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Thursday, July 25, 2019

City Council Roundup: Route-8, Development Agreement, Traffic Safety, Police Retirements

Legacy of 2019 weather: Route 8 remains in poor condition and closed as stakeholders continue to hammer out possible solutions to the ongoing trouble area.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

At their July meeting, the Fort Thomas City Council passed an agreement with NAP Fort Thomas LLC, the development group that includes Greiwe Development, North American Properties, Sibcy Cline and M + A Architects, for the Central Business District project along North Fort Thomas Avenue.

Council went into Executive Session per Kentucky law to discuss the specifics of the agreement before rejoining the public meeting to have the vote. The council vote was tied 3-3 (Cameron, Collier, Blau voted no, Bowman, Bezold, Peterman voted yes), with the Mayor Eric Haas casting the deciding vote in favor.

Some council members expressed concerns about city financial support outlined in the agreement, but all expressed confidence in the development group and said they would support the project as it moved forward.

RELATED: City Passes Development Agreement for Central Business District

Neighbors on Woodland Place reached out to the developer as the project was being planned to try to come to agreement on placement of the garage and other issues. Although the garage was not moved, the developer did change plans for the garage doors to improve screening and made other adjustments to the initial plan.

The revised plan was presented to the Planning Commission at its July meeting. The commission requested a new public hearing due to the change of the setback and other revisions.

That public hearing is set for Wednesday, August 21, at 7 p.m. in the city building. The initial plan was approved by the Planning Commission, so this meeting is to review and vote on the revisions to the plan.

RELATED: Public Hearing Set to Review Revisions to CBD Project

Where does the project go next?

General Services Director Kevin Barbian explained the process. Different parts of the project will be going on at the same time. As the project progresses, the plans will become more detailed and specific.

Depending on what happens at the Planning Commission meeting, the developer could be asked to return to the original plan or to make changes to the proposed revisions or the changes will be accepted.

In the meantime, he said, the developer is preparing to work with the Design Review Board. The DRB will work closely with the developer on the building materials, features and design to ensure that the building will fit into the city’s guidelines for the aesthetics of the project. This process could take several meetings as the developer and DRB work out all the details.

As this work is happening on the design plans, the developer will also be working toward stage two of the same plan. This stage involves working out the technical and engineering details of the development such as utility placement, drainage calculations and other engineering requirements. This part is often worked out administratively between the developers and city engineers and other technical staff.

Neighbors' safety concerns on Water Works Road

While the development agreement was a focal point of the city council meeting, neighbors also addressed council with concerns for traffic safety on Water Works Road.

Robert Geglein, who lives on Water Works, said speeding and driver inattentiveness has been a big problem on the road since he moved there in 2016. In fact, this year, he said there have been four incidents involving speeding cars coming to or from Memorial Parkway who have hit parked cars along the street.

In the most recent incident, Geglein’s and his wife’s cars were sideswiped. He said his car, which is new, was totaled, and the couple were still awaiting news on their second car. The car belonging to the driver who hit the vehicles lost its entire right side tire assembly on the impact, he noted.

Geglein and his neighbors approached council last year, and the city put in a new crosswalk at Sadye Court and Water Works, but, he said, it has not slowed the traffic. He says he is especially concerned for children walking to school especially now that more students are walking the route due to the Johnson remodel.

"Victims of these events are never made whole," he said. "My wife is waiting for her assessment. Our insurance rates will no doubt increase. What will it take, another incident, another child’s death? More panicked pedestrians and small children?"

Scott Harden of Hartweg Avenue said, "I have four children, two dogs. I’ve been there since 2016, and it’s a major problem. At the curve, the cars come whipping off of Memorial. They cut the corner so close. It’s constant. I have cameras up, and I can share footage."

Both neighbors said, while increased police presence and other temporary measures work for a time, something more permanent is needed. They asked about stop signs, speed bumps or other traffic calming devices.

After discussing the matter with Police Chief Casey Kilgore, Mayor Haas and council members decided to research and bring the matter to the upcoming Public Works Committee meeting. Council members on the committee include Ken Bowman, chair, Jeff Bezold and Adam Blau.

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Police personnel news

Chief Kilgore announced three upcoming retirements within the Police Department. Officer Doug Bryant and Lieutenant Rich Whitford will retire at the end of this month. Officer Tom Carr’s last day will be August 31.

The chief said he is happy to announce that the department is moving forward on some lateral hires. The Public Safety Committee interviewed candidates and has selected two. If all goes well with their background investigations, Kilgore said he hopes to hire by August 1.

He also noted that the department is undergoing a re-accreditation process and must meet more than 100 standards in order to stay accredited. Experts from the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police will do a site visit to inspect cars, buildings, uniforms, evidence storage, almost every aspect of police department work.

"If we pass, it will be our 25th year as a state accredited agency. I want to thank Jann [Seidenfaden] for reviewing our policies, and the members of several subcommittees who helped out as well on this," said Kilgore.

Updates on current projects and issues

No news for the situation on Route 8, according to City Manager Ron Dill. The roadway section in Fort Thomas remains closed and in poor condition. All stakeholders are still at the table, he said, discussing the viability of keeping the road as a through route and the impact decisions will have on the three residences and one business, Aquaramp Marina, on that stretch of road.

In addition to Fort Thomas and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, other interested parties include the Northern Kentucky Water District, Duke Energy and the Cincinnati Water Works, which has its main intake facility nearby.

RELATED: Mudslides Have Route 8 is Closed, Again

Dill also said the Shelter 3 project is continuing on track in Tower Park. Bids are out for the shelter building construction and crews are working on the basketball courts and reconstruction of the area near the shelter.

The Alexander Circle project continues as well, with Duke Energy requesting an easement for a gasline move on the property. The city granted the easement.

Bids have been returned for an outside contractor to do sidewalk repair work on Vernon Lane. Due to weather conditions and close proximity to area schools, the city last month requested to put out bids for a portion of the street repair work to keep to its goal of having the work completed before the school year begins. Fort Thomas company TMS Construction won the bid ($82,900) for the work.

And, finally, council member David Cameron, chair of the Law, Labor and License Committee, reported that discussion is continuing on the prospect of allowing golf carts on city streets. Research is still underway, he expects the committee will have a decision over the next several weeks. Council members Mark Collier and Roger Peterman are also on that committee.

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