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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

PREVIEW: 2019-2020 Highlands Boys Basketball

Bluebirds Hope to Prove They're Not a One-Hit Wonder

PHOTO: Dale Dawn. Highlands junior guard Sam Vinson (20) goes up for a shot against Newport last year. Vinson is the lone starter returning from last year's 20-12 squad.
The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team put together its best season since the 2008-09 season last year.

The Bluebirds recorded a 20-12 mark reaching that win total for the first time since that season and made it to the 9th Region Tournament for the first time since 2014. Highlands also snapped a number of long losing streaks to a number of region opponents in Newport Central Catholic, Covington Holmes, Dixie Heights, Covington Catholic and Covington Holy Cross.

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. Located at 90 Alexandria Pike. 
The Bluebirds rallied past host NewCath, 57-53 in the 36th District semifinals to start the postseason. But after that, Highlands could not pull off the first district championship since 2008 losing 64-61 to Newport in the district title game before dropping a 47-37 decision to Cooper in the 9th Region quarterfinals. The last region win for the Bluebirds came in 2009.

Highlands graduated nine seniors from that team including four starters. Power forward Ben Sisson took his talents to Kentucky Wesleyan University. The other eight are guards Ryan Leigh, Jack Hegge, forwards Austin King, Grady Cramer, wings Tristan Thompson, Alex Starkey, Nate Roberts and power forward Will Salmon. The Bluebirds graduated more than 82 percent of the scoring off that team.

Seventh-year Highlands Head Coach Kevin Listerman admitted the Bluebirds should take steps back on paper. But he's glad the team has the lone returning starter from last year in junior guard Sam Vinson and senior guards Jacob Brass and Hunter Ahlfeld to rely on early in the season as the most experience returning from last year. Vinson averaged just under 10 points per game last year.

Kentucky ranks #3 deadliest state for distracted driving

Photo: FTM file. 

Kentucky ranks as the #3 most dangerous state for distracted driving, according to a new report released by

With a record-breaking number of driving travelers (49.3 million nationwide) forecasted to be traveling 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving holiday (the most since 2005), this information should be noted.

Data was compiled using information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which is a nationwide census providing NHTSA, Congress and the American public yearly data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Here, you can see the map, other state rankings, and their methodology.

Ohio River Recreational Trail Initiative Receives National Park Service Technical Assistance Award

The 274-mile long Ohio River Recreational Trail will receive planning assistance from the National Park Service from the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (NPS press release attached).

“This is outstanding news!” according to David Wicks, co-chair of the Ohio River Recreational Trail initiative. “The National Park Service has tremendous experience in guiding the development of water trails throughout the country, and to receive planning assistance from them is quite an honor.”   The Ohio River Recreational Trail, ORRT, starts at Portsmouth, Ohio and ends in West Point, Kentucky, with Cincinnati as the halfway point.

“One of our goals is to create the resources people need to explore and enjoy the Ohio River valley, its beauty, towns, history and people”, stated Brewster Rhoads, trail co-chair. “This award will help us create a trail that will ultimately be recognized by the National Park Service as a National Water Trail.” The ORRT will be a focal point in connecting with other National Park Service designated National Water Trails in the Ohio River basin.

The National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program recipients are selected following a competitive process. Only eight projects will receive assistance this year in the southeastern US. “Unique to the Ohio River Recreational Trail project is the multi-state focus of this trail,” commented Russel Clark, Landscape Architect with the National Park Service. “There are three states involved in this project, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. As such, we will have two National Park Service offices working on this project, one in Ohio and one in Kentucky.” The National Park Service will provide expert consultation to help spur local recreation, conservation and economic development opportunities.

The trail can be explored from both land and water and will be supported by an on-line digital guide developed by Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The digital guide will contain the information and resources needed for either land-based or water-based tourism. The guide will provide details about the Ohio River such as marinas, locks and dams, weather and water condition information, as well as information on hiking and bicycling trails located along the river.

In addition, it will have links to river community websites and social media pages where local points of interest and amenities including lodging, restaurants and shops can be found.

The second annual Ohio River Recreational canoe paddle will be held in early summer of 2020.

More information is available on the Ohio River Recreational Trail FB page or visit the web page:

Fort Thomas Independent Schools Open House | Sunday, December 1 | 3-5 p.m.

The Fort Thomas Independent Schools will host an Open House for prospective tuition-paying families and also families interested in relocating to Fort Thomas on Sunday, December 1, 2019 from 3-5pm.  It will allow students and their family members an opportunity to learn more about the unique programs offered at each grade level (K-12).

“We offer a world-class education, high quality instruction, dynamic teachers, and a fantastic support system,” said Bill Bradford, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning.  “It would be our hope that this Open House leaves a favorable impression upon these prospective students and their families so they will be inspired to apply for enrollment in our district as a way to contribute to our established excellence.”

Each one of the five schools that comprise the Fort Thomas Independent Schools (Johnson Elementary, Moyer Elementary, Woodfill Elementary, Highlands Middle School and Highlands High School) will be open during the two-hour event, with tours of each building departing every 30 minutes.

“We are excited to open our doors so that others outside of our school community can see some of the great characteristics of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools,” said Jamee Flaherty, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services.

Dr. Karen Cheser, the Superintendent in Fort Thomas, sees the Open House as an ideal platform to share the District’s story and culture of excellence with students and families looking to become a part of it.

“Our schools represent national leaders in education and it’s our hope that families attending the Open House learn more about our vision and values by asking a lot of questions and interacting with leadership in the schools,” Dr. Cheser said.  “We believe fully in developing the whole child and preparing our students for 21st century challenges and opportunities.”

The Open House will conclude in time for visitors to stay in town and enjoy the much-anticipated Fort Thomas Holiday Walk, a yearly tradition in which community members walk with their friends and neighbors through the Central Business District and visit businesses that have opened for the special event on a Sunday evening.  Families can pay a visit to Santa Claus, take part in holiday-themed fun and games and take care of holiday shopping in a festive and family-friendly atmosphere.

The Holiday Walk lasts from 5:30-8:00 p.m.

Newport Man Sentenced to 156 Months for Conspiracy to Distribute Crystal Methamphetamine

Timothy Fairless, 51, of Newport, Kentucky, was sentenced today to 156 months in federal prison, for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, by U.S. District Judge David Bunning. Fairless was also sentenced to 5 years of supervised release, following completion of his prison term.

Call Ashley Barlow. 859-781-5777. 

Fairless previously admitted to conspiring with numerous others to distribute more than 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, between August 2016 and March 2018. According to the plea agreement, numerous packages of crystal methamphetamine were sent through the mail from California by J. James Alarcon to Fairless, at various addresses in northern Kentucky.  Fairless admitted to then distributing the methamphetamine to multiple individuals engaged in retail-level trafficking. Agents also seized seven firearms from conspiracy members in the course of the investigation.

Fairless was indicted in May 2018 and was the final member of the conspiracy to be sentenced.  The following individuals were previously sentenced: Walter Nash received 240 months in prison; J. James Alarcon received 168 months; Dawson Hendricks received 138 months; Christopher Shouse received 120 months; Ryan Dawson received 60 months; Alisha Jones received 46 months; Cassie Scrivner received 39 months; Jennifer Ramos received 25 months; and Wanda Nash received 21 months. Under federal law, each Defendant must serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence.

St. Elizabeth Unveils Phase One of Ambitious Fort Thomas Renovation Project

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor  

Officials and staff at St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas Hospital held a grand opening Tuesday for Phase One of a three-year, 14-million-dollar renovation project to expand and improve patient care at the location.

Located in the space that was initially the intensive care unit, this first phase of the project is a new same-day surgery center that will provide a spacious and efficient one-stop area for patients from pre-op through surgery and recovery.

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Mitchell explained the scope of the project. "We are completely gutting and renovating all our pre- and post-op areas, our operating rooms, our educational conference room, office space," he said.

The entire space is designed with ease of movement for physicians and staff and for patient comfort, he said. "We have increased the capacity by four, made the rooms much larger. We’ve focused on the patient experience, the comfort of the patient and also made the space more efficient for our associates and our physicians."

The plan for the project is broken into four phases, and Mitchell is already thinking ahead. "So now we are getting into the actual operating room areas. There’s still a lot of work to be done, a lot of inconvenience for our associates and our physicians going forward, but when it’s all said and will be all state-of-the-art and on the same level with Edgewood and Florence – so Fort Thomas is rocking!"

Benita Anderson, chief nursing officer for Florence and Fort Thomas hospitals, said she’s seen a complete transformation of the space in her years at the hospital. "We opened 'the tower' in 1984, and it really was the Taj Mahal. People came from far and wide to see this new tower and how it was going to look with the old hospital. It was very brightly colored, lots of pinks and mauves. The rooms looked so large. We were just amazed."

She said the hospital staff, as well as the community, was blown away by the beautiful new space. Yet, she added, the one constant in care is change. "Times have changed, equipment has changed and patient needs have changed. The complexity changed," she said. "Needs are different, so much more specialized."

Yet, some things don’t change and providing the best environment in which to give care is an important factor, she said. "We can meet the needs of patients by really creating an environment that helps us to do that. It’s not always just about the care; it’s about the environment that allows the caregivers to give that kind of care. I think you certainly see it here, but you can see it through a lot of our growth. Our values and our mission is to give to the community."

She said the renovation project is an extension of that mission. "The individuals that work within [the hospital] are so dedicated...They recognize that to be able to give good care, you have to invest in the environment and invest in the people. If you invest in those two things, the quality follows.'

Nurse Manager Pam Castleberry, who oversees perioperative services, has been with St. Elizabeth for 15 years and at the Fort Thomas location for the last three. "We’ve taken this space, gutted the inside and expanded our same day surgery to be able to provide more advanced technology and more advanced ease of access for outpatient surgeries."

Change, she said, has been constant. "When I first came here, six doctors had retired, so we had to replace that volume. And Fort Thomas was experiencing new growth, so in that time, we’ve revamped, and over the last two years, we’ve been working to renovate the area."

She explained how nurses, physicians and other staff – those who provide the care and work in the new center – had an important hand in the design of the space. She and her two assistant nurse managers collaborated with project architects and designers to create more functional ease of access.

With 25 years in nursing overall, Castleberry can take the long view and has seen how changes in technology have impacted care. "In the industry, the change in innovation has been amazing. We’ve gone from doing an open case [surgeries] to doing laparoscopic cases and to now Divinci robot cases.”

Technology is one thing, she said, but it is the mission that drives St. Elizabeth and this renovation project in particular. "We want to lead the community to be one of the healthiest communities in the nation," she said.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In Other Words: Nothing Is Worth Having Unless You Share It

Courtesy Unsplash
It’s Thanksgiving week. Time to let out the pants and have another slice of pumpkin pie - or two. It’s time to be grateful for our bounty. Time for football. Time for family, friends, food, and drink.

But it is also the time where we begin to reflect on the year and plan for a better next year.

It’s time to ask “For what am I grateful?” So if you will indulge me a bit, I have a response or two. I am grateful -

Phone: 859-905-0714 - Email: This is an advertisement.

to drink morning coffee with friends
to go to the gym to work off that donut
to work on community projects that I truly enjoy
to still kiss my wife good morning and good night
to dabble
to muck about
to weed the garden
to putz
to chill
to kill time
to read
to chat
to challenge
to say thank you to everyone who cared for me during a long and difficult illness
to hear the rain splash under the tires of passing cars
to cuddle babies
to enjoy my wife’s sunrise photos
to nap in the hammock by the shore
to once again witness the change of seasons
to have creative friends
to accept kindness
to learn something new every day
to have ability to help another
to hear the laughter of children
to attempt to make the world a little better
to experience the wonders of nature
to understand that I failed often and publicly in spectacular fashion
to accept the new day
to mourn loss
to celebrate the joys of others
to have more questions than answers
to be aware of every crack and flaw
to pay attention to what’s really important - others
to those who make me laugh and think and feel
to unexpected surprises and happy accidents
to be sappy and not care
to a guitar that stays in tune and fingers that still move
to feel the warm sun
to wrap myself in the comfort of night
to have survived cancer and for the goodness of science and prayer and love
to be grateful for the opportunity to try again

It’s easy to list the things for which we are grateful, but how do we practice it? How can we put it into practice? Try this. Write a text or email or a handwritten note to someone and say something nice or give honest praise for a job done well, a kindness, or whatever.  A cousin who lives rather far away sends weekly texts with a silly image and a hug emoji or just a simple “Love you.” I treasure those little notes.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Fort Thomas Comprehensive Plan Earns Cincinnati Design Award

The Fort Thomas Community Plan received a top 2019 Cincinnati Design Award in the Interdisciplinary category. (FTM file)
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor  

The Fort Thomas Comprehensive Community Plan, developed by the city and its project partners CT Consultants and Human Nature, has earned a 2019 Cincinnati Design Award. The award was presented at the organization’s annual awards banquet held November 8 in Cincinnati’s Memorial Hall.

The Cincinnati Design Awards is a program that “recognizes the best built-environment design produced by Cincinnati-area creative firms and promotes the social and economic value of good design in our community.”

Each year a nationwide jury of design professionals presents the awards to projects submitted by local architecture, interior, landscape and experiential graphic designers, as well as community planners. The awards include six categories: building architecture, interior architecture, landscape architecture and community planning, experiential graphics (building wayfinding, signage and related graphics), interdisciplinary projects and innovation.

The Fort Thomas plan received the top honor in the Interdisciplinary project category. These projects "exemplify design excellence through successful implementation of integrated design across disciplines at any scale, type, or budget."

The project design team included Frank Twehues, Kristin Hopkins, Emily Bills, Mark Brueggemann, Robert Seitzinger, Chris Manning and Sara DiLandro.

City Administrator Ron Dill shared the news at the November Fort Thomas city council meeting. He congratulated the city plan team and the community.

Two Highlands Middle School Students Honored as Global Leaders

Two Highlands Middle School students earned Global Leader awards for their compassion and empathy for their peers.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

Two students from Highlands Middle School were honored as Global Leaders at the November meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools District board.

Reese Dunbar and Mayson Gindele were nominated by their principal Michael Howton as courageous leaders who reached out to help children in need within our community. The pair wanted to help children less fortunate, those in foster care and in residential living situations, have some fun and celebrate Halloween.

Gindele contacted the Diocesan Catholic Children’s Home (DCCH) in Fort Mitchell and asked if she and Dunbar might be able to help the children with trick or treating for Halloween. Although the organization had some Halloween plans in place, they asked the girls for help with decorating the DCCH van for Halloween. The van visited foster children throughout the community.

"They gave us some money so we went out and bought decorations and some cool stuff for the kids so they could have something other than candy, and we gave it out to them so they could have a Halloween just like we get to have," explained Gindele.

RELATED: Two Highlands Middle School Students Create "Trunk or Treat" Experience for Foster Kids

Superintendent Karen Cheser applauded the students for their caring and their efforts. "I just love the idea that you took the initiative to do this. Most kids might not be thinking of how they can help others. Pretty fantastic, thank you!"

Dunbar also was nominated for her work helping another student achieve academic success. Her teacher, Kim Klein, nominated her for a Global Leader award. In late October, Dunbar volunteered her time at Saturday school to help one of her peers catch up in science class.

"The student went from a lack of effort [in class] to maintaining a much better focus and putting forth a good-faith effort," explained Klein. "When I talked with the student, he wanted me to nominate Reese for her help. She helped him so much that he got an 'A' on his test in science. The empathy and compassion Reese demonstrates is worth noting and makes me very proud."

Fort Thomas Fire Department thankful long-time patron is on the mend

Fort Thomas resident Lee Cordray (middle) stopped by to thank firefighter/paramedics for their help. (l to r): Lieutenant/Paramedic Eric Scherpenberg and Firefighters/Paramedics Brandon Fromeyer, Sam Behrle and Scott Shepherd.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor   

As part of his monthly report to city council, Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey shared photos of his department’s activities for Fire Prevention Month in October.

The month is a national annual public awareness campaign and one of the busiest months for fire departments across the country. This year’s theme was "Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape." In Fort Thomas the month was marked by extensive community training opportunities for all ages as well as a regional poster contest and the first-ever "Firefighter for a Day."

"We held 39 specific fire safety/public information classes throughout the month involving 883 participants. We were touching base with a lot of different people," said Chief Bailey.

The Fort Thomas Fire Department hosted groups of all ages for information and fun during Fire Prevention Month 2019.
He shared several photos, most taken by Lieutenant/Paramedic Eric Scherpenberg, who has been instrumental in the poster contest and other promotions for the month. In particular, said Bailey, the lieutenant secured $4,000 from Christ Hospital and area Fort Thomas businesses for the Northern Kentucky Fire Prevention poster winners.

"Fort Thomas schools (public and parochial) had 17 winners. A lot of great posters were coming out of Fort Thomas, a lot of good fire prevention ideas...Again, I thank everybody for participating in that event this year as well as the whole month...The entire department, all three shifts, really enjoy doing it, putting it together every year," Bailey said.

In addition to the contest and classes, this was the first year for Firefighter for a Day. Grace Mumper of St. Thomas School won the honor with her winning essay. She had the opportunity to spend the entire day with the department.

RELATED: Meet Fort Thomas New Firefighter (for a Day)
Another area student also had the opportunity to spend time with firefighters this month as part of the Woodfill Big Top event. Alexandra Owensby won a special prize — the opportunity to ride to school in a fire truck.

Here are a few of the photos from the October monthly report:

Children get a look at firefighting gear up close.

Whole classes of area children visited the Fire Department.
Fire department personnel held 39 fire safety and prevention classes for 883 participants.
Elementary students visit the Safety House to learn about Fire Prevention.
In addition to the month's Fire Prevention activities, firefighters continued with their own trainings.
Ride a Truck to School Winner Alexandra Owensby of Woodfill Elementary poses with her family and new fire service friends.

Chief Bailey also had one more photo to share, that of a happy crew with a resident and friend of the department who had stopped by to thank them for helping her in a recent medical emergency.

"Lee Cordray has a special place in the fire department’s heart. She is the one several years ago who purchased and donated our six ballistic vests," he explained. Late one October night she experienced some medical issues and called the department for help. The firefighters responded and rushed her to the hospital where she got the help she needed.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Braxton, King Arthur's Court, Blue Marble Books among first to join Levee's holiday pop-up retailers

Newport on the Levee is offering rent-free retail spaces to Village retailers for about a month, from November 23rd - December 28th.

The Levee hasn't determined how many of the currently empty spaces inside the mall area, which range in size from 700 to 7,800 square feet, will be made available to pop-up retailers. Successful applicants will be required to open their stores on weekday evenings and weekends.

The mall will continue to accept applications at its website through Wednesday, November 20th.

Braxton Brewing and King Arthur's Court will be among the first to join Newport on the Levee's lineup of holiday pop-up-retailers, mall officials confirmed.

The well-known brewery and toy-seller - which will supply inventory for the mall's Toy Shop on the Levee and will join Blue Marble Books of Fort Thomas; Newport's The Little Spoon Bakery; The Native Brand clothing store of Dayton, KY, Decorate Your Doughnuts, Train Toys + Ride a Train, and more.

The merchants have been recruited to help launch the new Village on the Levee pop-up shopping area on the first floor of the Gallery Building, which houses AMC Theaters, GameWorks, Claire’s and Cosmic Coffee.

The mall is striving to sign the right mix of crafters, eateries, breweries, bourbon makers and others to create a neighborhood-like shopping experience and help spark local entrepreneurship, according to Tim Perry, chief investment officer at North American Properties, which purchased the mall late last year.

"To show our profound appreciation for the artisans and makers in our region and to offer our holiday guests gifts and merchandise they can’t find anywhere else, we decided to create an amazing pop-up experience surrounding our holiday programming,'' Perry said.

The pop-up shopping area will also feature a Santa's House and other entertainment, including The Stage on the Levee, which will offer free holiday performances by local singers, dancers and musicians, among others.


“Light Up the Levee 2019” Beginning at 5:30pm – 10:00pm - Saturday, November 23rd

Join Newport for 11th Annual Light Up the Levee Tree Lighting Celebration as they officially kick off the holiday season!

This magical evening begins with Santa's grand helicopter arrival followed by family activities, the season’s first snowfall, the lighting of our 50-foot tree with 1.4 million lights, and more surprises. Cap off the night with an after-party filled with food, beverage and live music from the Clyde Brown Band.

We will have children’s activities (face-painting and balloon animals), live music, food trucks, the tree-lighting ceremony, Santa’s big arrival via helicopter, a marching band, a ballerina, men’s chorus and much much more!

Barre3 Fort Thomas is offering great deals on class packages

It’s the time of the year to invest in things that matter to you.

Once a year, barre3 Ft. Thomas marks down their class pack pricing by 20% for two weeks. That time is now.

RELATED: barre3 Ft. Thomas is located at 90 Alexandria Pike in the Fort Thomas Plaza. 

While you’re prepping to make the holiday season the best for your family and friends around you, don’t forget to prioritize yourself. Take advantage of our Black Friday sale, and get 20% off 10-class Packages. This deal ends December 4th, so don't miss out!

Shop our class pack sale here:

On Small Business Saturday, barre3 Ft. Thomas will be hosting a retail sip & shop in conjunction with our class pack sale.

Why shop at barre3? At barre3, we’re all about conscious retailing and are proud to offer you quality products from companies that embrace: female leadership, sustainable practices, ethical manufacturing, and charitable giving. The best part? A selection of these curated items are on sale on Small Business Saturday.

Come meet our friendly staff, check out our beautiful studio, take a class, and shop the sale—we’d love to see you!

Five northern Kentuckians named to Governor-elect transition team

Governor-elect Andy Beshear announced more than 150 members of his transition team ahead of his December 10 inauguration.

The list includes five from Northern Kentucky, including Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent, Dr. Karen Cheser.

Dr. Cheser is one of three superintendents selected to assist with the transition in Frankfort.

The Transition Team as a whole is diverse and non-partisan, from all throughout Kentucky.

"I'm happy to represent Fort Thomas Independent Schools on Governor-Elect Beshear's Transition Team," Dr. Cheser said. "It's an honor I take seriously and I'll do my best to communicate the importance of public education in the region and in our Commonwealth."

Democrat Beshear and running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Jacqueline Coleman, defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and his running mate, State Sen. Ralph Alvarado.

“Jacqueline and I are honored to have such a strong and talented team of leaders and experts committed to helping Kentucky start this new chapter,” Beshear said. “We are truly excited about this opportunity. We will never stop working to serve every single Kentuckian, including the lost, the lonely and the left behind.” 

“We appreciate those willing to volunteer to help us move forward as a state with dignity, inclusivity and respect,” said Coleman. “We all share a common goal to make Kentucky a vibrant, safe, healthy place for our families to live and work for generations to come. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s get started.”

The transition team includes Cheser, who will serve as staff on the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet transition staff; State Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder), who will co-chair the Public Protection Cabinet; Col Owens, of Fort Mitchell, a local attorney and former chairman of the Kenton County Democratic Party, will serve on the transition staff of the Health and Family Services Cabinet; Campbell County Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle Snodgrass will serve on the transition staff for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; and attorney Lance Lucas, of Union, will serve on the transition staff of the Labor Cabinet.

“The peaceful and smooth transition of government is one of the tenets of American democracy," said J. Michael Brown, transition chair and deputy attorney general. "We appreciate the nearly 30,000 state employees who are dedicated to public service and we must remember that while management is changing, the mission of government is not.”

Join for a "Jog Around Town" in memory of Al Salvato

City Council Roundup: Project Completions, Zoning Amendment, New Firefighter/Paramedic

Fort Thomas City Building

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

The November meeting of Fort Thomas City Council was brief and highlighted ongoing street repair and related work, much of which is coming to completion as the colder weather and holidays move in.

City Administrator Ron Dill reported that the resurfacing of the tennis courts at Tower Park has been completed. The job was done by Tennis Technology, Inc. Lines for pickle ball have been repainted onto the courts so all is ready for the spring sports season.

Your new home is waiting. Start your search here. 
The city’s street resurfacing program is also well underway and work on streets behind Woodfill Elementary School is expected to be completed before the end of this month. The streets in the program include Fairview Place, Grant Street, North Fort Thomas Avenue, Ohio Avenue, Ridgeway Avenue, Sheridan Avenue, Sherman Avenue and Vernon Lane (east, west and south).

Repairs to Memorial Parkway have been completed by the state. Although it was not a city project, the city and residents have been concerned about issues on the street with drainage and damage from storms and ice issues.

RELATED: Work to begin on Memorial Parkway 

Dill also reported good news on recent events. The annual Jack-o-Lantern Walk went very well, he said, with 2,937 people participating. This year, due to construction at Johnson Elementary, the event included space to host Johnson’s fundraiser Hullabaloo Festival, which Dill says also had a very good turnout. Dill reminded council the annual Holiday Walk is coming soon, on December 1.

Fire Service and Police Reports

The city council welcomed new Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Hinkel, who was introduced by Chief Mark Bailey. Hinkel received his badge at the meeting, which also marked his first official day of work.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Welcomes New Firefighter/Paramedic

Bailey also reported on a very successful Fire Safety Month in October. Events included 39 public safety classes, a poster contest and the first ever Firefighter for a Day.

RELATED: Fire Department Looks Back at a Successful Fire Prevention Month

Sergeant Adam Noe gave the Police Report and said the department is preparing for the transition in leadership.

“As most of you know, Chief Casey Kilgore is going to retire at the end of the month. I’d just like to personally thank him for the time I got to work with him. He’s been a great leader for us, and he’s definitely going to be missed.” said Noe.

He also reported that recruit Will Martin is doing well in the academy and is on track to graduate in February. Officer Joe Paolucci is also expected back shortly. Lieutenant Brent Moening has stepped up to serve as interim chief.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Police Chief Casey Kilgore to Retire 

Two ordinances pass

Horizon Community Funds’ 410 giving circle awards first grant to Newport mural project

The 410, Horizon Community Funds’ newest giving circle, has selected a local nonprofit for its inaugural round of funding. Members of The 410 voted to fund Southbank Partners’ upcoming mural project, which will commemorate the city of Newport’s 225th anniversary in 2020.

“We are excited for the work that our members of The 410 have decided to fund,” said Horizon Community Funds President Nancy Grayson. “It was an engaging selection process, and we truly value partnering with them to gain a deeper understanding of so many meaningful nonprofits and projects in Northern Kentucky.”

The funds from this grant award will be used to re-purpose a structural wall into a vibrant banner of murals in downtown Newport. This structural floodwall is located along Dave Cowens Drive (KY Route 8) at the intersection of I/471 North (Exit 5: Newport / Bellevue).

The area serves as a gateway for the downtown of both the Cities of Newport and Bellevue and is directly adjacent to the east campus of New Riff Distilling and Wendling Printing Company. Twenty panels are available for mural placement.

“We are excited to support Southbank Partners and the City of Newport with our inaugural 410 grant,” said Chris Verst, member of The 410. “We believe this grant will make a lasting impact on the residents and visitors of the community.”

The project will leverage other arts and cultural projects in the area including the Riverfront Commons Trail, spanning from the City of Ludlow to Fort Thomas, the Newport River Walk Plaques, Taylor Creek Park, and New Riff Distilling, which serves as the northern point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.

“As a member of Southbank Partners, Newport is very honored to receive this award to facilitate public art and pay tribute to the City’s rich history,” said Larisa Sims, Assistant City Manager, “We thank The 410 members for recognizing the importance of community vibrancy to our region.”

According to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Average Daily Traffic Counts at the intersection of I-471 and Dave Cowens Road / Route 8, the project will be viewed over 7 million times annually. In addition to the daily local traffic, the intersection is a main point of entry to the City of Newport and Bellevue’s economic and entertainment centers, which attract thousands of visitors annually.

Information on the 2020 grant cycle for The 410 will be announced early next year.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

PREVIEW: 2019-2020 Highlands Girls Basketball

Highlands Figuring Out Roles Early in Season

Highlands junior Rory O'Hara (left) and senior Maggie Hinegardner (right) defend Dixie Heights forward Madelyn Lawson (23) in the 9th Region semifinals last year. O'Hara and Hinegardner are two key returning players with experience from last year's 29-5 squad.
The 9th Region girls basketball tournament starts out like a maze in late winter at the BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.

The Highlands Bluebirds consistently find themselves as one of the eight teams at the starting line. They are always in the hunt to be first to the 9th Region championship prize. It just seems like the Bluebirds always finish several turns short.

Highlands put together another solid season at 29-5 last year. The Bluebirds won a fifth straight 36th District championship and started out the region tournament with a convincing 72-46 win over Covington Holy Cross for their first region tournament win in three years.

But the region semifinals are where the Bluebirds generally hit a wall having gone 1-7 in that round since a region runner-up finish in 2002. They built a 28-17 lead on Dixie Heights early in the third quarter. But the Lady Colonels hit four straight triples to take the lead and hold on for a 42-39 victory. Dixie Heights wound up losing 67-51 in the region championship to eventual state champion Ryle.

Ryle comes into the season favored to three-peat as region champs with the return of once-in-a-lifetime point guard Maddie Scherr, senior guard Jaiden Douthit and versatile junior forward/guard Brie Crittendon among others. Scherr is committed to play at the University of Oregon.

Highlands comes into the season with some unknowns with the graduation of five seniors including starting guards Zoie Barth and Chloe Jansen. Guard Ashley Hayes and forwards Naya Figg and Hanna Buecker also graduated. They accounted for just more than 54 percent of the team's scoring and 49 percent of the team's rebounding last year. Barth played in the rotation the last six years and finished second in school history with 2,416 career points.

Barth took her talents down the road to NCAA Division III national power Thomas More University and has made an immediate impact earning the Mid-South Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week. Barth recorded a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds to go with four assists, three steals and one block in an 85-50 win over the University of Michigan-Dearborn on Saturday.

But entering her 18th season as head coach, Jaime Walz-Richey and staff have not changed expectations that have seen the Bluebirds succeed over the years. Since Richey became head coach in 2002, Highlands has put up a record of 351-170 with eight district championships and one region runner-up finish in 2013. Richey has always said her biggest job is getting the most out of each player.

"It's just getting them to be more comfortable with their roles," Richey said. "Someone is going to have to handle the ball a lot unlike year's past when we had Zoie and Chloe. Someone is going to have to be the vocal leader out there so we have a lot of unknowns right now. But we're still working on that. But soon, they'll understand them and we'll get going even better than we are right now."

Richey said more things will be known after the scrimmages. The Bluebirds scrimmaged Loveland (Ohio) at Ryle on Saturday and head down to Franklin County this coming Saturday for an 8 p.m. scrimmage.

Things start with two returning starters in senior 5-foot-7-inch guard Piper Macke and junior 5-10 forward Rory O'Hara. Macke averaged nine points per game last year good for second behind Barth and O'Hara was third with just under eight per game. Senior 5-8 guard Maggie Hinegardner started toward the end of last year with senior 5-9 forward Rylee Thomas also making some starts.

"I think it's a lot about team leadership and I think it's a lot about the team atmosphere, which I think is really strong in my opinion," Macke said. "With the younger girls, if they're not as experienced, I think there is a lot of mutual respect that goes on and I think they're willing to take direction and they're willing to learn so I think it will be good."

O'Hara returns for her third season as a starter. She said balance will be a key to success this season. Teams generally succeed when opponents can't concentrate on one or two players.

"We're trying to definitely have a strong post presence because everyone knows we are guard-heavy," O'Hara said. "We're trying to run more people there instead of just me. Everything just works together."

Six other players dressed for varsity last year. They are senior 5-6 center Meghan Walz, junior 5-6 guards Kenzie Nehus, 5-6 Emma Mallery, 5-7 forward Emma Riccobene, sophomore 5-6 guard Anna Greenwell and sophomore 6-0 center CC Shick.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Fort Thomas Welcomes New Firefighter/Paramedic

Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey pins badge number 6 on his department's newest firefighter/paramedic Adam Hinkel.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor  

The Fort Thomas City Council meeting on November 18 just happened to also be the first official day of work for the city’s newest firefighter/paramedic.

Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey introduced new Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Hinkel who will be badge number six and wear helmet number to 658.

Hinkel comes to the department after serving since 2017 with the Florence Fire Department. Prior to joining that department full time, he had worked on a part-time basis with Taylor Mill Fire Department and started his career with the Union Fire Department. He completed his fire service training at Cincinnati State and his paramedic training at the University of Cincinnati.

"We are extremely excited to have Adam join our group and become one of the Fort Thomas Fire Department members and family," said Chief Bailey.

Bailey noted that Hinkel had been looking at a couple of different departments. "He interviewed with us, but he also interviewed with the airport. It came down to both the departments, and obviously Adam is standing here this evening. So he decided to come to the Fort Thomas Fire Department — and we are so pleased he made that choice."