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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

June 17 City Council: Budget, Bad Weather, Executive Session, Golf Carts

Fort Thomas City Council at work during the June 2 meeting. Council met twice this month to accommodate budget requirements.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

In the second of two Fort Thomas City Council meetings held this month, council took care of business for the coming fiscal year.

The Law, Labor, License Committee met before the council meeting to discuss implementation of the GROW grant programs for small business facade improvements. Chairman of that committee, David Cameron, noted that the committee clarified how selections would be made. He also noted that the committee asked staff to advertise and run Renaissance Board meetings in the same manner in which other city boards and commissions are.

A question was raised from the audience and acknowledged by Mayor Eric Haas about disclosing financial interests in the project before heading into executive session. At the end of the short meeting, council adjourned for an Executive Session to discuss specific proposals by the developer of the proposed Central Business District project.

The Executive Session, which is closed in accordance with Kentucky law, resulted in no votes or decisions. According to City Administrator Ron Dill, the session was a discussion of possible terms for the development agreement but was only a preliminary discussion of potential issues covered in the agreement.

Any formal agreement would have to be presented to council in a public meeting, he added.


A budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 was passed and followed with the passage of the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget ordinance. This coming year’s budget reflects increases in payroll and legislated payments to the County Employees Retirement System (CERS).

A handful of big-ticket items include 800 Mhz radios and two police cruisers for the Police Department, yearly equipment maintenance and upgraded record keeping software for the Fire Department, tennis court resurfacing for the Recreation Department and some property maintenance equipment for the General Services Department.

A new fund was set up this year for health insurance as the city moves to a self-funded plan. The CBD fund includes an increase for the new GROW grant program for small businesses.

Budget highlights:

  • Total General Fund revenues are $13,517,479, representing an 8.9 percent increase over the current year.
  • About 40 percent of the revenues come from city property taxes and the rest mostly from city payroll, insurance and business license fees.
  • Total General Fund expenditures are $13,506,201, a 9.6 percent increase over the current year.
  • Contributing to the expenditure increase is the increase in CERS by 12 percent, the amount stipulated in the state’s phase-in legislation. The impact on the budget is about $200,000.
  • As with most public budgets, personnel costs account for about 80 percent of the budget and 20 percent comes from capital outlays, professional services, utilities, insurance and supplies.
  • Fund transfers increased by 70.3 percent due to transfers to the Tower Park Fund (for Shelter #3) and the KDOT Fund (for Alexander Circle Roadway).
  • The KDOT Fund reflects an increase in operating expenditures of $300,000 over FY 2018-2019. The fund assumes $500,000 in the coming year for road and sidewalk construction; $400,00 for Alexander Circle roadway improvements and $20,000 for the ongoing Pedestrian Safety initiative.

Fire Department Report

Fire Chief Mark Bailey noted that his department has applied for a $15,000 grant from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation to purchase a Lucas External CPR device, a mechanical chest compression device that delivers compressions to sudden cardiac arrest patients.

He said it appears some movement is happening on a number of other grant applications through the Assistance to Firefighters Program (AFP). No news yet, but he says he is hopeful to hear soon on some of the applications totaling more than one million dollars for items including radios, an exhaust system for their building and a new safety house for the county.

Bailey also reported he and his staff are ready, permits are secured and a command post has been selected for the July 4th celebration.

Police Department Report

In late May, the Rolling Thunder Memorial Ride came through town, reported Police Chief Casey Kilgore. The annual motorcycle ride honors veterans, especially those missing in action and prisoners of war. Traffic control and other issues went well, he said, and he looks forward to the riders’ return next year.

The Police Department continued its participation in an annual Click It or Ticket seatbelt safety initiative into June, said Kilgore. He added that as the school year has wound down new School Resource Officer Zac Rohlfer conducted several tours and talks with young people over the last month.

City Administrator’s Report

Weather featured prominently in the city administrator’s report and update of current city street projects.

Road conditions on a section of Route 8 in Fort Thomas has caused it to be closed at this time to through traffic. Unfortunately, Dill said, the weather is continuing that damage. The city is working with utility companies and officials at Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KDOT District Six) to outline a long-term prognosis for the area and for dealing with slides overall.

Dill said the city has been in communication with property owners along that stretch that includes three residences and Aquaramp Marina. He said some movement on this issue is expected soon.

The weather has also impacted street resurfacing and sidewalk plans, Dill said. The city has determined it is best to bid out a portion of the work, in particular sidewalk work on East and West Vernon lanes, to outside contractors to complete on time. He said, due to the close proximity of some of the streets in the street program to area schools, there is a time crunch to get the work done before fall. Some outside help is needed to keep the city on track with its street repair plan, he said.

Delays due to weather have also affected the Alexander Circle project. The contractor for the work on the Mess Hall is lined up and ready to go but is waiting for an improvement in weather conditions, Dill added.

New business: Golf carts

Council member Jeff Bezold proposed the city consider allowing the use of golf carts on certain public roadways in the community. According to a new Kentucky law (KRS 189.286), the carts are permitted under certain conditions and with restrictions based on speed, licensing and age of the drivers, but a city can elect to allow the carts as long as they meet requirements.

Bezold proposed allowing carts on roadways with limits of no more than 25 miles per hour for residential use throughout the city.

City attorney Jann Seidenfaden explained that the city could make rules for carts more stringent, but cannot relax the requirements. For example, she said, the state ordinance requires a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour, but Fort Thomas could impose a lower speed limit.

Bezold said he has looked at other cities’ programs, most recently that of Augusta, Kentucky, and has heard positive reports. Augusta officials reported an improvement in parking in the areas where the carts are permitted. Some of the area restaurants have created golf cart parking spaces that have been popular. Another advantage to using carts, he added, may be the ability for businesses to transport supplies and items over a short distances.

Dill added there is a trend toward adding electric charging stations for electric vehicles, and so there may be opportunities for grants in the future that could benefit a golf cart program.

Council voted to refer the issue to the Law, Labor and License committee for examination and recommendation.

Ordinances pass

City council members voted on several ordinances introduced last session. In addition to the budget, members passed an ordinance amending the Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual related to the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act.

Officials also passed scheduled pay increases for city employees and approved changes to the Police Department’s Policy and Procedures Manual.

In a final piece of business, Seidenfaden was re-appointed to serve as the city’s attorney for the coming year.

The council then went into the closed Executive Session.

RELATED: June 3 City Council: Proclamations and Communications

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