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Thursday, October 24, 2019

City Council Roundup: Guest Fire Chief, City Building, Project Updates

Each year Moyer Elementary students create artwork featuring Fort Thomas businesses and organizations. This year, the city received artwork from Moyer students Benjamin Loyson, Graham Wiley and Jack Walker.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

A new face represented the Fire Department at the October Fort Thomas city council meeting. Grace Mumper, a fifth grader at St. Thomas School, is the city’s first Firefighter for a Day, and she served as guest fire chief for the meeting.

Mumper, who won her spot with a winning essay on how to improve our community, gave the monthly Fire Department Report. She had a strong showing of support at the meeting with family and new friends she has made at the department.

Her report included monthly statistics for September, including:

  • 147 overall fire service responses
  • 105 were EMS-related calls
  • 35 were fire incident responses
  • 16 involved mutual aid responses to neighboring fire departments
  • 8 public education classes training 229 people
  • 64 fire safety inspections 
  • 4 car seat installations

Other activities included trainings for personnel on both emergency management and fire services topics and department presence at the St. Thomas School fundraiser and the Merchants and Music Festival.

Firefighter for a Day Grace Mumper surrounded by council, family and her new friends at the Fort Thomas Fire Department

With a strong family background in fire service, Mumper was a great fit for the first ever Firefighter for a Day contest. Her uncle is a Norwood, Ohio, firefighter, and her grandfather served in that fire service for 33 years, including 17 as chief.

RELATED: Meet Fort Thomas' New Firefighter (for a Day)

Chief Mark Bailey thanked Grace, her family and the many firefighters and other department personnel who helped make the day and the project possible. He gave some background on how the idea came about.

He said planning for the day started over a year ago. During Fire Prevention month in October last year, he saw a story about a similar project in the Lexington Herald and discussed it with City Administrator Ron Dill. At about the same time, Lieutenant Eric Scherpenberg in his department also had seen a story about a program in the Louisville paper.

From there the chief and Scherpenberg began a discussion with other members of the department, and all were excited about the idea. The theme for 2019 Fire Prevention Month is "Not every hero wears a cape, plan and practice your escape," and it seemed a perfect theme to start a new community participation program. Area fifth graders already participate in a related poster contest, so the department added an essay contest to find its first Firefighter for a Day.

Bailey said the day was a lot of fun for all involved. After being picked up at school, Grace worked with the squad learning about many of their duties. She visited the Water District to flow water, learned about equipment and what goes on behind-the-scenes, participated in a fire inspection at KLH, visited with medical staff at St. Elizabeth hospital emergency and topped the day off with a dish of genuine firehouse chili.

"Grace fit right in. You wouldn’t believe how many answers to questions she got correct today...We’re very happy to have had Grace with us," Bailey said.

The chief also took the opportunity to thank all his staff who helped with the project, especially Scherpenberg, Captain Tammy Webster, who served as Mumper’s chaperone for the day, Captain Chris Amon and the entire second shift team.

He thanked Mumper and gave her a Fort Thomas Fire Department patch and challenge coin to remember her day.

Update on regional radio dispatch project and more Fire Department news

Bailey updated council on the situation with the regional radio dispatch project. Public safety organizations in three counties — Campbell, Kenton and Boone — embarked on a project to upgrade the region’s antiquated radio dispatch communication system in 2017.

RELATED: Public Safety Radio System to Be Upgraded

Fort Thomas joined nine other fire departments in Campbell County to apply for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to offset some of the costs of the regional dispatch project. The chief said the application was rejected although it had made its way to a spot near the top of consideration according to his sources. He said the Campbell departments will resubmit as soon as possible.

It’s not a surprise that such a large regional project has faced several hurtles along the way. Recently, explained Bailey, Boone County has run into issues with two cell towers it had been leasing in Indiana. The owners of the towers declined permission for the vendor, Motorola, to put its equipment on the towers. This leaves Boone County to come up with two new towers. The affect on the timeline could push the whole project back until next spring.

The new timeline might actually help with implementation of the project as the testing radius is different when leaves drop from the trees than when leaves are full. A spring start for the project would be a good thing, Bailey said.

The department did have good news this month. Fort Thomas has been awarded a FEMA grant for $53,333 for a new house exhaust removal/ventilation system, said Bailey.

The Fort Thomas Fire Department will say goodbye to two of its staff this season. Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Wulfeck has retired, and Captain Amon announced he will retire November 30. The city is already discussing the positions and doing some interviews.

Mayor Eric Haas took the opportunity to thank Amon and Wulfeck for their service to the community.

Lock your doors and gather your meds

The Fort Thomas Police Department report was brief this month but included two important reminders.

October 26 is Drug Take Back Day. Bring your expired prescription drugs to the Fort Thomas Police. There will be a collection spot inside the City Building, 130 North Fort Thomas Avenue.

As the holiday season is fast approaching, remember to lock your car doors. Police report an uptick in car break-ins at this time of year, but many are thefts where "breaking in" isn’t necessary because doors are not locked.

Fort Thomas city building is due for an update

The city has been exploring ideas about updating and upgrading the city building at 130 North Fort Thomas. Last month it was decided to explore costs and gather input for the project, and to find a design partner or partners who could provide expertise. Council put out a request for quotes (RFQ) and asked the Public Utilities and Buildings Committee for review.

Council member Mark Collier, chair of the committee, said the planned upgrade project presents an opportunity to take a look at the project with an eye toward making the building more accessible, efficient and welcoming to the public.

"This is a 50-year-old building. We thought it would be very interesting to look at it as a community space, how we can open it up more to community members. This is a good opportunity to do that."

He said the committee has reviewed the RFQs and interviewed potential project partners. The committee, which also includes Bowman and David Cameron, recommended the city work with REN & A Architects.

"One of the reasons we selected them, the most important thing, is the team aspect of who they will bring to the table," said Collier. "This will include REN & A, but also KLH Engineers and Human Nature."

He noted that the company has done a great deal of work for the Fort Thomas Independent School District and has been involved in all of the new schools being built.

Council voted unanimously to approve the committee’s recommendation.

Over 50 years experience in NKY. Call now, mention FTM. (859) 287-2499.

Law, Labor and License Committee News

Council member Cameron, chair of the Law, Labor and License Committee, shared some updates.

The committee discussed the creation of a formal Special Event Application for larger events in the city such as merchant events, festivals and neighborhood block parties. Council member Adam Blau had pointed to a need for a more formal process that would help with planning city resources. The committee recommended Blau and the city administrator meet with police and fire chiefs to further investigate the matter.

Staff was set to meet with a vendor for the city website as part of a communications plan. Council member Collier had laid out a communication improvement plan for the city that started with a new website, improved communications between the city and the community, and a new sign for the city building.

Work is moving forward on the Fairness Ordinance. After review of documentation prepared by city staff and model city ordinances from neighboring Dayton and Covington, the committee requested City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden to prepare some sample ordinances for further discussion and review.

The Law, Labor and License Committee also includes council members Collier and Roger Peterman.

City project updates 

The city is buzzing with Fall planning, road repair and construction projects. The city administrator outlined several projects now underway.

Community Plan Implementation: Dill said there have been several committee meetings on implementation of the Community Plan. Minutes from the various committees has been posted on the Fort Thomas Community Plan website. More committee meetings are planned throughout the end of this year with the hope of presenting a summary at the January council meeting.

Tower Park planning: The president of the Pearson Street Homeowners Association, Melanie Powers, took the opportunity to address council to read a letter of appreciation from her neighborhood.

The neighbors were concerned about a design option under consideration that would create an entrance to Tower Park involving Douglas Drive and Pearson Street. The group worked with council member Bowman and the city administrator to look at alternatives.

"The Pearson Street HOA would like to express our appreciation publicly to Ron Dill, city manager, for all his efforts working with us regarding the ongoing design of the Cochran Avenue road improvements plan... The most dominant being the elimination of the proposed original cut through/new entrance from Douglas Drive to Pearson Street. At this point in time our HOA is pleased with the new design, very much so, and we do looking forward to continuing to work with Mr. Dill until the design is finalized," she said.

She also praised Bowman for his help. Dill explained the Douglas entrance was one of several options in an effort to provide access to parking and a new two-way traffic pattern on Cochran. Other options included a potential roundabout and a reconfiguration of the intersection of Douglas and Cochran. A study on the reconfigured intersection is underway as selected design option.

Waterworks road and sewer improvement:
While Waterworks Road has been high on the list for street resurfacing, the project must wait for SD1 as they complete a major project in the area. Dill reported that the city is working to coordinate with SD1. The sewer district is addressing serious issues with drainage and surcharge in the sewer system. They have shared some of the design documents with the city and are working on final design.

SD1 intends to replace all the sanitary sewers within corporation limits from Memorial Parkway to the Newport city limits on Waterworks Road. They will rebuild the storm sewer from Memorial Parkway to the end of the Waterworks property. The work is scheduled to begin in January with bids and then construction through 2020 and completion in August. After that, city repaving of the road can begin.

Highland Park ball field resurfacing: A group working in support of the Highland Park Ball Field has raised $215,000, the necessary funds to cover the cost of resurfacing the infield. The field will be covered in a synthetic surface, along with a complete drainage system, which will offer more extended play on the field. The group is working with Vescio’s SportsField, a Lexington company that recently worked on the University of Kentucky stadium. The work is intended to begin this fall so that the field will be ready for play next spring.

Tennis courts: The city is working with Tennis Technology Inc. on restoration of the tennis courts. Work is scheduled to be complete by the end of October.

Street resurfacing program: Reigler Asphalt is doing resurfacing and paving work this week and next depending on weather conditions. The work is ongoing on Ohio Avenue, Ridgeway Avenue, Vernon Lane, and Grant, Sherman and Sheridan avenues.

Memorial Parkway work:
Work is underway and is scheduled to be completed in November.

North Fort Thomas Avenue: Easement work is ongoing. Dunrobin Associates is making offers and securing easements and permits for the sidewalk construction. Once this is complete, they will report back to the city. Once authorized by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the city will be able to enter into agreements. If all goes well and all property owners agree, the city is hoping to bid out the project later this year.

Shelter 3 in Tower Park: After the initial bids for a new shelter and restroom facility came back too high, the city took out the proposed restroom (to be revisited later) and rebid the project as the shelter alone. Staff selected John P. Tumlin & Sons Construction to perform the work after the company came in with the lowest bid of $196,500. The company has done similar work and has an impressive resume, Dill said. He asked council to approve the selection, and the council voted to approve.

Duke easements in Tower Park: As Duke Energy is completing utility work in the Alexander Circle project, the company discovered it needs an easement for a small section in the area that is being maintained as a public park. The city approved the request.

More city business and upcoming dates

The council heard first readings on two ordinances. The first was an amendment for the General Commercial Zone. The Planning Commission recommended the amendment to add churches and places of worship to the permitted uses in the GC Zone if they are adjacent to an arterial street.

The request for the change came from the owners of Fort Thomas Plaza. A church is leasing some space at the Fort Thomas Antiques Center. A change in zoning would allow the church a more permanent location should the church want that in the future.

Council members asked about tax implications and displacement of commercial entities for other churches. Discussion will be ongoing up to the second reading next month.

Another ordinance on first reading involves the establishment of a nonexclusive franchise for use of public streets, alleys and other public grounds by television, telephone and internet systems or providers within the city.

The city also made some appointments. Mike Kehoe has been appointed to the Board of Ethics for a three-year term.

The city also appointed and welcomed new city mechanic Seth Carson.

Some upcoming dates to remember:

  • Jack-o-Lantern Walk is scheduled for Friday, October 25, from 6 to 9 pm.
  • Halloween is officially form 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 31.
  • Veteran’s Day celebration in Tower Park is scheduled for November 9, starting at noon.  

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