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Monday, March 18, 2019

Fort Thomas Doctor Named Lifetime Health Care Here

The Business Courier will honor Dr. Lawrence Brennan with the 2019 Health Care Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award.

Brennan, who goes by Larry, practices with St. Elizabeth Healthcare and has been a medical oncologist for nearly 40 years.

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He has played a key role in helping build what will be the largest comprehensive cancer center in Greater Cincinnati. Construction of the $140 million center is underway on the Edgewood campus of St. Elizabeth’s flagship hospital.

In addition, Brennan has been chairman since 2012 of the Campbell County Board of Health, which he joined in 1995.

Brennan will be honored at the Health Care Heroes awards dinner 6-9 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, 151 W. Fifth St. downtown. For information or to register for the event, click here.

The Courier also will also present a special Heroes in Action award to UC Health’s trauma and emergency medicine teams at the hospital system's flagship University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The award recognizes the response that the Level I Trauma Center provided following the Sept. 6 shooting in the lobby of the Fifth Third Center on Fountain Square, which left a bank vice president and a contractor for CBRE wounded and resulted in the death of four others.

The Courier recognizes those who have made an impact on health care in our community through concern for patients, research and inventions, management skills, innovative programs for employees as well as services.

The Palliative Care Center that will be located within the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center will bear the names of Brennan and his wife, Karen Enzweiler, who are among major donors to the project.

Brennan was one of the founders of St. Elizabeth Hospice in Edgewood and served as its medical director from 1990 to 2017 while maintaining a full-time practice in oncology.

He became a St. Elizabeth employee in September 2016 after the hospital system acquired OHC Inc.’s medical practice in Northern Kentucky, which included 10 doctors who specialized in medical or radiation oncology and four advanced practice registered nurses. The acquisition was key to St. Elizabeth’s plan to build a destination cancer center.

Brennan joined Linwood-based OHC in 1997, when it was known as Oncology Hematology Care. The Cincinnati-based practice of OHC remains one of the largest physician groups in the region.

He was in private practice from 1983 to 1996 with Riverhills Healthcare Inc. of Cincinnati, during which time he was chairman of the Internal Medicine Department at St. Elizabeth Medical center’s north unit in Covington (1986-88).

Brennan and his wife have lived in Fort Thomas for 35 years, where they raised five children.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Highlands Theatre Department Presents “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

The award-winning Highlands High School Theatre Department will end its  2018-19 season with four performances of the hilarious comedy 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on March 21-24, 2019.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has charmed audiences across the country with its effortless wit and humor. An eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime.

While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of (potentially made-up) words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming "ding" of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter; one speller leaves! At least the losers get a juice box. A riotous ride, complete with audience participation!

If you go:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

2019 Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Honorees Announced

Pictured: Past honorees. 

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Women’s Initiative has announced the 2019 Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky honorees. The awards honor women who exemplify notable achievement, outstanding service in their professions or to the Northern Kentucky community, and the qualities of personal integrity, perseverance and leadership.

"We had so many amazing women nominated this year, doing wonderful work in Northern Kentucky,” said Gina Bath, Vice President of the NKY Chamber Women’s Initiative. "The group of women being recognized as this year's Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Honorees are truly exemplary, and we're thrilled to be able to share their stories."

2019 Honorees Include:

Outstanding Women Honorees:
Geralyn Isler – Business Benefits Insurance Solutions
Barbara Stewart – Northern Kentucky Area Development District
Jessica Taylor – Northern Kentucky University
Caroline Weltzer – Viox & Viox, Inc.

2019 Emerging Leader:
Holly Mazzocca – Bartlett Wealth Management

2019 Helen Carroll Champion of Education:
Laura Koehl – Notre Dame Academy

2019 Henrietta Cleveland Inspiring Women:
Presented by St. Elizabeth Healthcare
Eva G. Farris – Philanthropist

2019 Nancy Janes Boothe Scholarship Recipients:
Rebecca Wolfe, Gateway Community and Technical College
Emily Lowe, Northern Kentucky University
Patti Watters, Thomas More University

“We are honored to be able to recognize such incredible women in our community each year,” said Julie Tapke Dusing, Chair of the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Awards. “Their hard work and selfless attitudes make the entire Northern Kentucky community better, and this is just a small way to say thank you.”

The awards will be presented at the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Awards Luncheon, sponsored by St. Elizabeth Healthcare on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at the St. Elizabeth Training and Education Center (3861 Olympic Blvd., Erlanger, KY).

Tickets to the event are $40 and available online at

Beloved Fort Thomas Man Dies in Tragic Accident While Working in Covington

A Fort Thomas man died while working in Covington on Wednesday.

Charles Buckler, 46, was in a cherry picker completing some tuck pointing work when he was electrocuted after coming into contact with a high voltage transmission line, according to Covington Police. The fatal accident happened in the 600 block of Altamont Road. He is believed to have died instantly.

Covington Fire Department responded at around 1:40 p.m. and contacted Duke Energy to assist on the scene.

Buckler has deep roots in Fort Thomas. With a wife and five children, a GoFundMe fundraiser has been established to help with unexpected expenses.

RELATED: New Candy Store Opening in Fort Thomas 

He and his wife, Michelle, had previously owned The Candy Cottage in Fort Thomas from 2010 to 2012, located at 3 N. Fort Thomas Avenue.

Fort Thomas Recreation Department Creates "Fit in the Fort"

The Fort Thomas Recreation Department has a new opportunity available that allows people to try new fitness classes that are associated with Fort Thomas.

Kat Disney, who is the Program Coordinator for the Fort Thomas Recreation Department said that she's excited to unveil the program that she and her staff have been working on for a number of months.

"We have partnered with area businesses to create an amazing program," she said. "This is a great opportunity/excuse to try things you've wanted to try and step out of your comfort zone." 

The program, which has a cost of $50, gives you access to a number of area businesses like St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas, Barre3 Fort Thomas, Mint Yoga Studio, VIBE Dance Fitness, the Campbell County YMCA and more.

Participants weigh-in on April 27 and for the next six weeks while attending classes and clinics of participating businesses, you then weigh-out on June 8 to check your progress with prizes going to winners in different categories.

Prize categories include, "most miles walked", "most classes attended", "most weight lost", "biggest BMI change", "most muscle gained", and "most social media check-ins".

"Fit In The Fort is a six week opportunity to visit gyms, studios, and classes you've been wanting to try for one low price. Participants are able to monitor their weight, body fat composition, diet and physical activity levels, so whether you're already an active gym member or just starting out on your health and wellness journey, this program is for you," said Disney.

"From CrossFit to Yoga, Pickleball Clinic to Slow Bike Rides, you'll find something that fits you and your lifestyle."

Disney said that weigh-in and weigh-out will be private and that participants will receive a "Fit In The Fort" packet at weigh-in.

The packet will include all of the class descriptions, a schedule for each business, a goal sheet, and your tickets to the classes. and a break down of how to read your weigh in results. Each participant will receive a t-shirt on June 8.

2019 Highlands Softball Preview

Bluebirds Seek Next Step Back to State Tournament

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands freshman shortstop Anna Greenwell returns for her third season on varsity.
For three straight years between 2014 and 2016, the Highlands Bluebirds softball team found itself in the 9th Region championship game winning it twice before going 1-2 in the double-elimination state tournament.

Following a down year in 2017, Highlands drove back to the region championship last year. But the Bluebirds managed just two hits off Hannah Bishop in a 4-0 defeat to the Ryle Lady Raiders. Ryle wound up going 0-for-2 in the state tournament.

Highlands graduated nine seniors from that team including three starters in Josie Daley, Liz Mairose and Brooke Dill. Rebecca Breen, Maleah Abner, Alyssa Dixon, Ella Griewe, Ella Grimm and Baylie Ormes also graduated and two-year freshman starting third baseman Addie Mack transferred to Notre Dame.

But seventh-year Head Coach Rob Coffey welcomes back a lot of experience and young talent from the 20-11 36th District championship squad. The hope is to make it back to that game and advance back to the state tournament, which will go to a single-elimination format this spring. Coffey had a vision for not just catching Ryle but the best in the Commonwealth of Kentucky when he took the job in the fall of 2012.

"We are elated on where we are," Coffey said. "We feel we have a system now that we feel it's the next person. We're preparing them ahead of time if somebody goes down, we lose somebody or somebody graduates, we are back filling that spot seamlessly anymore. That's a great feeling. The other thing it does is it challenges our girls every day in practice. It's really nice to have."

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

OMEGA Processing Continues to Partner with Community

Each year OMEGA sponsors numerous youth sports leagues, such as the Outlaws baseball team and the Breds basketball team. They also donate to multiple collegiate teams and organizations. They’re a part of local chambers and give and participate in golf outings, parish festivals, and other local charities.

OMEGA is proud to once again be one of the Ethics Ally donors for the BBB Center for Ethics. This year all of the donations helped the center teach 3,788 youth, a 59% increase from last year. The Center is reaching more youth every year and can finally start to create a more ethical workforce for our business community! This year they taught at Cincinnati Public Schools, all Great Oaks schools, City of Cincinnati Youth 2 Work program, University of Cincinnati, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati & Urban League.

This past December OMEGA employees helped pack over 1,000 power packs for kids in the Greater Cincinnati area. Power packs are small bags of food that are sent home with kids on Friday who may not know where their next meal is coming from until Monday morning at school. OMEGA is proud to have the Freestore Foodbank as one of their merchants, they do amazing things for people in the Greater Cincinnati area.

If you're a business owner or manager looking to partner with a community partner that is top of the line and good at their job call Omega at 866-888-9724.

Testimonial: "OMEGA Processing's quick response and focus on service and cost effectiveness is outstanding. I would recommend OMEGA to any of my colleagues with a dental or medical practice."

John Strief, D.D.S.

David Dooley Found Guilty, Motive Explained

Attorney General Andy Beshear and his Office of Special Prosecutions today announced that a Northern Kentucky man has again been found guilty of the May 29, 2012, murder of Michelle Mockbee.

The Boone County jury returned its verdicts of guilty on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence on March 13, against David Wayne Dooley, 45, of Burlington.

Dooley’s retrial, prosecuted by Beshear’s office and investigated by the Boone County Sheriff's Office, began on Feb.18, 2019, and was submitted to the jury on March 12, 2019. The jury deliberated for more than six hours before returning its guilty verdicts.

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Throughout the retrial, Beshear’s office maintained that Dooley murdered Mockbee after she discovered he had been falsifying time cards and stealing from Thermo Fisher Scientific in Boone County, where Dooley worked as a janitor, and where Ms. Mockbee was the office manager in charge of payroll.

The Commonwealth believes Ms. Mockbee may have surprised Dooley as he was breaking into her office on the morning she was murdered.

Dooley was first convicted of Ms. Mockbee’s murder in 2014. However, in 2016, it was discovered that a video of an unknown man walking around the warehouse less than 12 hours before Ms. Mockbee was murdered and the complete personnel file of one of the lead detectives had not been provided in discovery by the original prosecutor.

Attorney General Beshear’s office brought this to the attention of the trial judge, and after an approximately weeklong hearing, the trial court ruled that the conviction was to be vacated and the case set for retrial.

District Court Judge Urges City to Adopt Uniform Landlord-Tenant Act

Campbell County District Court Judge Cameron Blau addresses Fort Thomas City Council to urge adoption of uniform landlord-tenant law.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Campbell County District Court Judge Cameron Blau has expressed concern that the city of Fort Thomas is the only municipality in the county that has not adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (URLTA). Kentucky statutes allow the provisions of the URLTA to be adopted by individual communities, and several communities in Kentucky have done so although there have been efforts to make the act statewide.

He addressed city council at its last meeting to outline the act’s usefulness as a tool that protects both landlords and tenants when a lease is not in effect or if a lease doesn’t cover certain areas of concern. It is fair, he said, because it lays out clear protections and procedures for all.

Blau said he would like to introduce the act to cover unincorporated portions of Campbell County as well. It just makes sense, he said, to have everyone on the same page.

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Seeking clarity for all

"Uniformity in our community, uniformity throughout our state, is important. It makes it more efficient. It makes it nice for tenants who know what their rights are going into each community, and it’s fantastic for our landlords who usually don’t own property in just one city," he said.

He explained why the act is a good thing for all involved. "First and foremost, it outlines the tenant’s responsibilities...This spells out very clearly what the tenants obligations are to that property. And in the same vein it also spells out very clearly what the landlord’s responsibilities are...They have to comply with local ordinances about habitability, but the real important part is they must provide a nice, clean, safe environment," he said.

"That’s what Fort Thomas stands for and that’s what a landlord should stand for. Because when you have a clean, safe environment for a child to go home to, they are more productive. They are more likely to learn in your school system, and that’s why people want to come to Fort Thomas. Everyone knows it’s one of the number areas for education.

Judge Blau's concerns

Blau presides over eviction and related cases in Campbell County, and says he’s seen first-hand the burden this lack of uniformity can bring.

"It causes a burden on the court system, it causes a burden on the landlords, and it causes a burden on the tenants because they don’t know what they are walking into...It would nice to be able to give that uniformity to those defending themselves in an eviction proceeding, those moving forward with it, those that have legal representation, that they know what they are dealing with...[The act] is spelled out very plainly and very clearly on its face."

He went on to list the types of situations covered in the act that would be addressed if there was no contract or lease. He said the law covers how security deposits are handled, one of the main issues that come to his court. The act outlines how the money is taken in, where it is kept, the requirement of tick lists for moving in and out, and rules about how and when a security deposit is returned.

The law also makes clear that landlords have access to their property and outlines what constitutes proper notice. Without clearly outlining this in a lease, some landlords have had to obtain a court order to gain access to view their property and address issues of concern, he said. The act also clearly lists tenants obligations, landlord’s responsibilities and protects against retaliation.

Addressing the number one issue

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Highlands Spanish Student Earns Spot in US Cultural Exchange Program

Highlands Spanish teacher with her student Hailey Moore preparing for the exchange trip to Chile.

Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Highlands High School Junior Hailey Moore will travel to Chile this summer for a three-week language immersion program known as Youth Ambassadors. The program, offered through the US Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, selects 120 students each year to travel to six countries in the Caribbean and South America for a fully funded opportunity.

The Youth Ambassadors Program is a leadership development foreign exchange program designed as a learning experience for US high school students and to promote cultural awareness and understanding.

Moore took AP Spanish last year, and this year she is in the AP Spanish Literature class, the highest level of Spanish offered at Highlands. Her Spanish teacher Emily Haffey had been looking for opportunities for Moore to continue with Spanish studies when she learned about the Bureau of Education program.

"With Hailey being a junior and already in the AP Spanish Literature class this year, I wanted to send her out of the country to use the Spanish that she’s learned. So, I saw this opportunity and knew she was interested in doing something over the summer to boost her resume a little bit. So, I sent it to her, she applied and she won," Haffey explained.

Leadership and service learning are part of the program

Eighteen students from across the country, along with two adult mentors, were selected for the Argentina and Chile program. Half the students will stay with host families in Chile and half will stay with families in Argentina.

"While we are there, we will be staying with a host family for about 8 or 9 days and in that time we will be speaking at public schools, private schools, working with nonprofit organizations and volunteering and speaking at businesses and participating in different leadership workshops, things to immerse ourselves in the culture there," Moore said.

The trip starts in Florida in June where students will attend an orientation along with another group who will be traveling to Brazil. From there they will go to Santiago, Chile, for in-country orientation and a time to bond with their fellow participants. The students will then travel to their host families and communities and will reconvene in Argentina to present on what they learned.

A requirement of the program is for students to perform a service learning project upon returning. This part of the program fit right into Moore’s interests in promoting Spanish language and culture in Fort Thomas schools. 

Sharing the experience with younger students

The fact that Johnson Elementary School students will be on the Highlands campus next fall offered her a unique opportunity to plan a project that will benefit younger students as well as her classmates and community.

Fort Thomas elementary school students participate in one Spanish language class per week, but she wanted to expose the younger students to more.

"Growing up I went to a bilingual school [in California], and I lived in a very diverse community. It taught me a lot about how to interact with people...Moving here at the beginning of my sophomore year, I noticed there really wasn’t that much so I wanted a service learning project to try and bring more Spanish and more culture to the younger kids so they could have the opportunities learning Spanish that I did," said Moore.

Haffey, who is chair of Highlands’ World Language Department, is working with Johnson’s Spanish teacher to plan the project with Moore.

In addition to one Spanish language class per week in elementary school, Fort Thomas students have the opportunity to take an exploratory Spanish class in sixth grade for one quarter and they take an exploratory German class for a quarter in seventh grade. Starting in eighth grade, students have the option of starting either Spanish or German but most start in their freshman year, said Haffey.

Moore said she plans to go to law school and become a lawyer either in the area of immigration or criminal justice, and plans to either minor or major in Spanish.

There is a Gem Tucked Away in the Geographic Center of Fort Thomas Will Open to the Public

Interior of the studio

There is a gem tucked away in the geographic center of Fort Thomas - the Harlan Hubbard Studio and Nature Preserve - and now you will be able to experience it with the addition of monthly Studio Hours. 

The studio and preserve, located on private property at 129 Highland Avenue, will be open to the public on the third Saturday of each month between 10:00 and 1:00. The first event is Saturday, March 16. 

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Here’s what you can expect. There could be an organized program that will be announced on the Facebook pages for Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy as well as the Harlan Hubbard Studio and Preserve, and at  But you will always be able to explore nature on your own through painting, music, writing, science, or any other medium. Bring a sketch pad, an instrument, a camera, a yoga mat or whatever your creative medium is and enjoy the time.

File. Artist easel at studio
But first, a little history. Harlan Hubbard is considered the “Thoreau of Kentucky” because he practiced a simple and deliberate life attuned to the rhythms of the natural world. Even though he shunned many modern conveniences, he and his wife lived a sophisticated and beautiful life tucked away from the demands of cities. He began this part of his  life’s journey when he built the studio from reclaimed materials from condemned warehouses salvaged along Covington’s riverfront. It was here that he solidified his guiding philosophy as well as honed his artistic talents. Hubbard argued in favor of conservation and sustainability and, in retrospect, was far ahead his time. In addition, his paintings are prized. He is in the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame and has been recognized by a past governor for his lifetime achievements. He is often cited as a major influence by artists, writers, and supporters of conservation. 

The studio is not a museum; it is, rather, an environmental experience center that offers an opportunity for people to gather to discuss or reflect on our role in the world and what we can do to make it better. It’s an enjoyable place to visit.  

The Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy oversees the Studio and Preserve and is opening it to the public as part of their ten-year anniversary series of celebrations. The Conservancy was founded in the studio. 

Sidney Thomas, property owner and FTFC member, says, “The studio provides a quiet and magical environment in which you can enjoy the tranquility of simplicity while you enjoy your passion.  Whether you wish to read, create art, relax, think, write, lounge, explore or if you are just curious you will want to participate in Studio Hours.  This is your opportunity to take a break from what is probably a busy life and travel back in time to a place when finishing your favorite book was your top wish.”

There are no restrooms. The land has not been developed since Hubbard’s mother bought the property in the 1920s. Respect the property as reverently as Harlan and Anna Hubbard did. Feel free to bring a canvas to paint, a camera to snap photos, an instrument to create music, an idea to write, mediate, practice yoga, or bring a chair to contemplate the simplicity of the Hubbard’s life or the beauty of our surrounding natural world.  

Check the "Events" section of for details as well as the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy or the Harlan Hubbard Studio and Preserve Facebook pages.  

One artist's interpretation of the studio

Monday, March 11, 2019

Democratic Primary Candidate Forum Scheduled this Month


Tuesday, March 26, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Campbell County Extension Services
3500 Alexandria Pike, Highland Heights KY 41076
Near the Alexandria Pike/US 27 entrance to NKU

All Democratic candidates for state constitutional offices vying for the nomination in the May 21 primary have been invited to participate in this Meet & Greet & Forum.

Informal networking begins at 6:30 pm. Each candidate will have an opportunity to speak for several minutes in the forum beginning at 7 pm., introducing their candidacy and key platform points.

Event sponsors are Campbell County Democrats' neighborhood groups, the NKY Chapter of The Women’s Network, and Northern Kentucky Education Association Retirees. Highland Heights councilwoman Rene Heinrich will emcee.

Confirmed candidates to date include:
Attorney General – Greg Stumbo
Secretary of State – Jason Griffith; Heather French Henry; Geoff Sebesta
Auditor of Public Accounts – Kelsey Hayes Coots; Sheri Donahue; Chris Tobe
State Treasurer – Michael Bowman; Josh Mers
Commissioner of Agriculture – Robert Haley Conway; Joe Trigg

Sen. Wil Schroder's Legislative Update

By Wil Schroder 

The pace of activity inside the Capitol is picking up as we rapidly approach the end of the 153rd Regular Session. With only a few days left to pass bills, the Kentucky General Assembly has been working in overdrive to develop the best legislative policy for the commonwealth.

Many big issues have been addressed in this 30-day short session. This was one of our busiest weeks yet, as bills concerning abortion, medical marijuana, and education had Frankfort buzzing with visitors who attended rallies and committee meetings.

Policy relating to the use of e-cigarettes or “vaping” was also addressed. Senate Bill 218 would establish an anonymous system for students to report vaping and would encourage school boards to inform teachers and students of the dangers of e-cigarette use and nicotine addiction.

The major legislative priority, tax reform, was addressed this week, as the Senate took up the tax overhaul bill, House Bill 354. Amended by a Senate committee substitute, HB 354 would exempt nonprofits from collecting and remitting sales tax on admissions to charity events in addition to making it clear in statute that one-time fundraising events are not subject to the sales tax. HB 354 is now before a free conference committee, a joint committee of senators and representatives directed to reach agreement on legislation of which the two chambers are unable to agree.

The first bills of the session were signed into law by Governor Bevin during the sixth week of session. They include Senate Bill 77, a measure that would allow people to join Kentucky’s organ donor registry via a single sign-on system, and Senate Bill 4, legislation that would require mandatory electronic filing of all candidates’ campaign finance reports.

House Bill 311, legislation that I carried in the Senate, is awaiting Governor Bevin’s signature. HB 311 relates to cultured animal tissue and consumer protection. In the very near future, commercial technology will be available to grow “meat products” in a laboratory rather than on a farm.  HB 311 provides statutory protection by ensuring any product containing cultured animal tissue will be clearly labeled so you will know what you’re purchasing at the grocery store.

Legislation to criminalize a type of online harassment passed the Senate this week. Senate Bill 240, a measure related to “anti-doxing,” would make it a crime for a person to use online communications to release identifying information of a minor with the intent to intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass, or frighten. The information would include first and last names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses, school locations, email addresses, or telephone numbers.

Such actions would be a misdemeanor but could be enhanced to a felony if physical harm, monetary loss, or death resulted in the online communications.

This legislation was introduced in light of the recent online harassment of Covington Catholic student, Nick Sandman, following a viral video of him with a Native American protester in Washington D.C.

We obviously can’t undo the harm that was done to Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann and his family, but hopefully, with the passage of Senate Bill 240, we can discourage this type of event from happening to others.

SB 240 now goes to the House for its consideration.

Spare Time Grill Neon Sign Catches Fire, Repairs Being Made

The iconic neon sign at Ingram's Spare Time Grill caught fire this weekend, causing the restaurant to temporarily close.

According to reports, a passerby saw the sign was on fire and alerted responders, who were able to contain the fire. There was minimal damage, but the restaurant will be closed while repairs are made.

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The restaurant updated fans on its Facebook page:

"Due to a small electrical fire, we will have to be closed until repairs can be made. We will keep you all updated, and are praying we will be open, serving our customers by the end of the week!"

In September, the owners of Sparetime's Belly & Soul announced that they were closing their wildly popular diner. It didn't stay closed long as Lisa Kremer and her family stepped in as new owners of the restaurant, now called Ingram's Sparetime.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Crash Leaves Car Mangled on Alexandria Pike in Southgate

A bad car crash occurred in Southgate on US 27 when the vehicle smashed into a utility pole around 3:00 p.m. Friday afternoon.

A man was driving the vehicle and first responders could be seen taking the man away on a gurney.

It's not yet clear if he survived or how serious the injuries may have been.

Witnesses on the scene said a power line was downed across the vehicle.

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"I saw a car and power lines coming towards my car so we drove across the street into the car wash (2404 Alexandria Pike). The car was almost completed destroyed," said Jacob Loudermilk.

As of 5:00 p.m., US-27 was closed near the intersection of Highland Avenue near the Fort Thomas city limits.

Fort Thomas Matters has reached out to Southgate Police Department to confirm details about this crash.

This story may be updated.

"Creepy," New Scam Shocks Fort Thomas Police with Brazen Scheme

Fort Thomas Police Officer Rich Whitford has seen his share of scams over his long tenure in law enforcement, but the latest iteration of a phone scam had him shocked.

"They have taken it to the next level. I've never heard or seen anything like it," said Whitford. "It's scary the lengths to which these criminals are going to try and scam people out of their money." 

Whitford said that a Fort Thomas resident received a call from an out of state area code. The person on the other line said that he owed $618 for utilizing an urgent care facility and that the debt had to be paid immediately.

"I thought it was a odd but not entirely impossible," said the resident who did not wish to be named. "My college-aged kids co-op throughout the country and utilize urgent care frequently. I couldn't believe how much information they had, you'd think it was true."

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The caller had very personal information about the resident: his name, address, phone number and social security number, which made his story seem plausible. He even had his wife's name, her phone number and other family contact information.

RELATED: Fort Thomas residents targeted by internet scam artists 

Whitford said these types of phishing phone scams aren't unique. In fact folks in Fort Thomas have been the victims of crimes like this. What happened next is what raised Whitford's eyebrows.

"Once that initial call came in, we googled the number and it looked to be a scam. They said they were going to show up in person to collect, but we were pretty sure they weren't going to show up," said the resident. "We ignored it and didn't think much about it until we got a call the next day. This person called my wife and said that they were heading to my front door to collect their money." 

That's when they got a notification on their phones that someone was indeed at their door, ringing the doorbell.

"We have a 17-year old at the house alone, so we were obviously very alarmed," said the resident.

"The fact that this potentially could escalate from a phone-fraud scam to actually having someone potentially coordinating with helping to commit this crime in person is very alarming and something we want our residents to be aware of," said Whitford.

The resident immediately called police who were able to check on the teenager. By the time they got there, there was no one in sight.

After freezing all of their credit cards, they spent time with police detailing the story.

"This is new to the area and now that we know, we'll continue to investigate this," said Whitford.

"It's creepy," said the resident. "They were so aggressive. They had so much information and bullied us to the point that we felt like we had to pay this money."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Fort Thomas Officer Honored for Heroic Lifesaving Action

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

One Friday afternoon back in October, the Fort Thomas Police Department dispatch received a panicked call from a woman driving on I-471 who was trying to prevent her distraught passenger from jumping out of her car.

She had managed to pull over to the shoulder of the highway and was trying to restrain the man when Fort Thomas Police Officer Brandon Laffin pulled up. The officer saw the man break free from the woman’s grasp, and made a quick decision to physically prevent the man from running into traffic. Officer Laffin put himself in danger in oncoming traffic to keep the man from an act that very likely would have ended his life.

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Officer Laffin was honored at the February meeting of the Fort Thomas city council with the Fort Thomas Police Lifesaving Award. A plaque presented by Chief Casey Kilgore, read in part "On behalf of the city of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, we thank you for your heroic and selfless actions on October 25, 2018. Your swift decision and willingness to put yourself in harm’s way undoubtedly saved a life."

Officer Brandon Laffin receives a commendation and the Fort Thomas Police Lifesaving Award from Chief Casey Kilgore.
Chief Kilgore also read a commendation outlining what happened on the afternoon of the incident and gave the officer a medal to wear on his uniform. Family and friends came out to support Laffin, and the entire body gave him a standing ovation.

Said Kilgore, "I want to add that we have a very dedicated group of police officers and firefighters. These men and women know the risks they take every day. They come to work and go out with a tremendous amount of professionalism and courage. We are very lucky to have them."

Here's the status on the "Scholarship Tax Credit" bill

The 2019 Kentucky General Assembly has five days left until adjournment of their short session to complete the business of the Commonwealth this year and with each passing day the chances are becoming slimmer for any bill to get fast-tracked.

One of the more contentious bills is still held up in committee, but it is not for a lack of discussion.

Kentucky House Bill 205, known as the "Scholarship Tax Credit bill", would create a private school scholarship tax credit program in Kentucky.

All 17 NKY Superintendents pose for a picture after a press conference Monday. They, along with all 173 superintendents across the state, oppose HB 205. 

Under the program, dollar-for-dollar tax breaks would be used as an incentive for individuals and organizations to donate to private school scholarship programs. Kentuckians could receive $25 million in credits available each year on a first-come, first-served basis.

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The bill has been read twice in the House Appropriations and Revenue committee, but the committee did not take a vote on the bill. Doing that and passing it from that committee, would ensure the bill could advance as a stand-alone bill. The bill's sponsor, Bam Carney (R-Campbellsville) said he prefers that route. He told reporters he wants the bill to "stand on its own merits."

HB 205 is not on the legislative agenda for Thursday, March 7.

Last year, the passage of pension reform was tucked inside of another bill, known as the sewer bill, in the final days of the legislative session, leaving some constituents on edge that this bill could be delivered in a similar manner.

Sponsors of the HB 205 are Carney, Chad McCoy (R-Nelson), Adam Koenig (R-Boone/Kenton), Sal Santoro (R-Boone), Jerry T. Miller (R-Jefferson, Oldham), David Osborne (R-Oldham), Walker Thomas (R-Christian, Trigg), Kevin Bratcher (R-Jefferson) Richard Heath (R-Graves, McCracken).

Carney said he believes the legislation requires 60 votes in the House, not just a simple majority. He told reporters he didn't have enough votes to feel confident moving the bill forward yet.

"It will be difficult to get to that mark," he said.

Currently the House Republicans hold 61 seats to the House Democrats' 39.

Members of the House A&R Committee consists of 14 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

The members of that committee are: Steven Rudy, Chair, (R), Phillip Pratt, Vice Chair (R), Lynn Bechler (R), Danny Bentley - (R), Myron Dossett - (R), Joseph M. Fischer - (R), Kelly Flood - (D), Jim Glenn - (D), David Hale - (R), Mark Hart - (R), Angie Hatton - (D), Dennis Keene - (D), Russ A. Meyer - (D), Jason Nemes - (R), Ruth Ann Palumbo - (D), Melinda Gibbons Prunty - (R), Brandon Reed - (R), Steve Riley - (D), Sal Santoro - (R), John Sims Jr - (D), Jim Stewart III - (R), Wilson Stone - (D), James Tipton - (R), Susan Westrom - (D).

The Legislative Research Commission has estimated the program could cost the state up to $50 million by its fourth year of implementation, but proponents of the bill tout the office of the state budget director's analysis, which states the bill would actually save the state money in the long run.

The bills' opponents dismissed that rationale, stating that fixed costs are not factored into that assessment. All 173 district superintendents, have voiced opposition to the bill, which they say would drain money from the state's revenues and ultimately hurt public schools.

Supporters argue that HB 205 gives more Kentucky families the ability to choose schools that best fit their children's needs.

On Monday, March 4, all 17 northern Kentucky superintendents held a press conference stating their opposition to the bill at the  Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services headquarters in Cold Spring.

RELATED: All NKY Superintendents Speak Out on Scholarship Tax Bill 

In Fort Thomas, Fort Thomas Independent Schools anticipates at least a $128,000 reduction in their funding the first year, with that increasing each year.

Fort Thomas Matters has reached out to Rep. Joe Fischer and Sen. Wil Schroder who represent Fort Thomas, but as of time of publication has not heard back. 

Fischer sits on the House A&R committee, where the bill currently rests.

The Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, has identified HB 205 as the group's "top education priority" this legislative session.

Gov. Matt Bevin has come out in support of HB 205 and said he would sign the legislation in a "heartbeat" if it makes its way to his desk.

HB 205, Bill History:

Alessandro Twins Inducted into NKY Hall of Fame

Alessandro Twins Still Hold School Records at Highlands, NKU

Contributed Photo. Twins Brian and Kevin Alessandro, 1998 Highlands graduates, were recently inducted into the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.
If you've known them for a while, you'll know how much they've enjoyed running throughout the years.

Twin 39-year-old brothers Brian and Kevin Alessandro, 1998 Highlands graduates, were recently inducted into the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame at Villa Hills Civic Club. The two ran those sports and even played soccer during their days at Highlands before running at Northern Kentucky University. Brian Alessandro now coaches cross country and girls track at Highlands.

"I was surprised and happy about that," Brian Alessandro said. "In my opinion, you play sports to enjoy it then you never expect to be recognized outside of that years later. In my case, I'm still in it (coaching). I just think it's interesting that a sport that's usually a punishment for other sports identifies my brother and I in our athletic careers. For instance, if you miss a practice, you run a mile."

The two helped set the two-mile relay record at Highlands in 1998. The time of eight minutes, three seconds is still the second-fastest time in Class AA.They ran the two-mile relay, the one-mile relay and 800-meter run during their track and field days at Highlands.

"It's nice to know that somebody thought enough about what we've done both athletically and through coaching to do that," Kevin Alessandro said. "That's nice. I wasn't expecting it."

Kevin Alessandro lives in Louisville with his wife Jen and their kids Leo, 5, and Mia, 3. Kevin Alessandro met his wife Jen while running at NKU. Jen ran for Bellarmine University. Before working at Total Quality Logistics, Kevin Alessandro founded the cross country and track programs at Division III Spalding University in Louisville.

"Most of my friend I acquired through running or coaching," Brian Alessandro said. "Guys I coached at Highlands are also at Northern. I used to run with them. Our kids hang out. It's gratifying."

The two also have records in indoor track at NKU. Brian Alessandro owns the 600-meter record in 1:28.67. Kevin Alessandro owns the 800 record in 1:56.53.

In the last seven seasons, the Highlands girls cross country teams have won five Class AA state championships. That included four straight from 2012 to 2015. The two ran cross country meets in the morning at Highlands then played soccer games in the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough for Bellevue Cancer Survivor

Patrick Shryock, an employee of DHL, prepares to trek to Mount Everest base camp in April. (photo: P. L. Rogers)   
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

About four years ago Patrick Shryock’s family thought they were saying goodbye to him. They sat at his bedside where he’d been in a medically induced coma for 12 days. He had picked up a life-threatening infection while being treated for acute myeloid leukemia, and things looked bleak.

Fortunately, doctors found a way to stop the infection and to treat his cancer, but Shryock faced another huge challenge. The diagnosis had been a shock and the treatment was rough, but it was the struggle to recover his strength and stamina afterward that daunted him. You could say he had a mountain to climb to get back to his life.

"One of my physical therapy appointments, I was just sitting on a chair and was supposed to stand using a walker. I could barely do it. I was happy to be alive, but reality set in that I was so dependent on my wife and the nurses. It was not a pleasant feeling. I had just turned 37."

Yet, today he is preparing to climb another mountain, and this time he is eager for the challenge. He will join 13 other people from around the world to make the trek to the Mount Everest base camp this spring.

A mountain to climb

DHL Express, his employer, is an international courier and mail service. Many people recognize the company by its yellow trucks – and it’s use of the popular song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in its commercial campaigns. The company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and staff decided to mark the occasion in a big way by gathering a special group of employees to climb Mount Everest.

Organizers at the company invited employees who would like to make the trek to share their own ain’t-no-mountain-high-enough moments — significant challenges they had overcome in their lives. Of the more than 100,000 DHL workers in 220 countries, 1,700 sent in personal essays about their achievements. The group was narrowed to 900, then 24 and finally to 14 applicants who would go on the trek.

Participants are raising money through the event to support the work of Direct Relief, a nonprofit, nondenominational emergency preparedness and response organization that operates in 90 countries and in every state. The organization recently helped bring medical supplies and aid to victims of hurricanes in the Gulf and care kits to first responders battling the Camp Fire in California.

After his initial recovery, Shryock began working to rebuild his strength and his health, and to challenge himself to do things he never thought he could do. "It was a traumatic experience to be so close to death. I got a second opportunity at life, and I wanted to see the world...I took on the job of physically challenging myself. I pushed myself to work hard, do my physical therapy, get back to myself," he said.

Challenging himself

"It was my own personal Mount Everest to learn to walk again. I would walk farther each day, then started jogging and then light running. I ran my first 5K a year after leaving the hospital."

Since that time he has participated in several 5K and 10K events to raise money for cancer research and other causes. He has been involved with the American Cancer Society Rely for Life in Campbell County, a Walk for Life event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the CancerFree KIDS Toyota 10K last year.

He says he’s had wonderful support along the way. "My brother started running and working out. That inspired me, motivated me and maybe gave me a little sibling rivalry. We’ve done two tough mudders together."

When he first heard of the Mount Everest trek through DHL, he said he ignored it. "I thought that was something more for professionals to attempt only. But I got the info and the challenge seemed like it might be within the scope of what I can do, within the realm of possibility."

He had encouragement from another survivor, Charlie Fry, who owns Fry’s ATA Taekwondo USA Center in Newport. Shryock practices kickboxing at Fry’s center. "He’s a great motivator and pushes me when I need it."

 The trek to base camp

His team members come from all over the world including North and South America, China, Australia, UAE, Bahrain, UK, Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, South Africa, Nigeria and other places. They have been meeting online to share stories and discuss the trip.

The group will arrive in Kathmandu in Nepal on April 2. From there they will fly to the little village of Lukla in the Himalayas before beginning their hike to the base camp. The camp stands 5,300 meters, about 17,400 feet, above sea level. Altitude sickness is a major concern. It will take the hikers 12 days to reach the camp, because they will stop to rest and get used to the elevation.

"We will spend two days hiking, four or five hours a day, then we will rest for a day to acclimate...It’s essential," explained Shryock.

Once at the camp, he plans to take a lot of pictures including some wearing a tshirt from Fry’s martial arts school, another tshirt with his friend’s brewery logo on it and a large group shot with everyone decked out in Direct Relief gear.

"It’ll be a fun time taking pictures and celebrating. Direct Relief is such a great charity. And the community support means a lot to me. For me, it’s a new approach to life, to go out and experience life when I was so close to losing mine," he said.

Making new memories

Shryock has a son who graduated from Newport Central Catholic a few years ago. He is now studying chemical engineering at the University of Dayton. He bought his dad gear for the trek this past Christmas.

Pilot rollout of Kentucky’s new driver’s licenses begins early April

Transportation Cabinet extends testing phase prior to phased, county-by-county deployment

The pilot rollout of Kentucky’s new, secure driver’s licenses, spearheaded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, is scheduled to begin in early April in Franklin and Woodford counties. A phased, county-by-county rollout extending to the remaining 118 counties will begin two to three weeks later, and conclude within a two-month period.

“We only get to launch once and have adjusted the preliminary pilot dates to stay true to our commitment to deliver a system to the Circuit Court Clerks and the public that will make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Department of Vehicle Regulation Commissioner Matt Henderson. “Extending the testing phase allows the project team and card vendor needed time to vet and update the new system used to handle front- and back-end operations associated with how we issue and produce the new cards.”

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The altered schedule will not impact benefits Kentuckians can access using their current driver’s license, thanks to a federal extension from the Department of Homeland Security that allows airport security checkpoints and military bases to accept existing card versions for U.S. air travel and entry.

During the testing phase, every combination of a potential applicant’s unique considerations are run to ensure the process is operational for the clerks and card vendor (i.e. age, veteran designation, card version, commercial driver, citizenship). The system demands a high level of customization to factor in Kentucky law and Cabinet policies. In early April, Circuit Court Clerk offices in Franklin and Woodford counties will receive new equipment and begin offering new card versions to county residents who are within their renewal period. Additional counties may be added to the pilot phase, if necessary.

“The pilot approach lets us do live monitoring of the process in two locations within proximity to KYTC headquarters,” said Henderson. “We’ll apply best practices and lessons learned from the experience into how we rollout the system statewide.”