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Friday, July 20, 2018

City Council Roundup: St. Elizabeth Report, New School Resource Officer, Zoning Text Change

St. Elizabeth's Fort Thomas Hospital was recently recognized for a high level of nursing care. (Photo: St. Elizabeth Healthcare)

By Robin Gee, Council Beat Editor 

John Mitchell, senior vice president and chief operating officer for St. Elizabeth Hospital’s Fort Thomas location, opened the July Fort Thomas City Council meeting with an end-of-year community report and presentation summarizing some of the hospital’s recent accomplishments as well as some plans for the future.

He shared statistics about St. Elizabeth Healthcare as a whole and about the Fort Thomas location specifically. Here a few highlights:

  • In 2017, the system had 4,500 births, performed more than 34,000 surgeries, had more than 55,000 inpatient admissions, 1.4 million outpatient visits and overall had about 3 million patient encounters.
  • St. Elizabeth is the largest healthcare employer in Northern Kentucky employing more than 8,500. One thousand three hundred employees live in Campbell County, including 220 who are residents of Fort Thomas.
  • The system has an economic impact of more than two billion dollars contributing about 10 percent of the economy of Northern Kentucky.
  • The healthcare system also partners with education institutions and is working with Northern Kentucky University to build a Health Innovations Center and partnering with both NKU and the University of Kentucky to bring a medical school to Northern Kentucky.
  • St. Elizabeth provides no cost sports medicine and athletic training to 22 high schools, three club sports programs and two universities in Northern Kentucky.
  • The system also provides services and partnerships focused on community health issues including smoking cessation, diabetes, cancer and substance abuse disorder, including a new syringe exchange facility.

Mitchell added a sobering statistic — St. Elizabeth has clocked more than 3,200 visits to emergency departments this year for issues related to opioid addiction, representing 1.6 percent of total volume of ER visits, and has spent 3.3 million dollars on addiction-related services, doubling its addiction treatment capacity.

RELATED: Mobile Needle Exchange to Open at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Urgent Care in Newport/Fort Thomas

St. Elizabeth awards and growth plans

Mitchell listed several awards earned by the hospital system this year. The Fort Thomas Hospital location was awarded the 2018 American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With the Guidelines Gold Awards for both Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Failure as well as a 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award from Healthgrades.

The American Nurses Association also named the Fort Thomas location as a Magnet-designated hospital, a recognition for a high level of nursing care.

The hospital foundation recently launched a campaign to raise 120 million dollars for a new comprehensive cancer center on the Edgewood campus. The system also plans to build a multi-specialty clinic and urgent care facility along Highway 27 in Highland Heights.

In recent years, the Fort Thomas Hospital location has added a new medical office building, endoscopy suite, IT equipment and software, and has upgraded the oncology clinic, women’s wellness suite, emergency department and ICU.

With 15 million dollars in improvements planned for the next two years, Fort Thomas Hospital will gut and completely rebuild its operating rooms. Plans are also in place to install a new linear accelerator in cancer care unit.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare Senior Vice President John Mitchell shares news about the system and Fort Thomas Hospital.

"Our overall strategy for Campbell County is we are here to serve as a community hospital. Our focus is on short stays and surgical volume," said Mitchell.

Mayor Eric Haas thanked Mitchell and his colleague Scott Sedmak, director of community relations at St. Elizabeth, for the presentation and said community health and recreation plays an important role in the city’s visioning plans.

"One of our goals is to make Northern Kentucky one of the healthiest communities in the nation, and we are more than happy to partner with communities on walking trails, bike trails, playgrounds, anything that promotes a healthy lifestyle," said Mitchell.

Text change proposal to add self-storage in general commercial zone

About 40 people attended the council meeting to address the impact of a text amendment change to the city’s general commercial zoning ordinance. The change would allow self-storage facilities to be added to permitted uses within the zone and would add a definition of self-storage facilities.

City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden said the amendment was not for a specific facility and would impact all areas zoned for general commercial businesses. She also noted that by law council could not discuss or hear new information about the issue.

Testimony for and against the change was given and recorded at a public hearing held at the Planning and Zoning Committee meeting on June 20. All discussion and supporting documents from that meeting were entered into the record and would be considered by council.

Many who came to the council meeting prepared to speak on the text amendment spoke instead about concerns over city communications strategies and on behalf of realizing visioning plan goals on the south end of town.

Council agreed to form a committee to look at additional ways to advertise upcoming meetings beyond the state required notice in the Campbell County Recorder.

City council heard the first reading of the text amendment and will vote on the matter at its next meeting on August 20.

RELATED: Residents Turn Out for Zoning Change on Storage Facilities

News from safety departments 

Casey Kilgore as the now officially the new Fort Thomas chief of police. Although he has been serving in the position as acting chief since March, city council approved his appointment at the July meeting.

The public is invited to join the city in honoring the service of two recent public safety retirees. Parties will be held in city council chambers from 4 to 6 p.m. The city will thank former Police Chief Mike Daly on July 31 and retiring Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Stuart on August 3.

Chief Kilgore and Fire Chief Mark Bailey both said July 4th festivities went smoothly and praised the community for a safe and fun event.

Kilgore and City Administrator Ron Dill said they were pleased to announce the assignment of a new School Resource Officer. Kilgore said Officer Zac Rohlfer has been assigned and is taking the state SRO class.

School and city officials have been exploring the issue of school safety for quite some time, said Dill. Now, with a fully staffed police department, it was a good time to consider a school resource officer position.

The officer will be assigned for the school calendar year to rotate between all seven Fort Thomas public and parochial schools throughout the work week, he said.

Right now the position is an assignment for the one school year but future plans for the position will depend on this first year. The officer will work other duties outside of the school year and will be available for non-school emergencies as needed at all times.

The goal, said Kilgore, is to not only have a police presence but to add an educational component.

"We would anticipate he will rotate among the seven schools, five independents and the two parochial, but the schedule and how much time he spends at each school will be up to him and each principal…He’s going to be flexible, we’ll be flexible, to make it work and hopefully will reach all the schools on a weekly basis. And down the road if one of our preschools calls and asks 'Can you send the SRO over to teach a class?,' we'd be open to that, too.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Police Department to Deploy Officer in New Role as School Resource Officer

Alexander Circle and city project news

Dill said he was very pleased to note that the city has received historic preservation tax credits of more then $54,000 for the Armory and Mess Hall renovation projects.

He also noted the Alexander Circle project is now in the hands of the developers and construction is expected to begin soon. Developers and city staff have held pre-construction meetings and will be meeting with the safety departments to determine a plan to protect the public during the construction period. Expect an announcement soon about access restrictions and other safety measures in the area.

The first phase of the project will include utility work, replacement of roofs on all buildings, asbestos removal and further development of the first five units. Once construction is complete, access will be opened and the grassy area in the middle of the project will become part of Tower Park. Plans are beginning for walkways, an overlook and other improvements.

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The North Fort Thomas Avenue sidewalk project will begin next spring, Dill said. An engineer for the project has been selected and design for the construction bid is underway. The city had to meet several thresholds to be eligible for grant money to fund the project but is on track.

After learning from the city about issues with water main breaks in the area, the Northern Kentucky Water District announced it will replace the main from Covert Run to the Fort Thomas city limits. This work must be completed before the city sidewalk project can begin. The Water District work is expected to be completed in fall clearing the way for the city to begin its work in early spring 2019.

Dill offered quick updates on other projects:

  • Water main replacement is also underway on Pentland Place. After that, work outlined in the street program will begin. The project is expected to be completed in October.
  • The Moyer Elementary streetscape bids for light posts, crosswalk and other features are out, and the project is expected to be completed prior to the first day of school.
  • The final visioning schedule will be posted on the website soon, said Dill. The city will go through a required Comprehensive Plan update and will schedule a public hearing with the Planning and Zoning committee and a working meeting between the committee and the Planning Commission culminating in a public presentation of the plan.
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