphia earlier this year, specifically to bring more worship and ministry to Saint Thomas Parish.

SpirFit – Where Faith Meets Fitness
Faith can often be considered as only a matter of the heart or of the mind, but in St. Thomas’ “SpirFit” class, faith is transformed into a holistic mind, body & heart experience.  Every Tuesday & Thursday evening from 7-8 p.m., parishioners and trained yoga teachers Jessica Muehlenkamp and Lexi Sheets lead Spirfit, a 60-minute fitness class that focuses on breathing, movement and prayer.  “Spir’” comes from the Latin word “spiratus” meaning “to breathe.” For just a $5 donation, of which a portion goes back to the parish or designated charities, you can participate in the classes held at the church or school and experience the connection of the Catholic faith to mind & body fitness.

Pastor Monsignor Schulte is optimistic that the parish’s efforts will help community members find their way back to the Church in a time where societal unrest makes strong faith more needed than ever.  If one of these reasons peaks your interest, you might want to stop in. Perhaps, you’ll start this Christmas season.  Mass times for Christmas are as follows; Christmas Eve 4, 7 & 9 p.m. and Christmas Day 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. & 12:15 p.m..

Scary Accident Damages Multiple Vehicles, Signs on S. Fort Thomas Avenue

A Fort Thomas man was involved in a series of car accidents this afternoon on S. Fort Thomas Avenue today at around 1:00 p.m., when the vehicle he was driving jumped the curb in front of the Blue Marble Bookstore and preceded to hit four cars and taking out multiple street signs.

He came to a stop just north of the Fort Thomas water tower at Tower Park when he slammed into the back of a stopped vehicle.

No one was hurt.

Longtime Blue Marble employee Chris Kleemeier described the incident as surprising and scary.

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She said that customer was parked just outside of the store in her van and that the driver came from behind them, narrowly missing her vehicle before jumping the curb, running over two street signs and side-swiping a fire hydrant.

"It's lucky that school hadn't let out just yet," she said.

City workers begin to clean up the damage. 
Police describe the man as elderly and believe a possible medical emergency could have been occurring while the man was driving. An off-duty Campbell County Police officer was following the man in his personal vehicle and doing everything he could to try and get the vehicle stopped.

Fort Thomas Resident and Caregiver Opens Home to Five Foster Kids

By Jessica Stringfield-Eden

Fort Thomas resident Daniel Shearer certainly didn’t think that, at 55 years old, he would have a full house with five foster children but he asked God to give him something to do after becoming an empty-nester...and according to him, God answered.

After Shearer’s biological sons, Daniel and Matthew, moved out to start their own lives and attend college, he started reading and studying the Bible which inspired an urge to do more. “I had a 4 bedroom house and it was empty,” said Shearer. “I had taught Special Ed for 11 years and I just felt called to make a difference. I had faith in God that he’d keep me busy.”

Busy is an understatement and he said that God certainly delivered.

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. Located at Fort Thomas Plaza. 
After a few different children were placed with him and then returned to their families, Levi (12) joined Shearer’s home and was then formally adopted by Shearer. Not long after, siblings Isaiah (9), Elijah (6) and Nevaeh (2) joined Shearer’s home. Then, an additional sibling, Jeremiah (15 months), was born and Shearer took him in as well at just one month old. Shearer wasn’t about to say no.

“When you get them, they’re yours. The Heroin epidemic is so bad and I know I can change lives and I knew I could do that by fostering,” said Shearer. “All the children are improving. Mrs. Whitney McKay’s buddy program at Johnson Elementary has helped them develop confidence and social skills.” 

In addition to his growing family, Shearer, is also a full-time caregiver who has been caring for the same client for nine years. Shearer uses his faith to keep going. “I just keep serving. I keep reading the Bible and tell myself ‘You gotta do this,” said Shearer. “I don’t get any sleep and it’s been eye-opening. It definitely increased my respect for single parents. 

This has been a labor of love and it’s tough at times.”

Despite the tough times, Shearer is pursuing adoption for all of the children in addition to Levi. He also receives help with the kids from his adult biological sons as well. Shearer described it as the ‘joy of doing’ and encourages others to consider this path as well to help kids in the foster system succeed.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Highlands Football Seniors Honored

Bluebirds Hit 10 Wins for First Time Since 2014

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands senior defensive lineman Ben Sisson (45) and junior defensive back Jacob Brass (29) chase Covington Catholic running back Casey McGinness (2) in the region championship game in November. Sisson led the Bluebirds with four fumble recoveries and had two sacks this year.
The Highlands Bluebirds football team recently held its banquet following a turn-around 10-3 season.

The Blue and White especially paid tribute to the 23 seniors. They helped guide the Bluebirds to their first 10-win season since 2014 and first appearance in the region championship since 2015.

The only three losses came to teams that played for state championships. Highlands lost twice to Covington Catholic and to Scott County. The Colonels lost 20-16 to South Warren in the Class 5A state championship and Scott County lost 37-20 to Louisville Male, coached by Highlands alum Chris Wolfe, in the Class 6A title game.

"It was absolutely awesome," said Zach Deaton, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "They are a great group of kids, great leaders and they left a great example for the other classes behind them."

This marked the second year the Highlands defense utilized the 3-5 base formation and the experience showed. The Bluebirds limited opposing offenses to averages of just more than 149 rushing and just under 96 passing per game for a total average of around 245.

The Highlands defense recorded 18 quarterback sacks, recovered 21 fumbles and picked off 15 passes. Senior linebacker Jackson Hagedorn found himself at the top of the list with three sacks, a team-high four interceptions and one fumble recovery. He returned an interception for a touchdown against Ryle and returned a fumble for a score against Simon Kenton.

"It was an amazing feeling, especially to be involved in such a good defense that loved hitting hard and getting at the ball," Hagedorn said. "Just about every guy on defense had a hunger to get the ball in their hands at one point in the game or hit the ball carrier as hard as they could."

Looking for a local dentist? Look no further than Highlands football alum, TJ Kramer. 
Fellow senior linebackers Alex Starkey and Nick Bowman also had huge roles on the Highlands defense. Starkey tied for the team-high four sacks and added three fumble recoveries. Bowman had a sack and also played on the offensive line.

On the defensive line were seniors Ben Sisson, Gavin Downard and Andrew Wyckoff that often disrupted offensive backfields. Sisson led the Bluebirds with four fumble recoveries and had two sacks. He also saw some time at tight end.

Four seniors played a big role in limiting big plays, especially in the deep part of the field. They are Bailey Armstrong, Addison ReynoldsCasey Greene and Kyle Turner. Greene had three interceptions and a fumble recovery with Reynolds recording one fumble recovery and one interception and Armstrong making an interception.

Safety Concerns Inspire Residents to Take Action with Volunteer Crosswalk Program for Children

By Jessica Stringfield-Eden

Crossing the street is a daily concern for most families in such a walkable community as Fort Thomas. Local children often walk to school and many adults walk their dogs, run and ride their bikes. Crossing busy intersections to get from one side of town to the next is a normal occurrence in the community and fortunately, few accidents occur. However, some streets in Fort Thomas are noticeably busier than others and local residents near S. Grand Ave. and Pentland Pl. are now taking matters into their own hands to make sure their children are able to cross these busy streets safely.

“The idea originated with another parent living  in our neighborhood, Jill Spears. A few years ago she became concerned when there was no longer a crossing guard at the intersection of Grand and Pentland/Summit,” said Kelly Twehues, a resident who lives in the Summit subdivision.

“She began trying to get volunteers to walk kids across the street. When I witnessed three different children, one of them my own child, nearly get hit by a car turning left out of Pentland, I remembered her idea right away and thought it was the easiest place to start. This time around we have tried to start a Facebook page to keep people connected.”

In general, pedestrian accidents are a very real and current issue. According to national reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2016 was the deadliest year since 2007 for with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed.

Improving the safety at S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl. affects not only school aged children but any pedestrian in this area. “On the day we counted children crossing after school, we counted between 40 and 50 children from elementary to high school age. Of course that’s just school kids crossing,” said Twehues. “People run and walk from the Summit neighborhood everyday, at all hours of the day so really anyone living in the neighborhood or visiting the neighborhood could be affected by this intersection becoming safer overall through some type of traffic change involving the signals.”

Thankfully, Twehues and her neighbors had some expert help in improving the safety of this intersection. Fort Thomas Police Department’s very own, Officer Sean Donelan, was able to provide recommendations for the crosswalk volunteers so they can conduct their duties safely.

Donelan with Kelly Twehues, Cory Ruschman, Christy Pfetzer and Sherry Thompson. The mild November weather brought many kids to the corner of Pentland and Grand, heading back into the Summit subdivision. 

“Officer Donelan showed us a safe way to walk into the crosswalk in front of the children, keeping them on the sidewalk until we are there in the center and all traffic is stopped,” said Twehues. “He also talked to us about how the traffic signals could be altered if  the state of KY found there was a safety reason to do so.”

Office Donelan, who is the FTPD’s designated officer for coordinating, training and managing the city-paid crossing guards throughout the city, is also in charge of addressing concerns regarding crosswalks in Fort Thomas.

“On the day I helped and observed, there were approximately 40 students who crossed at that intersection, after school,” said Officer Donelan. “The pedestrians ranged from young elementary students, up to high school students. These concerns are not new. They have been raised in years past. The data has not supported adding another paid position at this specific intersection.”

Although an additional crosswalk position cannot be added at this time, Officer Donelan’s recommendation for this particular intersection at S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl. is to cross the north side of the intersection to improve visibility for the pedestrian and any approaching motorists.

Officer Donelan has made it his personal priority to make sure residents are up to date on all current laws and safety tips regarding drivers and pedestrians and even addressing the issue on his day off.

A few days before his meeting with Twehues and other parents near S. Grand Ave and Pentland Pl., he came down with a nasty cold but he still attended the meeting citing this as an important issue that he didn’t want to further delay. “I actually used a sick day and was home from work. The issue of training parent volunteers was a priority to us. I applaud so many of these parents taking an active role in making the time to be there. It is one of the unique things about our city, that makes it such a great community,” said Officer Donelan. “Being a resident and parent of a child who walks home from school too, it was important for me to help and not delay the training.”

Some important pedestrian tips from Officer Donelan:

Be Defensive. “Don't assume that even though you have the right of way, that all motorists will yield to you. Be defensive. Teach your kids how to correctly cross, at marked crosswalks. If you think it is too dangerous for your child or they are too young to cross at a particular intersection, then don't let them walk unattended.”

Walk your bike, skateboard, etc, across the crosswalk. “A child or adult on a bike, non-motorized scooter, skateboard etc is not a pedestrian. We ask that you dismount your bike, or other conveyance, and walk across the intersections.”

Cross at a crosswalk. “At school dismissal, we have seen many dangerous pedestrian violations on Highland Avenue in the 300 block, near Madonna and Pentland.  We have also seen an issue at South Fort Thomas Ave and Tremont, in the bend.  There are also issues at North Fort Thomas Avenue in the 1000 and 1100 blocks, near Dixie.  None of which have a crosswalk.”

Make eye contact. "Pedestrians should  make eye-contact with drivers, to ensure that they have been seen."

His tip for drivers is simple — yield! “In addition to it being dangerous to not yield the right of way to a pedestrian, it is illegal,” said Officer Donelan, “The fine for that moving violation is $164.50 and will put 3 points on your driver's license. The points can also affect your insurance rates, with even just one infraction.”

Voted Best Yoga Studio by Best Things Kentucky. 

Newport, Alexandria Men Among Four Sentenced for Conspiring to Distribute Heroin

Four men were sentenced to federal jail time this week for their roles in distributing heroin in the area.

Courtney Webster, 34, of Cincinnati; Jonathan Stanley, 34, of Cincinnati; Keith Johnson, 35, of Alexandria, Kentucky; and Michael Boone, 45, of Newport, Kentucky, were sentenced this week, by United States District Judge David L. Bunning, for conspiring to distribute heroin.

On Tuesday, Webster was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison and Stanley was sentenced to 51 months. Today, Johnson was sentenced to 90 months in federal prison and Boone was sentenced to 90 months.

Call Ashley Barlow for all of your legal needs. 859-781-5777. This is an advertisement. 
Webster was convicted of leading the conspiracy, which included the other defendants and was responsible for distributing over a kilogram of heroin in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, from November 2016 through April 2018. Court documents established that Webster distributed heroin himself, and directed others who were selling heroin that he supplied. They also established that, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement agents conducted over 20 controlled buys of heroin from conspiracy members.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Two Fort Thomas Residents Appointed to Kentucky Boards and Commissions

Gov. Matt Bevin has appointed two from Fort Thomas to sit on statewide Boards and Commissions.

Zachary Smith has been appointed as a member of the Kentucky Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

Zachary Smith is an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney. He will represent at-large members and serve for a term expiring Sept. 6, 2020.

Indoor painting specials going on now! 

The Kentucky Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision guides the transfer of offenders in a manner that promotes effective supervision strategies consistent with public safety, offender accountability, and victim’s rights. All states and US territories are active with this mission.

Paula Ruwe Miller is a pharmacist. She will represent pharmacists experienced in diabetes education and will serve for a term expiring Nov. 3, 2022.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Give Yourself the Gift of a Clean and Organized Home | American Maid of Fort Thomas

As a community resource, we are asked for recommendations for businesses daily.

It's easy to give recommendations of folks who are dependable, do great work and set their rates a reasonable price.

That's why for household cleaning services, we recommend American Maid of Fort Thomas.

Owner, and Fort Thomas resident, Nora Schomaker has been making a name for herself by under-promising and over-delivering.

Her company continues to grow and she is back to accepting new clients.

You can give them a call 859-568-2100 or message them on their Facebook page here.

RELATED: More Than a Cleaning Service (January 2018)

With Christmas right around the corner, American Maid of Fort Thomas decided to adopt two families in need as to give back to their community.

"We went to Facebook and asked our clients,  family and friends to help us out," said Schomaker. "So far, we’ve picked up enormous amounts of donations for both families. Not just Christmas gifts but household items and clothing that will help both families reestablish a home. We’ve had monetary donations as well."

She said they started delivering household items and Christmas decorations, and will continue to accept donations until Friday, 12-21.

Servatti Pastry Shop & Deli Looking at Fort Thomas

Downtown Cincinnati's loss could be Fort Thomas' gain.

Servatii Pastry Shop & Deli in downtown Cincinnati, located at 511 Walnut St. near Fountain Square will close Friday, December 21, according to a sign posted on the door.

The store opened in 2011.

The Walnut Street location is the third downtown that has closed in recent years.

The locally owned Cincinnati restaurant serving deli sandwiches, opened its first location in Hyde Park in 1963.

Servatii has 11 other bakery-deli locations in the Tri-State.

Parking was cited as the main reason for closure of the last downtown location, as most customers utilized that location for large catering orders or pastries.

Now, according to, management is looking at some northern Kentucky locations including Fort Thomas.

In Other Words: A Gift From the Ghost of Christmas Past

“Get in the car,” Dad said. So I put on my winter coat and followed him out the door. “Let’s get a tree, whaddaya say?“

“Okay.”  I was maybe 10 years old.

So off we went to the tree dealer in the lot of the local strip mall a few miles away. It was Christmas Eve, well after dinner, cold, dark, and snowy. As he often did, Dad leaned in on the steering wheel to light a cigarette. We didn’t speak.

The roads had been plowed from a recent snowfall. The streets were quiet. Businesses were closed. It was the quietest I ever recalled seeing my town.

It didn’t enter my head that we didn’t have a Christmas tree and it was Christmas Eve. I also wasn’t aware how much my parents struggled with four kids. Those things weren't part of my child universe. And my parents didn’t tell us those things either. But as the oldest child, I was chosen to help Dad select the tree and bring it home.

We pulled up to the tree lot. The string lights were off. No one was around. But there were still a few trees leaning on the temporary fence. We walked completely around the lot to verify that no one was there. That’s when the police car cruised up.

The officer walked over to Dad and I heard part of the conversation.

“I wanted to get a tree for my family…four little ones…money’s tight…” I recall pieces of what Dad said.

I’m sure the officer studied Dad to see if he was truthful. I remember the officer glancing at me, a scrawny kid waiting in the snow hands buried in coat pockets. And that’s when the miracle happened.

The officer and Dad shook hands. “Merry Christmas,” he said as he got in his cruiser and pulled away.

Dad walked over to the biggest tree left on the lot and said, “Help me with this one.”

We tied it to the roof and made our way home. He leaned into the steering wheel and lit another cigarette. I saw him smile in the red glow of the match light.

We trimmed the tree and decorated it right away. I was amazed at the transformation created by the beauty of those twinkling string lights in our darkened living room. The pine fragrance filled the house. It was fresh and good. All was right. It was really Christmas.

I didn’t realize at the time just how much my parents struggled. Money was always tight but we always had what we needed. We were pretty happy kids. I realize now that we didn’t have much - but we didn’t know that we didn’t have much. Nobody in the neighborhood did. We couldn’t miss what we never had. In retrospect, life seemed pure.

Dad never paid for that tree. The officer told him to take it and have a merry Christmas. We went out to find a tree, but we came home with something else - a gift of kindness.

That was a wonderful Christmas. I don’t remember any of the gifts - except the gift of a tree and a police officer wishing us merry Christmas as he drove away. He was our Santa that year.

The stuff of Christmas is immaterial. The real gifts are the simple things - laughter, togetherness, love. That doesn’t easily fit in a stocking but it can fit into a heart. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Gov. Bevin Calls Special Legislative Session to Address Kentucky's Pension Crisis

Gov. Matt Bevin announced at a press conference today in Frankfort that he is calling a special legislative session this week to address Kentucky's looming public pension crisis.

The press conference, which began before 4:00 p.m. called for legislators to begin their session tonight at 8:00 p.m. and comes four days after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Senate Bill 151, was in violation of the Kentucky Constitution's requirement of three public readings in the Legislative Chambers.

SB 151, known as "the sewer bill" was the pension overhaul bill that passed just as time ran out of the 2018 legislative session.

"Today, I am convening the General Assembly into special session to enact vital legislation that will be a meaningful first step toward shoring up our dying pension system. We stand at the threshold of financial failure. That is not acceptable," said Gov. Bevin.

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He continued: "Kentucky's pension crisis represents the single greatest threat to the long-term financial health of the Commonwealth. Last week's decision by the Supreme Court to strike down SB 151, based solely on process, and with utter disregard for legal precedent and the separation of powers, has only served to create further uncertainty, fear and the likelihood of financial insolvency. Only the General Assembly has the authority and responsibility to pass laws to fix this pension debacle."

Bevin said that credit agencies had already contacted the Commonwealth about the Supreme Court's ruling and noted that inaction could result in further credit downgrades that would cost tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers.

"By not taking action immediately, it will further limit the Commonwealth's ability to pay for essential services, including education and healthcare. I am confident that the General Assembly can, and will, do exactly that," said Bevin.

The announcement of the special session comes as a surprise to legislators. A release to press about the conference was sent at 2:45 p.m., just an hour before the announcement.

Because the session is being called this evening, the session will feature the same legislators that passed the pension bill previously.

Flipdaddy's Files Bankruptcy, Plans to Keep Locations Open for Long Haul

A Cincinnati-based restaurant chain with four local locations, including one at Newport Pavilion, has filed bankruptcy but has plans to keep the four stores open while they reorganize under new management.

Flipdaddy's Brilliant Burgers & Craft Beer Bar, with locations in Newport, Mariemont, Symmes Township and Union filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 6.

According to its filing, the company owes more than $2.3 million to 19 creditors.

Flipdaddy's CEO Tom Sacco signed off on the filing. Sacco, who took over as the new CEO of the company in March, was preceded by founder, Bob Dames. He opened his first location in Mariemont and expanded quickly, opening three restaurants in three years. Fort Thomas Matters reported in 204 that he had eyes on opening a location in Fort Thomas at the Fort Thomas Plaza before deciding on a standalone location at Newport Pavilion.

RELATED: Flipdaddy's Newport Pavilion Sets Opening Date  (April 2015)

Flipdaddy's opened its first location outside of Greater Cincinnati in 2017, in Orange Beach, Alabama, however that store has already closed.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows companies that are unable to service their debts or pay their creditors to remain in control of their business, but under stricter guidelines that courts can oversee.

Most are familiar with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which allows companies close operations to sell its assets in order to pay creditors.

Flipdaddy's Newport proprietor, Jesse Onate, said that the health of the locations were strong and that the reorganization had to take place in order to realign the company under new management.

He said his Newport location is doing well and the company continues to grow.
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According to its bankruptcy filing, some of the debts owed to the 19 creditors, include food and drink suppliers as well as multiple management consulting firms.

Some of the largest are:

Johnson Elementary Student’s Work Chosen for District Holiday Card

Reagan with her winning card to feature the school district's holiday greeting this year.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

A beautiful card featuring decorated trees and the Northern Lights was chosen as the 2018 holiday card design by the Fort Thomas Independent School District.

The artist, Reagan Sand, is a first grader at Johnson Elementary. She was honored at the December school board meeting, and received a FTIS t-shirt and some printed cards.
Barre3 Ft. Thomas. Located in Fort Thomas Plaza. 

Each year the entire school district on all grade levels is invited to contribute a card design.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Fort Thomas Insurance Executive Appointed to Emerging Leader Chair

The Independent Insurance Agents of Kentucky (IIAK), the state’s leading insurance trade association, has appointed Nicholas K. Rolf as its Emerging Leader Chair.  His appointment took place at the association’s 122nd Annual Convention & Trade Show on November 14, 2018 at The Omni Hotel in Louisville, KY. This appointment also affords him a seat on the IIAK Board of Directors.

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Rolf is an agent at Gross Insurance Agency in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He is a 2012 University of Louisville graduate. Rolf has served IIAK in various capacities, most recently as a member of both the Membership Services and Trusted Choice Committees.

In his community, Rolf is the Treasurer of the Fort Thomas Business Association and partner of Beaux Tied, a retail business that sells bow ties, neck ties, belts and bags to raise awareness for Muscular Dystrophy and Epilepsy. He has also served on the board for Operation Smile.

St. Elizabeth Adds a "Game-Changer" in Fighting Cancer Right Here in Fort Thomas

St. Elizabeth Fort  Thomas Increases Advanced Cancer Treatment Options

Kentucky leads the nation in cancer diagnosis.

That's a sobering statistic if you live here and even more so if you hear those words from your care provider.

Now, if you live in northern Kentucky, there's a state-of-the-art tool located at St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas, that is a true game changer in fighting cancer.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare has enhanced its cancer treatment services at St. Elizabeth Cancer Care in Fort Thomas with the addition of the TrueBeamTM Radiotherapy System, the first of its kind in the region.

St. Elizabeth doctors and administrators cut the ribbon on the equipment this week.

John Mitchell with Dr. Pratish Shah and St. Elizabeth doctors and administrators. 

"We've made it our mission at St. Elizabeth to up the ante, to save more lives and to invest in finding a solution for cancer in our community," said John Mitchell, COO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare Fort Thomas & Covington.

"St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas will continue to play a major role in the cancer care continuum right here in Campbell County, allowing patients to stay close to home with receiving treatment. 

Campbell County is eight in the Commonwealth for highest annual cancer diagnosis.

"We want our residents to know that they don't have to travel far for exceptional cancer care," said Mitchell. "St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas has an elite corp of doctors and health professionals and they're working with state-of-the-art, ground-breaking equipment." 

TrueBeam technology, made by Varian Medical Systems, was engineered to deliver powerful cancer treatments with pinpoint accuracy and precision. By integrating imaging and motion management technologies within a sophisticated architecture, it is possible to deliver quicker treatments while monitoring and compensating for tumor motion.

“TrueBeam enables us to treat even the most challenging cases with tremendous speed and precision,” said Dr. Lauren Castellini, Radiation Oncologist at St. Elizabeth. “This system will make it possible for us to offer fast, more targeted treatments for cancers — even those that move when the patient breathes, such as lung, esophageal or breast cancers.”

The TrueBeam system incorporates “intelligent” automation that helps reduce treatment time. In many cases, patients can be in and out of their cancer treatment in as little as 20 minutes per day over a course of care. Simple treatments that once took 15 minutes or more can be completed in less than two minutes once the patient is positioned for treatment.

The TrueBeam system targets tumors with tremendous precision made possible by the system’s sophisticated architecture, which synchronizes imaging, beam shaping and dose delivery. It also performs accuracy checks every ten milliseconds throughout the entire treatment. Critical data points are measured continually as a treatment progresses, ensuring that the system maintains a “true isocenter,” or focal point of treatment.

TrueBeam imaging technology produces three-dimensional images used to fine-tune tumor targeting very quickly, using 25% less X-ray dose when compared with earlier generations of technology.
TrueBeam can be used for radiotherapy treatments including image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and RapidArc® radiotherapy.