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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Finalists for NKY Chamber Business Impact Awards Announced

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalists for its Business Impact Awards to be presented on March 27 at the Drees Pavillion in Devou Park.

The event, presented by Huntington Bank, will run from 4–6 p.m.

The Business Impact Awards recognize businesses — small and large, new and long-standing — which are impacting the Northern Kentucky community through innovation, creativity, strong business practices, and leadership. It is a celebration of success and a way to showcase the strength of the Northern Kentucky business community. Five finalists were selected from each of the nine Business Impact Award categories. More than 190 applications were received.

“We have a lot of businesses in our region that are doing innovative, creative things for both employees and customers,” said Lynn Abeln, Vice President, Membership-Sponsorship Sales. “Being recognized as a Business Impact Award finalist puts these businesses in the spotlight and highlights how they are helping to make Northern Kentucky a great place to live, work and play.”

Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion. 

The 2019 Business Impact Awards finalists are:

Small (1-10), Medium (11-50), Large (over 50) Business Award:Recognizes companies that are industry leaders in their respective markets and represent NKY to the broader region by providing outstanding goods or services.

Small Business:
AquiSense Technologies
Campbell County Drug Free Alliance Incorporated
Core Consulting Group
Focus On Success
The Carnegie

Medium Business
City Wide Maintenance of Cincinnati/Dayton
Furlong Building
strategic HR inc.
Welcome House of Northern Kentucky, Inc

Large Business
Answers in Genesis
CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting
Dorman Products
Notre Dame Academy
TiER1 Performance Solutions

Community Champions Award: Recognizes a business that not only engages and gives back to the community, but values a strong diverse and inclusive workforce as part of the culture and values of the organization.
Brighton Center, Inc.
Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky
Cincinnati Business Courier
Fidelity Investments
Perfetti Van Melle

Cool Place to Work Award:

Highlands Swimming, Diving Teams Putting Together Solid Seasons

Bluebirds Ready for Region 7 Meet

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. The Highlands Swimming and Diving Teams compete in the Region 7 Meet starting one week from Friday.
Highlands Swimming and Diving Head Coach Amanda Johnson can not say enough about the depth of the two programs.

There are currently 34 boys and 24 girls on the squad this year. The Highlands boys and combined teams just won the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference Division I meet at Scott and the girls finished second to Notre Dame.

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"I feel really good about it," Johnson said. "That's one of those things that they work really hard, but they're also really competitive among each other in a good, competitive way because there's only so many spots open for the regional team. They've really pushed each other to do their very best throughout the season."

Senior Jake Ryan said he's friends with sophomore Mac Russell. They race in the 50 free each week. The two also helped break a Rock the Block Sprint Meet time at the University of Louisville in the 200 Freestyle in one minutes, 29.38 seconds along with senior Brenden Conley and sophomore Will Griffith. The Highlands boys won that meet on Jan. 19 and the girls finished fourth.

"Even though we're on the same team, we're always racing each other more than anyone else," Ryan said. "It's always back and forth with us two. We always back each other better."

Johnson has an attendance check each week when it comes to practices and meets. In the Region 7 meet coming up at Silverlake Recreational Center in Erlanger, a swimmer or diver is allowed to enter four events with no more than two being individual events.

Teams can enter four per event and one relay team. There are 24 events total including three relays.

"I think swimming is a sport all about timing and dedication," said Sarah Redden, Highlands sophomore swimmer. "The more you put into it, the more you're going to get out of it so maybe your first, second or third year doing high school (swimming and diving), you're not going to see results immediately and that's okay. You need to persevere and your time will come. You encourage those older than you and be patient."

Johnson expects four divers on both sides to compete at the region meet. Junior Finn Murphy won the individual state championship in the one-meter diving last year after finishing runnner-up in the 7th Region meet. Sophomore Michael Meadows is also expected to dive. The leading girls divers are sophomore Lauren Groeschen and freshman Kenna Abner.

All three teams won the Eastern Kentucky University Relays. The Highlands boys beat Oak Hills in a dual meet for the second straight year and the girls won for the ninth straight year. The Highlands boys won the tri-meet wiith Cincinnati Anderson and Elder and the girls finished second to Seton.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Full List of Who's Running for Statewide Offices This Year

The filing deadline came and went yesterday at 4:00 p.m and it turns out 39 candidates will vie for your vote for seven statewide offices starting with the May primary in a few short months from now. The offices that will be on the ballot in 2019 include governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner, treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor.

The primary election will shrink the field on May 21 as the Republicans and Democrats select their nominees. The general election will be November 5.

Only three candidates will face no opposition in the May primary. That list includes State Auditor Mike Harmon and State Treasurer Allison Ball, both incumbent Republicans. In the race for attorney general, former Attorney General Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, will not face a primary. Stumbo, a former attorney general and speaker of the House is looking to get back to Frankfort after losing his seat in 2016.

In northern Kentucky, a surprising twist saw State Senator Wil Schroder (R-Wilder) file to run for that same Attorney General race. Schroder, who just completed a successful reelection campaign in November, will not have to relinquish his position as Senator while he campaigns.

He faces a tough primary opponent in Daniel Cameron, a former aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell.

RELATED: Sen. Wil Schroder Enters Race for Kentucky Attorney General 

Here's a list of the rest of the offices:


Matt Bevin/Ralph Alvarado
Robert Goforth/Mike Hogan
William Woods/Justin Miller
Ike Lawrence/James Anthony Rose

Andy Beshear/Jacqueline Coleman
Rocky Adkins/Stephanie Horne
Adam Edelen/Gill Holland
Geoff Young/Josh French


Greg Stumbo

Wil Schroder
Daniel Cameron


Heather French Henry
Jason S. Belcher
Jason Griffith
Geoff Sebesta

Michael G. Adams
Andrew English
Stephen Knipper
Carl “Trump” Nett


Mike Harmon

Kelsey Hayes Coots
Sheri Donahue
Drew Curtis
Chris Tobe


Ryan Quarels
Bill Polyniak

Joe Trigg
Robert “Haley” Conway


Bird Scooters Show Up in Fort Thomas

Bird Scooters showed up in Fort Thomas earlier this week, this, after popping up in Cincinnati last summer seemingly overnight.

Bird, and companies like it like Lime, are a dockless scooter-share company based in Santa Monica, California. Founded in September 2017, Bird operates electric scooters in over 100 cities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, with 10 million rides in its first year of operation.

Bird was founded in September 2017 by Travis VanderZanden, formerly an executive at Lyft and at Uber.

They travel at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and cost about $10 per hour of riding.

To ride a Bird scooter, you'll first need to find one. The marketability of a city usually depends on density, which is why you're more likely to find them downtown than on Highland Avenue in Fort Thomas, like a few days ago.

Once you do locate one, you download the app onto your phone then enter your phone number and credit card for billing, just like with Uber or Lyft.

The app shows you where all the available scooters are located at that moment. You use the app to take a picture of the scooter's QR code, which unlocks the scooter and bills your credit card.

If you're riding it around and stop somewhere, you can temporarily lock it so no one else can take it, then jump on again when you're ready to leave. When you are done for the day, you simply close out on the app.

That begs the question, how do they get charged and how are they deployed to cities like Fort Thomas?

Bird scooters are charged by gig workers, private contractors, who sign up to be "chargers"; the company sends them charging equipment, and pays them between $3 and $20 to charge the scooters overnight, then place them at designated "nests" throughout the service area in the morning. Charging can become competitive, with chargers using vans to pick up scooters all over the city. Given the widely-distributed nature of the scooters, this kind of charging system is essential to making the economics of the system work.

The scooters are equipped with GPS devices, so that the company knows where they are at any given time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Farmstand Market & Cafe Coming to Newport

By: Grace S. Yek | WCPO contributor

A year and a half after opening in Union, Kentucky, the Farmstand Market & Cafe is expanding — this time, closer to the Queen City.

This spring, the Farmstand Market & Cafe will open its second location at Wooden Cask Brewing Co., at 629 York St. in Newport.

Known for its locally grown food, Farmstand Market & Cafe recently numbered among only three restaurants in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to appear in the book “Truth, Love and Clean Cutlery,” a new international publication that features the world's top restaurants based on the quality of food, service, conscientious sourcing and stewardship of the customers, staff, community and environment.

Karen Schiltz, who serves as chief financial officer at Wooden Cask and co-owns the brewery with her husband, Randy Schiltz, said the food and practices at Farmstand were a natural fit for the brewery. The 2-year-old brewery produces small-batch, barrel-aged beers on a seasonal rotation, and the taproom offers 18 beers ranging from light ales to full-bodied stouts and porters.

Our beer is brewed with integrity, and nothing hits the taproom unless it’s 100 percent right,” she said.

With the addition of Farmstand, Schiltz hopes the brewery will become a destination where people can have a farm-fresh meal and drink good beer. She used to rely on food trucks and other food delivery services to feed her customers.

“There are a lot of places in Newport where you can get greasy food,” she said. “But there are not a lot of healthy options.”

Last fall, when she and her husband were looking into starting a kitchen at the brewery, they turned to Farmstand owner and chef Tricia Houston. Houston didn’t hesitate.

“I wanted to bring our philosophy and food to another location to reach more people,” Houston said.

Baron Shirley, the chef and owner of the recently shuttered Inspirado at Madison Gallery, will head the new kitchen.

There will be no table service at the new location; customers will order and pick up food at a walk-up window.

“The setup is much easier since we won’t have to worry about running a bar or having servers,” Houston said. “It’s just all about the food.”

Houston will carry her mindfulness into the second location, emphasizing locally sourced food and omitting deep-fried foods and soda made with modified corn syrups.

"We really try to focus on the local — anything in the Tri-State within a 250-mile radius," Houston said. The menu at Wooden Cask will be similar to the one at the original location. The food lineup will include hot and cold “farmwiches,” salads, appetizers and an assortment of desserts.

There also will be new options, such as flatbread pizza, hot panini sandwiches and items incorporating Wooden Cask Brewery’s products. Those include beer cheese made with Reformation Scottish stout, beer vinaigrette using Kentucky Farmhand American Wheat ale and a growing number of other items that are currently in development.

“We have a lot going on there with their beers as inspiration,” Houston said.

It was sheer chance how Schiltz and Houston wound up working together.

“One of our customers showed us (Houston’s) menu and said, ‘She's making beer cheese with your beer,’ ” Schiltz recounted. Wooden Cask works through a distributor and, at the time, Schiltz had no idea Farmstand even carried their beer.

That prompted her to eat at the restaurant, which after a while led to a four-course beer dinner collaboration in April last year. When Schiltz wanted to start a food operation at the brewery, Houston was the natural choice.

Schiltz hopes to expand the brewery’s customer base with the addition of in-house food.

“I hear this all the time — ‘Oh, you don’t have food' — and sometimes they’ll turn around and walk out because they want to eat with their beer,” she said. “I notice people come in before five or after seven, so we’re missing a whole five-to-seven crowd when people are eating.”

There’s also a 700-square-foot event space on the second floor that Schiltz hopes Houston can put to use.

Houston readily credits her staff for the ability to grow the restaurant. In a time when many restaurants are struggling to find workers, Houston’s staff has largely stayed put.

“We make sure the staff is taken care of,” she said. “It doesn’t come easy, but it’s not just about the money — it’s about all of us.”

Fourth Annual Rock ‘n Revival for a Cure at The Southgate House Revival

Cincinnati band, The Grove is hosting its fourth annual cancer benefit, Rock n’ Revival for a Cure, at The Southgate House Revival on March 9, 2019. Twenty four local and regional bands will perform in three venue rooms at Southgate House Revival for a pop, rock, psychedelic, funk, cocktail of entertainment.

The first benefit was founded in 2016 after the father of The Grove band’s Forsthoefel brothers, Adam and Matthew, was diagnosed with brain cancer (Glioblastoma) in 2015. Sadly, their father passed away. The musical brothers created the benefit to help other families struggling with a brain cancer diagnosis. All proceeds from the event benefit the John Forsthoefel for Glioblastoma Research Fund at the University of Cincinnati (UC) Brain Tumor Center. Last year’s event hosted 23 bands, over 800 attended and the total raised was over $7,000, making the event the 3rd most attended concert at the Southgate House Revival.

Call to hear about the winter painting special. 

The Forsthoefel brothers hope to exceed last years attendance and financial goals by hosting a music event for all tastes and ages while highlighting Cincinnati’s diverse, and vibrant musical talents.
Doors open at 4:30 pm and tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the doors.

The Lineup:

WATCH: Zac Efron, Lily Collins in Ted Bundy Biopic Trailer

The reviews for the film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile starring Zac Efron as Ted Bundy are out as movie goers at the Sundance Film Festival got a first look.

RELATED: Rolling Stone reviews Efron Bundy biopic 

Orangetheory Fitness Newport Pavilion. 
Efron and co-star Lily Collins spent time filming in Fort Thomas and northern Kentucky during January of 2018.

RELATED: That Night Fort Thomas Matters Spent with Zac Efron as Ted Bundy

RELATED: Local Man Serves as Zac Efron's Body Double 

RELATED: Highlands High School Graduate Interns on Set of Efron-film

RELATED: Zac Efron Called to Fort Thomas Set at 12:30

Monday, January 28, 2019

Feature Real Estate Listing: 10 Budde Court, Fort Thomas | Coffman's Realty

N Ft. Thomas, Johnson School District & minutes to the expressway and shopping.

$218,000 (Price dropped from $225,000 on January 7).

3 Bedroom, 3 Bathroom

This 3 bedroom home offers an OPEN FL PLAN, hardwood floors throughout, with lots of natural light, plenty of storage & a wood burning fireplace in the large family room. The rear yard is level and useable. The updated kitchen offers two stoves (a gas stove and a induction stove) two sinks, & two microwaves. The cabinets have the soft close feature. Additional storage in the dining room. Dining room opens to the solarium. There is a 2-car garage w opener & its own electrical panel. Exterior recently painted.

1100 S. Ft. Thomas Ave. Fort Thomas, KY 41075
CALL: (859) 441-8090

February Program at the Carrico Fort Thomas Library Branch

Programs for Adults and Teens

Brown Bag Book Club
Noon Monday, Feb. 4
Join the discussion of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. Ages 18 & up. Bag lunch optional. New members welcome. No need to register.

Lunar New Year (Drop-In Program)
3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5
earn about the Lunar New Year and create two crafts inspired by the holiday. Create your own lucky red envelope and a fortune cookie valentine to bring luck and joy to someone you love this year. This craft should take about 15 minutes to complete. No registration is required, just drop-in at any time during the program hours to participate. Join us while supplies last in this quick and simple craft.

Melted Crayon Art for Teens
3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6
Celebrate Valentines Day by making a gift full of hearts. We will be melting crayon shavings and creating a design on canvas! Supplies provided, please bring your creativity. Ages 12-18. No need to register.

Couples Yoga
6 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 7 & 21
Improve balance, suppleness, focus, and strength. Reduce stress and increase your vitality. Bring a partner and enjoy the benefits of yoga together. Class taught by Phoenix Wilson, registered yoga instructor. Ages 18 & up. Registration required. Register for each class separately. Bring a yoga mat or towel. No prior yoga experience necessary.

Coffee & Conversation Book Club
2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13
Join the discussion of Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. Ages 18 & up. New members welcome. No need to register.

Galentine’s Day
3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13 (teens)
& 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14 (adults)
Join us as we enjoy the holiday brought to us by the popular TV show, Parks and Recreation.
Enjoy your time with friends while you craft your own unique heart canvas painting. Waffle snacks, hot drinks, and fun will be had by all. Teens bring your mom or female caregiver to enjoy this program with you! Ages 12-18 (Feb. 13); Ages 18 & up (Feb. 14). Registration required.

A Novel Idea Book Club
4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14 @ Tower Park Armory
Join the discussion of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. Ages 12-18. New members welcome. No need to register.

After School Hangout
3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20
Stressful day at school? We can help with that! Stop by the library to enjoy snacks, board games and video games. Ages 11-18. No need to register.

Dungeons & Dragons at Tower Park
6-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22
All levels of experience welcomed as we play Dungeons & Dragons 5e. This session will continue with our campaigns, premade characters will be available for those without a character who would like to join. This session will be held in the Tower Park Armory, please use the doors facing the Tennis court parking lot. Ages 11-18. No need to register.

Signature Series: Elizabeth Cobbs
7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22
Award winning historian Elizabeth Cobbs will visit the library to talk about the captivating and tumultuous life of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza Schuyler, the subjects of her best-selling book The Hamilton Affair.  An autograph session is to follow. Free tickets required in advance. Ages 18 & up.

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! / Let the Good Times Roll!
3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27
Using feathers, glitter, confetti, and paint create your own Mardi Gras mask. We will also be doing trivia about New Orleans and Mardi Gras and enjoying King Cake. Ages 12-18. No need to register.

Programs for Children and Families

1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
It’s time to clean out our craft closet.  Come see what we found and make some cool projects. Families. No need to register.

Full STEAM Ahead
7 p.m. Mondays, Feb. 4. 11, 18 & 25
Get hands-on with Science, Tech, Engineering, Art & Math! Ages 3-5. No need to register.

Exploring India
4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4
No passport needed for our exploration of the crafts and games of India. Grades 1-5. No need to register.

Toddler Time
10 a.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 5, 12, 19 & 26
Ages 2-3. No need to register.

Preschool Time
11 a.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 5, 12, 19 & 26
Ages 3-5. No need to register.

Lap Time
9:30 a.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 6, 13, 20 & 27
Newborn-2. Especially for pre-walkers. Register.

Baby Time
9:30 & 10:30 a.m. Thursdays, Feb. 7, 14, 21 & 28
Newborn-2. Especially for walkers. Register.

Movers & Shakers
11 a.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 6, 13, 20 & 27
Ages 3-5. No need to register.

Valentine Babies
10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 9
We will read books, sing songs and make a Valentine handprint craft. Newborn-2. Registration required.

No Sew Heart Pillows
4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11
Make a soft, cuddly pillow for your valentine.  No sewing skills required. Grades 1-5. No need to register.

Going on a Picnic
Noon Saturday, Feb. 16
It might be cold outside, but inside it’s a perfect day for a picnic.  Join us for food, fun, and no ants at our indoor picnic. Families. No need to register.

Celebrate Black History Month
4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18
Celebrate African-American culture by viewing and making art. Grades 1-5. No need to register.

Mommy & Baby Yoga
10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
Yoga is a great way to heal after giving birth and a delightful way to bond with your baby. Mommies and babies will enjoy stretching and strengthening and interacting with others. Please bring a mat if you have one and wear comfortable clothing. Newborn-2. Registration required.

Puppy Tales

Friday, January 25, 2019

Accident on Combs-Hehl Bridge Shuts Down 275-West Heading into Fort Thomas

A three-car accident on the Combs-Hehl Bridge has shut down I-275 westbound in Fort Thomas at 1:30 p.m.

Fort Thomas and Campbell County emergency responders are on scene now. Multiple vehicles are disabled and injuries are not yet known.

Accidents on this stretch of road have increased. In December, published data for 2018 was only available through August, but compared with data on averages over the previous three years, the number of accidents near the bridge increased in five out of eight months and exceeded the highest number of accidents recorded in all years in half of those months.

RELATED: Are Accidents Increasing on the Combs-Hehl Bridge?

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Preliminary work on the road project began May 14 of this year and is expected to be completed by the end of August 2020.

Engineers created contraflow lanes in which lanes that normally flow one way are changed or switched to open up room for repairs. Traffic travels on temporary pavement or the shoulder of the road against the flow of the surrounding lanes, usually marked by temporary concrete barriers.

The Combs-Hehl project is an active construction zone with different things happening every day. In November they shifted eastbound lanes, and in the spring they will flip the entire flow for westbound lanes.

Senator Wil Schroder Enters the Kentucky Attorney General Race

Today, former prosecutor and current Kentucky State Senator Wil Schroder (R- Campbell) filed to run for Attorney GeneralWil was accompanied by his wife and two children, according to a release.

“It is crucial that Kentucky’s next Attorney General has prosecutorial experience,” said Schroder. “There is too much at stake, and on-the-job training won’t be enough. As Senator Westerfield has decided not to run for this position, I am the only candidate with a combination of prosecutorial experience and a proven conservative record.”

Today, fellow State Senator, Whitney Westerfield withdrew his name for consideration for Attorney General. Sitting Attorney General, Andy Beshear, has filed to run for Governor of the Commonwealth. Former Speaker of the House and Attorney General Greg Stumbo has announced that he intends to file for the position, but has not yet officially done so as of this morning. Republican Daniel Cameron has also filed for the seat. 

Westerfield said,"I have been overwhelmed by the support I received during this campaign. But this decision will hopefully give another qualified candidate the opportunity to run their campaign as it should be run. It's important for me to be realistic about any campaign I undertake. That need is heightened in a statewide race which requires a network of dedicated volunteers working across the entire state."

Cameron, an attorney from Hardin County and former University of Louisville football played,  has worked for Senator Mitch McConnell.

Schroder was first elected to the Kentucky Senate in November 2014 and represents Kentuckians in Campbell, Pendleton, and Bracken counties. He most recently won election in November. 

Schroder will not have to relinquish his position as State Senator while he campaigns for the statewide Constritutional Attorney General role. The filing deadline for this year's election is January 29 at 4:00 p.m.

Prior to his time in the state Senate, Schroder served as a felony prosecutor in the Campbell County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. In that role, he represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the people of Campbell County in hundreds of felony cases and worked closely with law enforcement and crime victims.

Reminder: School Day Schedules Change in April

The school day for different Fort Thomas schools will change in April. (FTM file)
By Robin Gee

When Fort Thomas Independent Schools students return from spring break in April, they will have changed start times depending on the school. Created to accommodate changes brought on by major construction at Johnson Elementary, the revised start schedule will continue through the end of next school year (2019-20).

Although much correspondence has been exchanged between school leaders, parents and city officials, Assistant Superintendent Jamee Flaherty took the opportunity to remind the community of the upcoming change at the January school board meeting.

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The school board approved the school day schedule that will begin on April 8, 2019. It is as follows:

  • Highlands High School – 8:15 a.m to 3 p.m.
  • Highlands Middle School – 8:15 a.m to 3 p.m.
  • Johnson Elementary School – 7:45 a.m to 2:30 p.m.
  • Moyer Elementary School – 8 a.m to 2:45 p.m.
  • Woodfill Elementary School – 8 a.m to 2:45 p.m.

All students from Johnson Elementary will relocate when they return from spring break. They will be housed near the Highlands High School Field House in temporary units and will use the field house for some activities during the day. Johnson preschool students will be accommodated at Moyer Elementary.

The new start times will continue through expected completion of the project in spring 2020. School personnel have been working with the city of Fort Thomas and the Fort Thomas Police Department to create a plan that ensures safety for all.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Local Bank Executive Happy to Join Another Kentucky-based Bank

Fort Thomas resident and former BB&T and Bank of Kentucky executive Mark Exterkamp joins Stock Yards Bank & Trust.

 By Robin Gee

Many Fort Thomas residents know Mark Exterkamp, who has been in charge of retail banking and small business for BB&T Bank on North Fort Thomas Avenue since 2015. Before that, he had been with the Bank of Kentucky at the same location for 15 years.

On January 3, Exterkamp started a new position as senior vice president and private banking division manager with Louisville-based Stock Yards Bank & Trust at its downtown Cincinnati location.

In December, BB&T announced to its customers that the Fort Thomas branch would be closing. Customers received a letter stating the branch would close its doors on April 5, 2019.

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. Located at Fort Thomas Plaza, 90 Alexandria Pike. 
In late 2017, BB&T, based in North Carolina, announced it would close 140 locations across the country.

While excited about his new position, Exterkamp, said BB&T’s decision to close the Fort Thomas location was unfortunate as it had deep connections in the community.

"That building was home to a long-standing business, Fort Thomas Building and Loan. Many a family in Fort Thomas got their mortgage there," he said.

In fact, the location has a long history of serving the financial needs of the community. It was the original home of Fort Thomas Building and Loan, established in 1910. The business was purchased by the Bank of Kentucky in 2000. Five years later, the bank was acquired by BB&T.

Exterkamp said he is looking forward to working with a Kentucky-based company again, and said his new employer shares a value of community similar to that of the Bank of Kentucky.

In his new position, he will provide private banking to individual professionals and business owners handling clients’ personal and business banking needs.

Stock Yards Bank & Trust has a branch near NKU in Highland Heights on Alexandria Pike and in Florence on Houston Road as well as three branches in Cincinnati including downtown, Madeira and Hyde Park. Exterkamp’s office is at the downtown Cincinnati branch, housed in the historic Federal Reserve Building on Fourth Street.

Stock Yards has more than 35 branches in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. In the Cincinnati area since 2007, the bank added its Northern Kentucky locations in 2015.

Care Closet Continues to Serve NKY Communities in Need

By Jessica Eden

Fort Thomas resident Carol Weinel has been VERY busy with her nonprofit organization, Care Closet. Her efforts, combined with the efforts of several amazing volunteers and the generous support of David Hosea, provide a much needed service for children in need.

The results speak for themselves. The Care Closet makes a major impact on kids that need it the most. “They gain hope, self-esteem and feel loved,” said Weinel. “The clothes they pick are very gently used and sometimes new. Nothing will have a hole or stain.  When you give a person clothes that are in poor condition you are telling them that’s their worth. We want the kids to know they are valued. When they get to “shop” they feel very happy and know they look good and are more likely to perform better in school.”

So what has Carol and other Care Closet volunteers been up to? A LOT.

View Coffman's Realty Listings here. 

Back in August 2018, a ribbon cutting for a new closet took place at Glenn O Swing Elementary in Covington, KY. This event marks the first kids clothing closet in Kentucky. There are only a few in the United States that are allow kids to “shop” for their own items. Led by Lennea Thomas, a volunteer at the school, this CARE Closet is truly a unique experience and operates at no cost to the families!

The closet is the result of a partnership with California Closets. Weinel’s friend Amy Hills introduced her to LauraLee Kavanagh, a Senior Design Consultant for California Closets.

“From the first time we met, LauraLee was enthusiastic and willing to donate her time and talent to make a storage area into an amazing closet,” said Weinel. “She designed the space to have shelves and hanging rods which makes it easy for the kids to be able to ‘shop’.”

There are also plans to hold ribbon cuttings for two other closets at Newport Intermediate and CCMS. The room has been painted by community partners Billy Cole and Greg Dee. Cole is the surplus sales manager for Hosea project movers and property manager for York St. Church Campus while Dee is the District Manager for Sherwin-Williams. Kids are currently shopping at Newport Intermediate School and Betsy Sanders, the lead volunteer coordinator is assisting with efforts there. A ribbon cutting is tentatively planned for February.

The CCMS closet has racks and is being stocked. Care Closet is seeking an volunteer to build a long clothing rack wall to wall. Once complete, they’ll host a ribbon cutting for this closet as well. “My desire is the students and their families are given hope and know there are strangers who care about them. These kids are our kids, they are playing sports in our community and they are our future.”

 Why is Carol Weinel so passionate about this work? She wants to make sure every child is comfortable and happy.

"It’s about dignity. The kids absolutely light up with huge smiles when they come to “shop”. For many of the children we help, this is the first time they have actually been able to shop for their own clothes. Clothes are arranged by size and type so children can browse to select what they like best,” said Weinel. “A dressing room is provided so that a good fit is assured and every child is comfortable and happy. The atmosphere is bright and cheerful, and friendly volunteers are always on hand to assist shoppers!” 

This unique ‘shopping’ experience does a lot for the children. A majority of the children are living below poverty or are homeless. So there is not only a need for clothing but there is also a serious need for personal care items. “In addition to clothes, coats, shoes, we also give students books and much needed personal care items, which are not eligible to be purchased with a SNAP card (food stamps),” said Weinel. “Items like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, deodorant, tampons and pads are all considered ‘luxury items’.”

Past efforts by Weinel include providing gently used beds to children who need them, providing teens with a special prom experience that includes hair, make up, dresses, jewelry, flowers and a space for special time with their friends. A few times a year, teen mothers are invited to Care Closet to ‘shop’ for everything from maternity clothes, cribs, pack and plays, diapers, strollers, clothes and other basic needs for babies.

In conjunction with Glenn O Swing, they also host a “Share the Warmth” campaign which is offered to students, siblings, parents and guardians. They receive free coats, winter boots, hats and gloves. “During this event and follow up referrals after we gave away over 450 coats, hundreds of boots, gloves and hats,” said Weinel. “Share the Warmth’ took place in correlation with Glenn O Swing parent teacher conference, which made it convenient for the families.”

A partnership with the Campbell County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #10, allows Care Closet to further support the families of the kids who are chosen to participate with ‘Cops and Kids’. They are also helping families with emergency food baskets with collaboration with La Soupe, Masters Provision and Annette Erickson from the Highland United Methodist Church.

Care Closet is a 501C3 organization. Monetary donations, along with clothing donations, are always welcome and greatly needed to continually stock the closets.

Highlands We the People Team Will Head to DC for Nationals

Highlands High School teacher Megan Boimann-Hennies and team members describe the We the People competition.

 By Robin Gee

The Highlands High School We the People Team racked up yet another state championship recently, adding their 15th consecutive state win and their 16th overall.

We the People is a national student competition to promotes civic education with an emphasis on knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Now that the team has won state, they will head to Washington, D.C. for the competition to be held from April 26 to 30 at the National Conference Center.

The Highlands team was honored at the January school board meeting. There are 16 students, all seniors, on the team. Team members Micheala Brown, Betsy Sellers and Sydney Cooper were on hand to represent the team.

Team advisor and teacher Megan Boimann-Hennies said this year was significant first for the 15th win but also because it is the first year the program offered an independent study option for students who could not fit the traditional class into their schedules.

This year, four students took advantage of the opportunity and Boimann-Hennies says she hopes their success will lead to more opportunities for schedule revision next year.

The students plan to visit significant places in our constitutional history. They are busy studying past questions in preparation for the event. They will receive official study questions at the end of this month.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Fort Thomas Coffee Looking for its Next Owners to Carry on Tradition of Community

Fort Thomas Coffee owners, David and Lori Valentine are looking for buyers for their coffee shop, located at 118 N. Fort Thomas Avenue in the heart of the Central Business District.

They announced today on their website, that after seven years, they are ready for the next chapter.

"It’s difficult to even write the words, but our time as the “coffee shop family” is coming to end," Lori wrote. "Our hope is to find the next owners who will continue the mission of Fort Thomas Coffee, furthering it as a community hub and making the shop even better for the people of this town who truly deserve an amazing spot."

She said that they will begin looking for the shop's next owners immediately and that the shop will continue to operate normally until then.

"Our amazing staff will continue to serve the community with the same quality and care as always," she said.

Fort Thomas Coffee is quite literally where Fort Thomas Matters got its start. As a startup business and without the cashflow needed for a permanent office, FTC provided internet, community and shelter for the fair price of a coffee and an occasional coffee cake or bagel.

Fort Thomas Coffee hosted FTM's Story Matters events in the shop to bring the community closer through sharing personal stories of triumph, grief and life.

The Valentines are responsible for helping to pull the fabric of Fort Thomas closer, let's help them find the next owners who'll carry on that tradition.

If you are interested or know someone who is, please email serious inquiries to

Here's what the Valentines wrote on their website:


Seven years ago, on an unseasonably warm winter day, I walked to Moyer to pick up my little ones, my youngest riding in a stroller. On our walk, I noticed that Three French Hens was closing. Immediately, I had a very strong feeling that this space should be a community coffee shop.


As I walked, I imagined what a coffee shop in Fort Thomas would be like and how it could offer a place for the community to gather and build relationships. Moms like me could have a space for kids to play while catching up over a cup of coffee. Teens could sit together after school. Families could come on the weekends and enjoy one another and other families.

I couldn’t wait to share this crazy idea with my husband, David. He agreed we should do some research and look into the possibility of opening up a community coffee shop. But it seemed crazy! We didn’t know anything about opening our own business and we didn’t know much about coffee—except that we both loved it. We both came from marketing and design backgrounds, so at least we had a good logo and t-shirt designs going for us. But as we got deeper into the adventure of starting our own business, we had so many friends who offered their time and talent. Friends helped us design the interior (even donating our large red chandelier). A neighbor helped build the bar area. A group of men built our barn wood wall. Experts in the field gave us great counsel on how to run a business and gave us connections. We got smarter about coffee equipment, commercial ice makers, and health department rules. The journey of opening Fort Thomas Coffee was one of the most special and memorable times of our lives. At this point, our kids have practically grown up in the coffee shop—and we have been able to teach them the value of serving others and being part of a family team with a mission.

The past 7 years have been incredible. We’ve made very special friendships that we’ll always treasure, and we’ve felt so supported by this community.


Highlands Basketball Ends 16-Game Streak Versus Newport Catholic

Bluebirds End 16-Game Losing Streak to Thoroughbreds

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Highlands junior Jacob Brass gets in defensive position in the 70-61 win over Newport Central Catholic on Tuesday.
Of all the streaks to be broken this year, the one was the ultimate one.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (12-9 overall) entered the annual 36th District match-up against the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (9-10) having lost 16 in a row in the series. But Highlands used a strong third quarter to pull away for a 70-61 victory and put a resounding end to it.

The last time the Bluebirds had beaten the Thoroughbreds came on Jan. 9, 2010 by a 58-44 score on the Hill when the current seniors were in the third grade. Highlands senior Ryan Leigh recalled that game watching his cousin, then-junior Jack Stewart, lead the Bluebirds to victory. Highlands moved to 2-1 in district play. A win over Bellevue on Saturday clinches no less than a second seed in the district tournament.

That is the fourth losing streak of eight or more games against region opponents the Bluebirds have broken this season. Highlands snapped eight-game losing streaks against Covington Catholic and Dixie Heights in addition to snapping a 17-game losing streak against Covington Holmes.

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"It's unbelievable. This season has been amazing, especially with it being my senior year," said Ben Sisson, Highlands post. "I love all my teammates. We just keep playing together. We just have that trust in each other every time we go out. We knew this was a really important one. We all work so hard. We know a lot of these (NewCath) kids. We live right down the street. This is so special for everyone in this program."

Leigh did his part to help end the streak scoring 18 points. Leigh also had three rebounds and a steal.

Both teams saw three players score in double figures. Sisson again proved to be a huge difference in the game dominating the paint once again. Sisson recorded another double-double making 8-of-10 shots on his way to 23 points and 15 rebounds. He also had an assist, one steal and one blocked shot. Sisson also drew 13 fouls.

"We knew we had Ben to drop it off to," Leigh said. "We know when we drive, we're going to draw the defenders and we can just give it to Ben. It's the same on defense. If our man beats us, instead of having to foul, we know that Ben is there protecting the rim. He can block the shot. Having him on offense and defense is very helpful."

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Come Visit St. Thomas School for Open House

Challenge what you thought early education could offer and come visit our community of teachers, staff and families!

National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award
Classroom Ration 1:15
11 consecutive years as a Service Learning School of Contribution
Rated in the top 10% in the Diocese on national standardized tests
Kentucky All-Stars Accredited Five-star rated Preschool
90% of our teaching staff hold a master’s degree
Extracurricular Activities for students….and parents

Come and see MORE on Sunday, January 27th, 2019
Saint Thomas School
Academic Excellence. Pride in Community.

HIV Clusters Continue to Occur in Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati Region

Health Departments Share CDC Recommendations to Address HIV Among People Who Inject Drugs

Announcement one year after cluster investigation 

Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky — Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH), Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been working together since early 2018 when public health officials identified an increase in HIV infections among people who inject drugs (PWID) in the region. A CDC Epi-Aid team was requested to help respond to this complex public health problem.

Key preliminary findings of the team include:

·         HIV is being transmitted rapidly among networks of PWID between the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati metro region. Although many cases were diagnosed early in illness, some had advanced disease at the time of diagnosis.

·         New HIV diagnoses continue to occur, without any evidence of decline.

·         Sharing and reuse of needles and injection equipment among PWID exists and drives increases in HIV and hepatitis. Therefore, opportunities are needed to increase accessibility of syringe services programs to prevent disease.

·         Mental health issues and stigma are barriers to receiving services for HIV, substance use, housing and other supportive services.

·         Missed opportunities for earlier HIV diagnosis were found. The majority of HIV-infected PWID had at least one medical visit where they could have found out their HIV status sooner had they been tested at that visit.

Based on the investigation, the CDC made the following recommendations:

·         Improve comprehensive syringe services program delivery to increase uptake of prevention and treatment services and reduce infection risk by removing barriers to access.

·         Expand HIV testing in jails and emergency departments (especially for patients with injection drug use related visits).

·         Improve coordination between HIV testing, HIV care, mental health, and substance use treatment and expand housing and supportive services.

·         Continue efforts to share and integrate data across the involved KY and OH local and state health departments.

Kentucky Approves More Than 42,000 Acres of Hemp for Planting in 2019

Growth in Acres Reflects Excitement Amid Farm Bill Passage

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has announced the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) approved 1,035 applications to cultivate up to 42,086 acres of industrial hemp in 2019. The KDA also approved 2.9 million square feet of greenhouse space for hemp cultivation.

“The numbers tell you what you need to know about the excitement about hemp in Kentucky,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “The growth in the number of approved acres from 16,000 last year to 42,000 this year shows that Kentucky is rapidly becoming the epicenter of the hemp industry in the United States. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, we believe Kentucky is ready to lead as the nation begins the process of transitioning to commercialization of a crop that connects our past to our future.”

The KDA received a total of 1,115 applications – 1,074 grower applications and 41 processor/handler applications. Applicants were asked to identify which harvestable component of the plant would be the focus of their research (floral material, grain, or fiber); some applicants selected more than one component.

The KDA also approved 40 new applications from processors (in addition to 69 previously approved multi-year processor license holders who are renewing their licenses for 2019). Several universities will also carry out additional research projects in 2019.

“The success of this program would not be possible without the support and respect that my administration has built among three groups: growers, processors, and law enforcement,” Commissioner Quarles said. “I applaud KDA hemp program manager Doris Hamilton and her team for the countless hours of hard work they have put into creating a nationally-recognized regulatory framework in Kentucky.”

In 2018, 210 growers were licensed to plant up to 16,100 acres of industrial hemp and planted more than 6,700 acres. Program participants planted more than 3,200 acres in 2017, 2,350 acres in 2016, and 922 acres in 2015. Thirty-three acres were planted in 2014, the first growing year.

Individuals and businesses must be licensed by the KDA to grow or process industrial hemp in Kentucky. Under laws passed by the Kentucky General Assembly and the United States Congress, it is unlawful to possess any raw or unprocessed hemp, hemp plants, or hemp seed without a license from the KDA.

KDA hemp program license holders must pass background checks and consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed. Under state law, KDA provides GPS coordinates of approved hemp planting sites to law enforcement agencies before any hemp is planted. GPS coordinates must be submitted on the application.

The 2018 farm bill removes industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and gives hemp growers access to USDA programs such as crop insurance. It also assigns primary regulatory authority of industrial hemp to the states in those states where a regulatory framework is in place. The farm bill outlines minimum requirements a state regulatory framework must contain to win approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Commissioner Quarles submitted Kentucky’s hemp plan to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue minutes after President Trump signed the farm bill on Dec. 20, making Kentucky the first state to file its plan.

In the future, KDA will conduct an analysis to reduce administrative regulations deemed no longer necessary due to the 2018 farm bill. However, there will be no program changes in 2019.

Highlands Dance Team Earns State Win, Eyes Nationals

The Highlands High School Dance Team took first place in large pom at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association competition.

 By Robin Gee

With a first-place win in state cheer competition in December, the Highlands High School Dance Team is preparing for nationals.

The team took first place in large poms at the 2018-19 Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) cheerleading/dance competition in Lexington. The win was an exciting improvement for the team that was runner-up last year.

"We have a few competitions coming up, and in six weeks it’s the big competition in Florida," said Coach Erinn Volpenhein. "Last year we ranked third for hip hop and 14th in pom so we are excited to go back and do even better than last year. It’s been an exciting season so far. We’re just hoping to keep it up and keep on moving on."

The team will compete in the nationally televised National High School Cheerleading Championship at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, February 8 through 10.

KHSAA is the agency designated by the Commonwealth to manage high school athletics and includes 280 schools and more than 70,000 student-athletes. The National Cheerleading Championship is the leading high school cheer competition in the country and hosts more than 800 teams with about 15,000 student athletes.

Local Artist Opens New Show at FTC

Courtesy Kristine Donnelly.
Stop by Fort Thomas Coffee the rest of the January to take in the engaging new art show featuring artist Kristine Donnelly.

Her medium is paper but forget everything you know about paper because you will never look at paper the same way. These pieces are elaborate, intricate, mesmerizing. Each design is meticulously cut by hand with an Exacto knife.

Her fascination with this approach began when she did an artist residency in Prague, Czech Republic. Her website, ( reveals that  “Donnelly began creating small cut paper collages from abstracted patterned forms.  Her work has since evolved into large-scale paper sculptures and installation.” 

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I asked Donnelly about cutting every piece by hand and she told me that “It takes about and hour to cut a square foot (depending on complexity of design).  It does require patience, but it's a labor of love.  The process, the meticulous time consuming act of cutting is very much a part of the artwork.  When I cut a repeated design over and over again, I very much get lost in the choreographed act.  The design process and planning take very long and are filled with trial and error.  It's a treat when I finally get to sit down and cut.” Some of her larger pieces can take up to a year to create.

Courtesy Kristine Donnelly.
She goes on to say, “I was trained as a figure painter (oils). In the early 2000s, I was painting a series where figures had different patterns behind the (honeycomb, fleur de lis, etc).  As I was painting them, I realized I was more interested in painting the patterns than the figures.  So I started making paintings of patterns (art deco, nouveau, victorian) and became frustrated with oil paint.  It's wonderful and fluid- very challenging when you are trying to achieve specific edges.  Thus I started layering paper on top of the paint.  

Immediately I loved paper - I could build depth, I could preserve a straight edge.  I was working with white paper and it felt like a blank slate.  Everyone understands paper - we all encounter it everyday.  I started cutting it up to the point of destruction.  I was more apt to take risks with it because ‘it's just paper.’  Thus the work slowly became larger and more sculptural.  I love the physicality of it and the unique history behind paper.  In addition to paper, I work with Tyvek- the paper-like substance used to wrap houses during construction.  Because it is so durable, this material allows for more gregarious cutting and outdoor installations.”

Courtesy Kristine Donnelly.

Kristine Donnelly is a formidable artist. In addition to teaching art at Highlands High School, Donnelly has been the recipient of a Summerfair Individual Artist Grant.  She has exhibited at the Carl Solway Gallery, the Carnegie Arts Center, and Taft Museum of Art, University of Cincinnati Galleries, and 21c Museum Hotel. 

These are intricate and beguiling designs. So bring a friend, enjoy a cup of coffee, and enjoy the show. The show runs through early March.

Monday, January 21, 2019

REMINDER: Duke Energy, Water District Rate Case Meeting in Northern Kentucky

Meeting on Jan. 24 will take public comments in both the Duke Energy Kentucky natural gas case and the Northern Kentucky Water District case

The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold a public meeting to provide information and receive public comments on two rate cases affecting customers in northern Kentucky: a request by Duke Energy Kentucky to increase its rates for delivery of natural gas and a request by the Northern Kentucky Water District (NKWD) for a general rate increase.

Details of the combined meeting are as follows:

Thursday, Jan. 24, 5:30 p.m. EST
Dixie Heights High School
3010 Dixie Highway
Edgewood, KY 41017

The public comment period will be preceded by a presentation by PSC staff on the regulatory processes governing the cases and an overview of the Duke Kentucky and NKWD applications.

In addition to the public meeting, the PSC will conduct a formal evidentiary hearing in each case at the PSC offices at 211 Sower Boulevard in Frankfort. The Duke Kentucky hearing begins on Tuesday, Feb. 5. The NKWD hearing is set for Wednesday, Feb. 27. Both will begin at 9 a.m. EST, are open to the public and may be viewed live on the PSC website,

Written comments will be accepted through the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing in each case. They may be mailed to the PSC at P.O. Box 615, Frankfort, KY 40602, faxed to 502-564-3460, submitted via e-mail to the PSC website or submitted in person at the public meeting or at the PSC offices.

The Duke Kentucky and NKWD applications and other records in the cases are available on the PSC website, The Duke Kentucky case number is 2018-00261; the NKWD case number is 2018-00291.