Friday, January 4, 2019

City Council Reviews Year, Honors Departing Council Members

One of the properties in the Alexander Circle project (originally VA homes) is 8 and 9 Alexander Circle. (FTM file)
By Robin Gee, Council Beat Editor

The December meeting of the Fort Thomas City Council included warm praise and well wishes for two council members whose terms have ended.

Lisa Kelly


Lisa Kelly (left) with Susan Cramer (right) in front of Dirty Hairy's Self and Full Service Dog Spa. (FTM file)
Business owner Lisa Kelly has served the Fort Thomas community on city council for 10 years. Through her work on the recreation committee she helped to bring improvements to Highland, Tower and Rossford Parks. As the owner of Dirty Hairy’s Dog Grooming salon, she has played a key role in understanding and supporting the needs of small businesses within the community. She has drawn on this expertise with her contributions to the ongoing city visioning process.

John Slawter


John Slawter at work soon after taking office. (FTM file)

Fort Thomas native and West Point graduate John Slawter joined city council in 2016, his first venture into local politics. He made community safety, support for schools and small businesses his three key areas of focus. He is a sales rep for a medical device company and returned to Fort Thomas a few years after serving in the U.S. Army. He and his wife decided Fort Thomas would be a good place to raise their growing family.

A look back with an eye toward the future


With the end of the year and a changing of the guard, City Administrator Ron Dill and and Economic Development Director Debbie Buckley took the opportunity to present a short slide show highlighting many of the city council’s accomplishments.

"It was a neat exercise to go back and take a look at all that’s been accomplished over the last few years, and it’s pretty impressive," said Dill. Speaking to council he said. "You all should be commended for your efforts, your leadership. We’ve accomplished some really great things and the city’s moved forward in significant ways."


Here are a few highlights from Dill’s and Buckley’s presentation: 

Moyer crosswalk beacon

An improved crosswalk equipped with the latest safety measures was added to the Moyer Elementary School project. Crosswalks at other area schools are planned and are pending approvals by the state. The Moyer crosswalk was the first and a key part of the city’s safety initiative.

RELATED: Crosswalk Safety Features Cap Off Moyer Project


The North Fort Thomas Avenue sidewalk grant 

A recent photo of North Fort Thomas Avenue. (courtesy Ron Dill)

The city received a significant $592,300 grant for sidewalk improvement and construction along North Fort Thomas Avenue. Dill said this specific piece of sidewalk has been a point of conversation for a number of years. Safety and walkability are high priority in the city’s community plan, and the project is a great step forward.

RELATED: City Busy Behind the Scenes on North Fort Thomas Sidewalk Project

School Resource Officer


Zac Rohlfer is the new School Resource Officer for all Fort Thomas schools. (FTM file)

Dill noted that great leadership by the council helped pave the way for the School Resource Officer program. He said Zac Rohlfer has done a great job and the students love him. And it’s been a great program, he said.

"This is a great use of our resources with Zach or moving forward any officer in that role. It's really important work in the climate we have today. We are very proud of the program," he said.

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

Rexo

In other news for the police department, Rexo, a specially trained drug detection police dog, was added to the force thanks to a generous donation and the work of the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force. Rexo is partnered with Det. Mike Rowland.

VA homes acquisition and development


When preparing for the presentation, Dill said he was amazed at the amount of work that went into acquiring and then developing the Alexander Circle project. He said the piles of paperwork he has stretch back to 2002, and he credits one of his predecessors, Jeff Earlywine, for getting the ball rolling.

The project crawled along for many years but then in the past two years, kicked into high gear. Fast forward to today, and sales of the newly renovated properties are brisk. The city council should be proud of the work they have done to help secure a beautiful project for the community, he said.
Historical banner (FTM file)

RELATED: See Inside the Four Available Alexander Circle Homes

Charters of Freedom

The Charters of Freedom, developed as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration, reflects the roots of the community, said Dill. Now the center piece of a vibrant Veteran’s Day celebration, the site is used by school groups and others interested in learning about and honoring the city’s military past. Dill said city crews did much of the work and helped create a space to build new traditions for the community.

RELATED: Last Chance to Contribute to Charters of Freedom Plaque

Buckley noted that the historical banner project is a popular fundraiser for the city and complements the Charters of Freedom.

Fort Thomas Fire Department

Dill noted that the Fire Department received a much-needed grant for $130,000 to replace self-contained breathing apparatus equipment or SCBA.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Fire Department Replaces Outdated Equipment

He said an important highlight for the department was a major change in ISO rating. The department earned a Class Two rating for the first time from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), a private corporation that evaluates industries for insurance rating purposes.

After an intensive inspection early in 2018, the department received the improved rating from a respectable Class Three to a Class Two. The new rating may have an impact on insurance rates for property owners and most certainly in the prestige and confidence of a top-notch fire service.


RELATED: Fire Department Boosts Inspection Rating

Ordinances passed

While council passed several ordinances over recent years, two that stand out are the vacant property ordinance and the code enforcement ordinance, said Dill. The vacant property ordinance gives the city a tool to use when faced with neglected properties. The ordinance outlines when and how to register vacant property and penalties for those who have not registered within a certain time period.

The code enforcement ordinance provides for the creation of a Code Enforcement Board. The goal of this ordinance was to create a more streamlined and responsive system for code enforcement.

The first meeting of the new Code Enforcement Board will happen early this year.

RELATED: Proposed Ordinances Address Vacant Homes and Property Issues

Armory and Mess Hall work


The Armory and Mess Hall received important renovations this year. (FTM file)

Dill said the cost of needed improvements at the Armory and Mess Hall was high and much of the work, if you don’t look for it, is hard to discern. Yet, he says, it was vital to these aging buildings and puts them in good stead for the future. Work included tuckpointing, roof replacement, new flooring and other improvements that will help the city provide "warm, safe and dry protection" for historic properties important to the community.

The bill was more than $500,000, said Buckley, but the city was able to receive historic tax credits to the tune of more than $54,000. Dill added that, while much of the work is done, floor refinishing and improvements in the gymnasium are scheduled later in the year.

RELATED: More Notes from Council: Street Tax Bills, Renovations to Armory and Mess Hall

Street sidewalk program

City crews inspected the latest sidewalk improvement projects in December. Over the past two years, the city spent more than $900,000 to improve, repair and even reconstruct sidewalks throughout the city. More than half that money was spent in 2018 as reconstruction projects and bridge stabilization were included.

RELATED: Street Replacement and Construction To Begin, Detours Likely 


Highland Park Ball Feld and other partnerships

The Highland Park Ball Field represents one of the great partnerships the city has done with the schools, said Dill. He said, thanks to support by the schools and the knothole group, the city was able to make quality improvements and transform the ball field.

The ball field is only one of several strong partnerships the city has been able to take advantage of in recent years, said Dill. He also pointed to the work being done in partnership with Sewer District 1 to upgrade several storm sewers in the area including those on Custis, Elsmar and Highland avenues as well as Kathy Lane. He said the city is always on the lookout for ways to leverage funds and resources.

Sesquicentennial



Dill turned discussion of the city’s largest recent project, the Sesquicentennial celebration, over to Buckley. She didn’t review all the many aspects of the celebration, but thanked council for their hard work and support for the city’s most ambitious project. Many things that began with the project have been incorporated into future plans.


She pointed to an early effort to raise funds for the project, the Sesquicentennial Dinner. She noted that the funds raised at the dinner went to funding a statue of General George Henry Thomas. While not ready for the 150-year celebration, Buckley announced that the statue is complete and should be here in the next few months. With the success of the Charters of Freedom, city staff is rethinking where to put the statue and will address council with some ideas soon.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Hopes To Honor Its Namesake With A Statue

City council adjourned for a small cupcake party to thank the outgoing council members and to celebrate an extraordinary past two years.

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