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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Fort Thomas Focuses on Improving Communications

Letters from Mayor, City Administrator, Economic Director Highlight Next Steps of Implementation of Comprehensive Plan

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Improvement and enhancement of city communications has been an ongoing issue of concern for the city of Fort Thomas and the community. Discussion around the issue has been ongoing, especially in the recent months leading up to the development and adoption of the Fort Thomas Community Plan.

The city of Fort Thomas plans enhancements and new features for the city website.
At the February city council meeting City Administrator Ron Dill shared some plans for the city of Fort Thomas website and announced that the city would take over control of the Fort Thomas Community Plan website as well.

As implementation of the community plan gets underway, he assured those present that opportunities for input from the public will be available, and those opportunities will be communicated on city websites and other forms of communication.

RELATED: Letters from Mayor, CAO, Econ. Director on Next Steps for Comp. Plan 

Fort Thomas residents request progress updates

Two Fort Thomas residents addressed the council to ask where the city was on its plans to improve communications.

"I know some of you ran on transparency in the last election, and some of said you would like more community involvement from citizens," said Tiffany Huber, who lives on Hawthorne Avenue. She said she was interested to learn what is happening with some of the ideas discussed during the visioning process and in recent council meetings, especially enhancements to the city website.

"I’d like to get an update on where we are with that because I think it is so important that you have the opportunity to communicate with your constituents in a faster, more accurate way," she said.

Huber asked that a notification system be implemented by which citizens can opt in on the city website and receive updates for city meetings, events and happenings around town.

Dill said that feature has been discussed and that they were working with city staff to try and make this feature a reality.

Tom Morrison, also of Hawthorne Avenue, said he agreed with Huber’s concerns and asked if plans were underway to make the website more navigable. He asked if the site could be used to make available information on the role and function of city commissions and committees, as well as membership on these bodies. He suggested that the addition of a calendar or similar feature that would make keeping track of upcoming meeting dates easier.

Dill said city staff has been studying the issue and working on improvements such as those Morrison mentioned. This fall, a graduate-level leadership class from Northern Kentucky University offered to look at city communications as its class project. In November they presented some recommendations based on their research. In addition, the Law, Labor and License Committee has met on two different occasions to discuss and explore the issue.

While city staff has been looking at the newsletter and other forms of communication, the city website has been the primary focus and some enhancements have been implemented.

Website improvement plans underway

About plans for the website, Dill said he envisions the city website containing three sections. One would provide important information that would be updated frequently, almost in real time. This would include things that are happening citywide that could affect residents.

"For example we had a boil water issue in a section of the city last week because of the flooding. This would be used if there were accidents or closures...or for city events," he explained.

The second section would be for city business such as information on or from city committees or commissions, posting of agendas and minutes, as well as materials pertaining to upcoming meetings.

The third section would include reference materials, information about city programs and policies such as snow removal policy, leaf collection scheduling and sections of statutes or other information that would be applicable to issues in the community.

He noted that updating the site will be continuous as much as possible but that much of the work will be done incrementally because staff resources are limited. 

Taking control of the Fort Thomas Community Plan website

Dill also shared plans for the Fort Thomas Community Plan website.

"I think it’s really important to note also that the Fort Thomas Community Plan website was developed by our consulting team when we did the community plan process. We have just taken control of that as well. It’s referenced by the link on our website and will continue to be referenced. And the intention is we will use that to build from as we do the implementation phase of our community plan," he said.

Meeting minutes, agendas and other information about implementation plans and efforts will be posted regularly on that website, he added.

"Our intention is that on our website, you would find anything you are looking for city business wise and so the drive is to the website and the link off the website to the community plan...We are updating our website. We’re working on our newsletter. And we’re posting everything that we can as quickly as we can," he said.

In fact, on this past weekend following the city council meeting Dill, Mayor Eric Haas and Development Director Debbie Buckley each posted letters on the Fort Thomas Community Plan website outlining their impressions and ideas for implementation of the plan going forward.

Buckley and Mayor Haas specifically pointed out the process in the plan with regard to the central business district. All stated the importance of the public being involved in the process and providing continual feedback.

No official implementation plans have been shared as of yet. As noted above, opportunities will be available for community input as these plans are considered. Once a preliminary plan has been developed, it would then be submitted to the Planning Commission for review and recommendations.

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