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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Highlands Handles Bellevue

Highlands Ready for Battle with NewCath on Tuesday

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Luke Muller (11) gets in defensive position in a recent game.
Some coaches would call this a danger game.

The Associated Press poll's 10th-ranked Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (18-1 overall) traveled just up the road to face the Bellevue Tigers (2-13) with rivals Newport Central Catholic and Covington Catholic on the horizon. But the focused Bluebirds took care of business dominating the Tigers, 96-35 to move to 3-0 in 36th District play.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Fort Thomas Ice Cream Announces Winter Shut Down, Reopens in Spring

A lesson in patience: Fort Thomas Ice Cream on hiatus but anticipation is already building for its return in spring!
by Robin Gee

For those who love ice cream even when it's cold outside, patience will be necessary over the next couple of months. This week Fort Thomas Ice Cream owner Jason Williams announced the shop will take a short hiatus for winter.

The business will still take bulk orders for birthday parties and other events, but it will not be open for walk-in customers until spring 2020.

Watch for news of a reopening this spring, he said, likely in March.

In the meantime, contact him via phone (859-462-0082), email or the Fort Thomas Ice Cream Facebook Page for event orders.

Gov. Beshear, Secretary Gray Focus on Helping Kentuckians Obtain a REAL ID

New project manager named, two more regional licensing offices opening

Gov. Andy Beshear and Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said today at the Kentucky Transportation headquarters they are focused on helping Kentuckians who need a REAL ID obtain one by the Oct. 1 deadline.

Despite Kentucky not currently meeting the federal REAL ID standards, the Beshear administration is committed to implementing the initiative. On Wednesday, Gov. Beshear and Secretary Gray announced a new REAL ID project manager and two more office locations and Secretary Gray demonstrated how to apply for a REAL ID.

“For years, there have been a lot of changes and uncertainty surrounding REAL ID – the federal ID requirements to board flights, enter a military base or visit some federal buildings, but that uncertainty has to end on Oct. 1,” Gov. Beshear said. “My administration is working tirelessly to catch our state up and bring us into compliance with the federal requirements. We must continue to act swiftly so all our families are served.”

Gov. Beshear announced that Sarah Jackson of Frankfort will serve as the new REAL ID project manager. Recognizing the importance of this initiative to tens of thousands of Kentuckians, Gov. Beshear and Secretary Gray elevated the project manager to serve in the Office of Secretary reporting directly to Gray.

Jackson served as assistant attorney general, as general counsel for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Workforce Development, director of the Division of Charitable Gaming in the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, and oversaw the modernization of the bipartisan agency charged with enforcing state campaign finance laws as executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to lead the charge and I want to thank Gov. Beshear and Secretary Gray for the priority they have placed on the success of this project,” said Jackson.

Gov. Beshear also announced Somerset and Paducah as the next cities to offer REAL ID licenses. Each office will initially have one station, but will expand capacity in the coming months to serve Kentuckians throughout the region.

The Paducah office is located at 2855 Jackson St., Hipp Building, Suite C and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. CT. The Somerset office is located at 650 North Main St., Suite 240 and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. EDT.

With the addition of the two offices, KYTC now provides REAL ID to more than 800,000 Kentuckians at regional offices, including in Frankfort and Bowling Green.

Rep. Adam Koenig on Sports Wagering Bill, 2020 General Assembly (podcast)

Rep. Adam Koenig speaks to Mark Collier on HB 137 (Sports Wagering bill)

Adam Koenig (House Rep. District 69) is carrying House Bill 137, a measure to legalize sports wagering in Kentucky. Koenig said that analysts have forecasted that the bill could bring in $22 million dollars to Kentucky coffers annually.

The measure has passed (19-0)  by the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Wednesday morning.

Under the measure, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would be the state body that oversees sports betting.

It provides for sports wagering only to be permitted at Kentucky racetracks, a professional sports venue, or by an online or smartphone app.

According to the bill, some of the professional events that could be bet on include the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the Professional Golfers Association, NASCAR races and others.

College sporting events would include those sanctioned by the NCAA and NAIA, but not any games where a Kentucky team is playing.

International events such as the Olympics and World Cup soccer could also be available, if approved by the racing commission.

Several other events within a game to be bet on could be included, such as a coin flip before a game, the result of a putt, results of a baseball player’s at-bat, and the result of a field goal attempt.

The bill also places restrictions on who can wager, including participants in a sporting event.

Those who obtain licenses to operate a sports wagering venue would have to pay an initial $500,000 fee, with an annual renewal fee of $50,000.

The legislation defines “sports wagering” as the placing of wagers on the outcomes of professional sports contests and other events in conformance with federal law and as authorized by the racing commission at tracks and through advanced deposit wagering.

That language, according to opponents, leaves some wiggle room on the type of gambling that would be legalized, specifically where it says “and other events…as authorized by the racing commission.”

Similar legislation sponsored by Koenig won passage from the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee during the 2019 legislative session, but never came up for a floor vote.

This year’s version has 22 co-sponsors in the 100-member House.

Highland Heights Presents Good Neighbor Awards, Meets Candidates, Prepares for Year Ahead

Students on the Lego League team from Calvary Christian School received a Good Neighbor Award from Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Three area groups received Good Neighbor awards at a short January meeting of the Highland Heights city council.

The meeting started with a moment of silence for the memory of local businessman Harold Blocher, Sr, who had recently passed away and in support of his son who has served on the Highland Heights Planning Commission and several other city boards including the board of council.

First up for a Good Neighbor Award was the Lego League Team from Calvary Christian School from Latonia. Seven students from the school presented to council in December on a solution to traffic safety issues at the intersection of US 27 and Sunset, a corner dubbed "Malfunction Junction."

The presentation was one element of a larger project for the group that involved several parts. The students were required to come up with an innovative idea and consult with a professional. For that portion, the students chose Highland Heights City Planner Dave Geohegan to help them with the intersection project.

The students were also required to design and program a robot and send it through a series of tasks for which they would earn points.

The students’ coach Alison Sammet explained the students were also scored on core values including teamwork, innovation and gracious professionalism.

"They did very well at the competition and will be moving on to the state competition on February 1 at Northern Kentucky University. We are very proud of them for that."

The students and coaches Sammet and Heather Verst, accepted a plaque from Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers. The students wore medals presented to them at the regional Lego competition given to them for exceptional teamwork.

RELATED: Students take a run at fixing Campbell County's "Malfunction Junction"

College students honored for service to the community

NKU advisor David Kime and two Honors Program students, Jennifer Ashleman and Kendyll Smith, received a Good Neighbor Award for their help with Highland Heights city events.

Student members of the Northern Kentucky University Honors Program earned a Good Neighbor Award from the city for their service throughout 2019. The students helped with several city events including Halloween and the annual Veteran’s Day/Senior Breakfast.

The students were a hit with the senior citizens, said Meyers. He told the students,"Not only did you carry trays, but you actually went to the tables and sat and talked with the seniors. You don’t know how much that means to seniors," he said. "It brought a couple of them to tears, because you took the time to sit and listen to them. They really did appreciate it and had nothing but kind words to express to you."

The students in this NKU Honors Program are in a residency program at Callahan Hall, said advisor David Kime. The program involves 12 student volunteers.

In speaking of the students’ relationship with the citizens of Highland Heights, Kime said, "We are very grateful to have this opportunity. I know the students in the living community really wanted to be involved and be a part of the community of Highland Heights, and we are looking forward to continuing and expanding these opportunities."

Meyers also presented a Good Neighbor Award to the Asbury Church Choir. The choir helped the community celebrate the holidays by performing at the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

Choir Director Doug Collier accepts a Good Neighbor Award on behalf of the Asbury Church Choir  from Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers.


District 67 special election candidates introduce themselves

Both candidates running for the open seat in the Kentucky House District 67 were invited to attend the January city council meeting. The candidates, Mary Jo Wedding (R) and Rachel Roberts (D) addressed council and those present.

They were each given five minutes to introduce themselves.

Republican Wedding said "I’m a conservative. I’m the Republican Party candidate for the special election. I’m a citizen. I’m not a career politician, and I’ve actually never run for office before. Over the years as events changed and governments transitioned, I became aware I wasn’t real happy with what was going on..."

Republican candidate for Kentucky House District 67 Mary Jo Wedding addresses Highland Heights city council.

After receiving unsatisfactory answers to her questions about federal spending and infringement on personal liberties, she said, she decided to learn all she could about politics, policy and procedures. She became an advocate for Citizens for Self-Governance, eventually serving as the organization’s state legislative officer.

After speaking with citizens across the state and returning to school, she considered running for office in 2017 but felt she wasn’t ready. "I decided 2020 was my year," she said.

Wedding runs a payroll service company. "We cater to small businesses in Northern Kentucky. We have 116 clients, about 95 percent are Northern Kentucky small businesses in our area including some municipalities."

RELATED: Mary Jo Wedding Selected GOP Nominee for District 67 Special Election...

Democrat Rachel Roberts said she, too, is a small business owner. She owns a yoga studio in Newport, and lives in Newport.

Rachel Roberts, Democratic candidate for Kentucky House District 67, speaks with Highland Heights city council.

"I ran for office 2018 as your Democratic state candidate at that time, and that was life-changing for me. I’ve always been an activist, I’ve always been politically minded and I’ve always been a community builder and through that opportunity I got to meet and learn from people in three different counties. My whole world view changed and expanded," she said.

"It was my greatest honor to stand on people’s porches and speak with them...People will tell you their deepest wants, their deepest fears and their deepest hopes for their families. That is a great privilege and a great burden and I’m really excited I get to stand on those people’s porches again and learn from them."

RELATED: Special Election: Democrat Rachel Roberts Nominated...

Meyers thanked the candidates for introducing themselves to the community and wished them luck. He reminded all present that the special election for Kentucky District 67 will be held on Tuesday, February 25.

On the horizon

City council members received updates on some ongoing discussions. Council member Rene Heinrich reported on her research regarding AirBnB and related short-term rentals. The city has been considering whether city regulations maybe needed for such operations.

Heinrich said there were a handful of air bnbs in town but there had not been any concerns or complaints. She said, since the city has regulations for noise and for parking, she was unsure if additional regulation is needed. She noted that owners of these short-term rentals tend keep up their properties to be able to attract customers.

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City Attorney Steve Franzen said the businesses are required to pay the city the gross receipts tax. Many of the owners may not be aware of this.

Council member Mike Kessling questioned whether technology is available to monitor the many different rental websites through one app. He said he will do research on the best way to track these businesses.

Council members said they will continue to explore the topic and look for ways to inform short-term rental business owners of their responsibilities.

Kessling also brought up questions about Sunday liquor sales in the city. Nearby communities are re-examining Sunday hours of operation. The mayor asked him to do more research and report at the council’s next meeting.

The council approved changing the date for the next Community Day event to September 26, 2020. Hot weather during the last few years' events held in July prompted the committee overseeing the event to consider moving the date to a cooler month that promises more comfortable weather. The plan is for food trucks to provide food and the city to provide the beverages, thus avoiding the heat of cooking as well.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

NKU Invites Citizens to Master Plan Open House

A public meeting to explore the NKU Master Plan will be held at the Highland Heights city building on February 5, 2020.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Highland Heights residents and other interested citizens have been invited to a public meeting on Wednesday, February 5, by Northern Kentucky University planners to learn more about the upcoming NKU Master Plan. The meeting will take place from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at the Highland Heights City Buiding, 176 Johns Hill Road.

Baltimore-based architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross has been hired by the university to work on the plan. The company announced it would provide a short presentation about the plan, but would like to hear from the public before moving forward.

Attendees at the meeting will watch the presentation and then break out into small groups to discuss further. Those unable to attend the meeting will have the opportunity to ask questions and leave comments via email to

For more on the master plan, go to the Northern Kentucky University Master Plan website.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Website: Fort Thomas is the best place to live in Kentucky

Where is the best place to live in Kentucky in 2020? crunched the US Census and FBI data, and concluded that Fort Thomas is the best place to live in Kentucky if you care about a great education, low crime, and a high quality of life.

Homesnacks writes, "Looking more at data, you can tell that anything within a 15-minute drive of Fort Thomas is the most desirable, according to science and data".

How did Homesnacks calculate the rankings for the best cities to live in? They used a specific list of criteria:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (the higher, the better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty Rates
Here is the list of the top 10 best places to live in Kentucky based on that criteria:

Alexandria Officials Voice Strong Concern About Potential Loss of TANK Routes

TANK proposes changing two bus routes that serve Alexandria to stop short of the city. (photo: cosmo2012, CC license)

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

As part of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) 2020 redesign proposal, the two bus routes serving the city of Alexandria could be shortened to end before reaching the city limits.

The proposal outlines cutting the service of the 25 and 25X routes that go to a Park and Ride at 9000 Alexandria Pike and to the Village Green Shopping Center. Under the proposal, both would stop short of the city at the Meier store in Cold Spring, leaving Alexandria with no public bus service.

Mayor Andy Schabell said he was disappointed in the short time frame provided for consideration and feedback on TANK’s plan. While the cities were informed that the company would do a re-examination of service as it has done about every five years, the details of the proposal were not shared until January 8 and the window for comment closes January 31.

He attended the Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting where he expressed concern about the proposals. He also scheduled a meeting with the TANK general manager Andrew Aiello to provide feedback and voice his concerns.

TANK officials site a reduction in ridership and soaring costs as reason for the proposal, yet the mayor and council members expressed concern that the proposal was short-sighted and did not take into consideration growth within their community.

Airfares at CVG remain lowest in region

Airport closes 2019 as another year of records

The U.S. Department of Transportation released its average airfare ranking report for third quarter 2019, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) once again has the lowest airfares in the region. Among the top 100 U.S. domestic airports, CVG ranked #80 with an average fare of $314; nine percent below the national average of $345.

o    CVG ranked #80 – average fare $314
o    Columbus (CMH) ranked #49 – average fare $359
o    Indianapolis (IND) ranked #46 – average fare $360
o    Louisville (SDF) ranked #36 – average fare $377
o    Dayton (DAY) ranked #3 – average fare $445

Four air carriers at CVG added nine new flights in 2019. These flight additions, increased capacity and competition among all airlines contribute to lower airfares, which contribute to the record local passenger growth taking place at CVG. The airport set monthly local passenger records 11 of the 12 months in 2019, with a new all-time record for local passengers set in June 2019 with 426,246 passengers served. Over the course of the year, CVG served more than 9.1 million passengers. Other 2019 results are included in the infographic below:

Zone Change Clears Way for New Business at RECA Roller Rink Site

RECA Roller Skating Rink, serving Alexandria since 1958, will close March 1 but a zone change paves the way for new business at that location.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

A new business will make use of the old RECA Roller Rink Site in Alexandria, thanks to a zone change from Residential 1V to Highway Commercial.

The change will enable business owner Chuck Pfaehler to go ahead with plans to turn the rink space at 11 Viewpoint Drive into commercial and office space for his business, Peak Heating & Air, Inc., and related businesses.

With the change he agreed to stipulations laid out by Alexandria Planning and Zoning. The conditions are:

  1. All storage of materials and equipment will be stored inside the building.
  2. The uses permitted will be limited to the HVAC business offices and operations as described by Mr. Pfaehler and additional uses of a similar nature.
  3. All additional uses in the HC zone are excluded.
  4. Sufficient hard surface parking to be provided as deemed necessary for the permitted uses as calculated and approved by the city.

It was a bittersweet moment for city officials and the owner of the rink, Kelly Danner. The RECA Roller Rink began at that location in 1958. The Danner family took over the business in the 1980s, and the current owner announced in October 2019 that she will shut down the operation on Sunday, March 1, 2020.

In honor of the long-standing business and its importance to the community, Pfaehler said he plans to name the location the RECA Business Center.

RECA Roller Skate Rink owner Kelly Danner receives proclamation from Alexandria Mayor Andy Schabell.

Mayor Andy Schabell also honored the former owner at the January 16 Alexandria city council meeting. He presented her with a proclamation recognizing the importance of the skating rink to the entire community.

March 1 is proclaimed RECA Roller Rink Day, and the proclamation read in part, "Families have been coming to RECA Roller Rink for roller skating, birthday parties, school functions and many other special events for over 60 years and whereas RECA has been a source of fun, exercise and entertainment creating decades of memories..."

Highlands Handles Boone County

Bluebirds Win Final Game Before Crucial District Contests

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior point guard Sam Vinson (3) shoots a free throw in a recent game.
This game had lopsided win marked all over it for the Blue and White.

The Associated Press' 10th-ranked Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (17-1 overall) turned this game into that quickly in an 88-59 victory over the Boone County Rebels (4-14). The Rebels have a first-year head coach in Nathan Browning. They've lost eight of their past nine games and have not pieced together consecutive wins this season.

The Bluebirds moved to 6-1 in 9th Region action with their 11th game of scoring 85 or more points on the season. Highlands averages just more than 81 points per game.

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Highlands jumped out to a 22-5 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. The Bluebirds led 37-24 at halftime and 71-42 entering the fourth quarter.

Junior forward Luke Muller led the Bluebirds with 23 points making 8-of-12 shots and junior forward Bryson Cody scored a career-high 19 making 6-of-8 shots. Sophomore guard Zach Barth scored 12 and junior point guard Sam Vinson scored 10.

"Luke Muller found his stroke. They scored first and he answered with a four-point play then I think we got a turnover and he had an and-one so he had our first seven points," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Our guys just took off from there (with a) really solid first quarter. (In) the second quarter, we got in a little bit of foul trouble. We talked to our guys at halftime how really good teams come out after half and really put their foot to the pedal. We did that. We had a monster third quarter and really put the game away there."

Highlands made 32-of-48 shots for 67 percent including 12-of-18 from three-point range for 67 percent and 12-of-13 free throws for 92 percent. The Bluebirds also had 21 rebounds, 18 fouls, 19 assists, three turnovers, seven steals and two blocked shots. Vinson added 10 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double.

The big lead let the reserves see some varsity action. That included sophomore guards Abe Hils, Isaac Surrey, Austin Duncan, sophomore forward Cole Kocher and freshman guard William Herald.

"I think one thing that makes it so special is that each of the players have different reasons that they want to win every game," Herald said. "Sam Vinson wants a (college) scholarship obviously. I think (senior guard) Hunter Ahlfeld just wants to win. Really, I just want to get respect for Highlands basketball."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Highlands Girls Take Arch-Rival Down, Notre Dame, in Overtime

Bluebirds Own Five Straight Wins

Highlands senior guard Piper Macke (1) goes up over Notre Dame sophomore guard Macie Feldman (5) during the 44-43 overtime win Monday.
The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (9-6 overall) has done a great job going 1-0 on a daily basis in recent weeks.

It turned into a matter of seeing if all those improvements could turn into the biggest win of the season Monday against a Notre Dame Pandas squad that came to Russell Bridges Gym with a 14-3 record. Highlands answered that question with a thrilling 44-43 overtime win.

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The Associated Press poll's seventh-ranked Notre Dame has a long list of accomplishments on the season. The Pandas drove to the title game of the Queen of the Commonwealth Tournament at Bullitt East before losing 67-56 to eighth-ranked Louisville Mercy, which finished state runner-up two years ago. The Pandas also have wins over a couple other ranked teams in sixth-ranked Louisville Butler and ninth-ranked Bullitt East. The Pandas also came within six points of second-ranked Simon Kenton on Jan. 6 at home in a 47-41 loss.

"(Head Coach) Kes (Murphy) does a great job at Notre Dame," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "They're very strong defensively. In that first half, we just weren't confident in ourselves with shots and things. We talked about it at halftime. You have to have confidence in your shot. They came out with confidence and it went in. We played great defense. For the most part, we rebounded the basketball. I couldn't be more proud of the girls. They continued to battle and fought through for the win."

In Other Words: Don’t Be a Rathole Online

Butting heads: Uriel Soberanes - Unsplash
My younger brother and I are eleven and a half months apart. Irish twins. We were intense childhood rivals. We fought - often - and we carry the scars of those encounters today.

But there was one trigger word that would surely start a fist fight. One simply had to utter or even silently mouth the deadliest insult known to kids (at least kids in our house) to ratchet any disagreement up a few Defcon levels. Are you ready? Hope you’re sitting down for this because it is such a devastating insult that you will probably rethink your relationships and purpose.

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This is the way it usually went. One of us, say me for instance, would sneer, squint, and call my brother a “rathole” for some perceived slight or injustice. That’s it. Rathole. That insult would set a flurry of fists flying that resulted in split lips, black eyes, injured feelings, and ultimately tanned hind ends and prolonged time outs. But it was an arrow that always found its mark.

I have no idea what it was about that word that tripped our triggers. I have no idea where the insult even came from. I have no idea if others used it. All I know, is that I became a five-year-old rage machine. My brother once stole my Fizzies, a popular tablet that you dropped in a glass of water that then effervesced into a fruit flavored drink - like a fruit flavored Alka-Seltzer. I called him a rathole and then punched out his two front teeth. I earned a significant punishment from our parents for that one.

I look back on it now with some bewilderment and I can’t help but think of this episode when I see some of the silly memes floating around online. You know the ones, usually those politically charged images that portray the opposition as some sort of traitorous simpleton. Figurative fists fly in the Comments section. And some of the insults are almost as creative as being a rathole.

Now, I like to think that I’m smart enough to not step into a steaming pile of dog dirt on the sidewalk when I see it. But some people not only step in it, they jump up and down on it, and then spread it around wherever they go and then complain loudly about it. That’s much of the online behavior I see.

That childish “rathole” behavior continues today with political memes demeaning perceived opponents, ideas, practices, cultures, and religions.  And that’s a shame because there is no parent to correct them.  As we began our time outs, Mom would always say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it.” And we would stew in our silence. But it’s pretty good advice.

No one looks good attacking others. If you attack someone you disagree with by name calling, using alternative facts, or twisting information, mocking, or even fabricating material then you are the one who ultimately looks weak.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Highlands Athletic Boosters Association hosts Annual Booster Saturday, January 25th

Hey all you Bluebird fans!

The Highlands Athletic Boosters Association's (HABA) annual Booster Bash is Saturday January 25th at the Olde Fort Pub from 7:00-11:00. This non smoking event celebrates the glory days of Bluebirds past and present!

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The popular $4,000 in reverse raffles highlight the evening along with silent auction items that include UK Basketball tickets, a Bourbon Distillery Tour, and a Bourbon Bar. New this year..a nomination box for attendees to submit names to be considered for the HHS Athletic Hall of Fame! Advance tickets are purchased on Eventbrite:, or $25 at the door.

To purchase a reverse raffle ticket or bourbon raffle ticket, please email

HABA fundraises year round to support the needs of all HHS athletes and programs. HABA also continues to contribute to athletic facilities too like Highland & Winkler Park ballfields and the Tower Park track.

City of Wilder Announces New City Center Master Plan

Rendering of Wilder City Center Master Plan proposal developed by Elevar Design Group

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

The city of Wilder has been working on a master plan for the center of town based on recommendations from the 2019 Wilder Comprehensive Plan.

The city contacted Cincinnati-based Elevar Design Group to create a City Center Master Plan, which involved seven city-owned properties along the Licking Pike corridor. The plan will be presented at the next meeting of city council on Monday, January 20. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Wilder City building, 520 Licking Pike.

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The next step will be to begin negotiations with a selected builder or developer this spring. A request for proposal will be available shortly after the plan is adopted officially by the Wilder City Council. At that time, the city will begin to seek proposals for the sale or lease of the various development parcels.

A copy of the full plan presentation will be made available on Tuesday, January 21.

Alexandria Will Review Zone Change Request for Mixed Uses in New Development

Rendering of proposed development at 7541 Alexandria Pike. A zoning change could clear the way for commercial properties to be added to the luxury apartment project.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

The city of Alexandria has announced that its Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on a zone change request that would clear the way for commercial uses to be added to the planned development located at 7541 Alexandria Pike.

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The request would change the current zoning, which is R-RE (Residential Rural Estate) to a PUD or Planned Unit Development. The PUD will allow for three commercial lots taking 13 acres positioned along Alexandria Pike. The remaining 56 acres in the development would include up to 366 luxury apartment units.

The commercial lots would be open to development for office, restaurant or possible retail uses.

Indianapolis-based Kendall Property Group will develop and own the apartment project, a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Rents for the luxury units would run from $900 a month for one-bedroom up to about $1,500 a month for a three-bedroom apartment. The apartment property will include high-end amenities such as a pool, fitness center, business center and outdoor kitchen.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer with the first units available in fall of 2021. The projected completion date for the project is the summer of 2023.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Highlands Hoops Earns Huge Win over County Rival

Bluebirds Ranked 10th in State

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore forward Oliver Harris gets in defensive position in a recent game.
Of the six in-county opponents entering Saturday, the Associated Press' 10th-ranked Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (16-1 overall) had only not beaten one since Head Coach Kevin Listerman took over the program in 2013.

That happened to be the largest high school in the county in the Campbell County Camels (8-9). But that changed at Russell Bridges Gym on Saturday as the Bluebirds downed the Camels, 71-54.

Highlands ended a five-game losing streak in the series as a result. The Bluebirds last beat the Camels, 56-52 in Fort Thomas on Jan. 17, 2013.

Since then, Campbell County, under the guidance of Head Coach Aric Russell, has won the 10th Region Tournament four times in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019. The Camels advanced the furthest of those four appearances in the state tournament last year going to the state semifinals before losing 42-40 to eventual state champion Louisville Trinity.

"Coach Russell has done a phenomenal job building that program," Listerman said. "I thought we had a lot of guys play very, very solid. Our bench was really productive. I was very pleased with that."

Highlands did it with another solid performance from junior point guard Sam Vinson. Vinson made 6-of-7 free throws on his way to 25 points. He added 12 rebounds for another double-double to go with five assists, six steals and one blocked shot.

Seven different Bluebirds scored. But senior guard Hunter Ahlfeld recorded a career-high 20 points making 8-of-11 shots to go with five rebounds and two assists.

Senior Jack Delagrange made his first start of the season. Listerman credited Delagrange and junior guard Evan Rom for their defense on Campbell County senior guard Jordan Gross making Gross earn all 17 points. Gross also had 10 rebounds for a double-double. Rom scored eight points and Listerman said sophomore forward Oliver Harris recorded solid play.

Highlands did play its first full game without senior guard Jacob Brass. Brass is out for the season.

"It was a very big win," said Bryson Cody, Highlands junior forward. "As a team, we played together. We put (Brass') jersey at the front of our bench. He wasn't there. We really needed him. But we overcame that."

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The Bluebirds made 25-of-53 shots for 47 percent including 8-of-20 from three-point range for 40 percent and 13-of-16 free throws for 81 percent. Highlands also had 35 rebounds, 12 assists, 19 fouls, five turnovers, two blocked shots and nine steals.

The Camels made 17-of-47 shots for 36 percent including 7-of-14 from three-point range for 50 percent and 13-of-15 free throws for 87 percent. Campbell County also had 27 rebounds, five assists, 18 fouls, 12 turnovers and one steal. Junior forward Dane Hegyi scored 14 and junior guard Garrett Beiting scored 11.

"They run their stuff and they run it very well," Listerman said. "A week ago (Jan. 10), they got a big win over St. Henry at their place so they're very capable. We did a good job with our pressure to generate some offense in the first quarter. Then I thought in the second quarter, we really dictated the tempo and you could see our guys gaining strength and confidence as the first half wore on. We were able to stretch the lead to double digits. Then our defense in the second half was phenomenal. Then we were able to knock down enough shots to keep them at bay."

Friday, January 17, 2020

This Week at the State Capitol

January 13-17

There’s always a guessing game among Capitol observers in the early days of a Kentucky General Assembly session over which issues will be designated as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 – honorifics reserved for matters considered to be among top priorities by legislative leaders.

Part of that answer was unveiled last week when legislation on immigration was filed in the Senate as Senate Bill 1. The rest of the answer revealed itself this week as House leaders announced that public assistance reform will be the focus of House Bill 1.

Over 50 years experience in NKY. Call now, mention FTM. (859) 287-2499.
Senate Bill 1, which is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would call upon law enforcement officials and public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.

Senate Bill 1 would also prohibit “sanctuary” policies in Kentucky, such as a measure to block officials from cooperating with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws.

Some fine-tuning on the measure is still occurring to make sure the intent of the bill is clear, one of its sponsors said this week. The bill already states that school districts would be exempt from provisions in the legislation. Others who would also be exempt under changes that will be proposed to the legislation include domestic violence centers, child advocacy centers, rape crisis centers, public defenders, and health departments.

While House Bill 1 has not yet officially been filed for consideration in the House, legislative leaders say the bill is coming soon and will be aimed at helping people moving from public assistance into the workforce.

During a Jan. 13 appearance on Kentucky Educational Television, House Speaker David Osborne said House Bill 1 is “pro-worker” legislation.  The measure’s supporters say it would help move people into the workforce by making sure those transitioning off of public assistance don’t face “benefit cliffs,” situations in which a small increase in earned income could trigger a significant drop in child care assistance or some other form of assistance that sets back a struggling family’s attempt to achieve financial stability.

In another highlight of last week’s legislative action, the Senate and House met in a joint session on Jan. 14 to listen to Gov. Andy Beshear’s first State of the Commonwealth Address. The governor urged policymakers to look beyond partisanship and national divisions to focus on matters that most directly affect Kentuckians.

Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center to Close

The Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center will close on January 24. (FTM file)

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Recently, Rob Robinson, owner of the Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center and Highlander Event Center, announced he will be closing the business. His last day is scheduled for January 24.

Owner of the Fort Thomas Plaza Ken Perry, who rents space to the design center, confirmed the business will leave this month.

The antiques center which also provides event space and a coffee shop/bourbon bar.

Some history of the design center

The Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center opened in November 2014 moving into an approximate 24,000 square-foot space that once housed the Fischer Home Selection Center. The new business offered a combination of antiques for sale and a coffee shop.

Since that time, the center added a bourbon bar to its Highlander Coffee House and the Highlander Event Center, a 300-person venue. The business had also provided space for the Fort Thomas Farmer’s Market in their parking lot and allowed them to move inside to provide a winter market during cold months.

RELATED: Q & A with Rob Robinson from Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center

Some history of Fort Thomas Plaza

Fort Thomas Plaza was struggling when Perry of Ken Perry Realty bought the property in 2014. Since that time, the plaza has gone from a mostly empty and neglected entity to a mostly-occupied center.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Plaza's Future Bright

Fort Thomas Antiques & Design Center has been the largest tenant but other tenants include Swimville USA, barre3, Grace Fellowship Church and Spatola Wrestling.

The plaza later added Active Day, an adult daycare center. The addition of the center sparked some controversy but a zone amendment enabled the business to move into the plaza in 2016.

RELATED: Planning Commission OK's Adult Daycare to Fort Thomas Plaza

Fort Thomas Matters will include more information as it becomes available.

State of Commonwealth: Gov. Beshear says state’s future depends on Kentuckians working together

In his first State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky’s future depends on leaving divisive politics in the past and focusing on providing opportunity for every Kentucky family.

Gov. Beshear said the transformational and positive change Kentucky families count on occurs when we break the cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction, and obtain a good-paying career, affordable health care and a quality education.

“We, in this capital and around Kentucky, are responsible for using the power and privilege of office to do right by Kentuckians, to focus our energy not on partisan squabbles but on working together to figure out how to better the commonwealth we all love so dearly,” Gov. Beshear said. “And let me be clear: every moment we focus on partisanship, every moment we focus on national divisions, we fail to address the reality before us.”

From supporting our neighbors, to honoring Kentuckians who serve in the military, Gov. Beshear called on all of us to think about the famous words of Thurgood Marshall“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody … bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

From family, teachers, mentors and friends, Gov. Beshear, in referencing his Kentucky roots, said he has seen firsthand what lifting up the boots of even one generation can do for every generation that comes after.

“That is the promise of our Commonwealth. That by breaking one cycle of poverty, by providing one person a high school or college degree they never dreamed they can achieve, we can forever – and for the better – change the trajectory of our people,” said Gov. Beshear. “Today thousands of Kentucky children and adults need us to realize this promise. They need us to help pick up their boots.”

From health care, education and economic opportunity Beshear said, “Right here and right now, we have a can’t-miss opportunity to make major, widespread progress. So we have to take on the big challenges, not do what is politically safe.”

Beshear pointed to the actions of his first month in office: he rescinded the Medicaid waiver that would have kicked 100,000 people off of their health care coverage; stopped more than $8 billion in managed care contracts, rushed through just days before he took office; began waiving fees for those who cannot afford to take the GED; built a diverse cabinet and team; and restored voting rights for 140,000 Kentuckians who committed nonviolent felonies.

“We’re making so much progress already and I will bring this same energy and dedication each and every day of my term,” he said.

Gov. Beshear called on lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment automatically restoring voting rights to nonviolent offenders who have completed their sentences.

He also called for:

  • Passing a law to ensure no one can lose health care coverage because of a preexisting condition,
  • Fully funding pension obligations,
  • Passage of bipartisan proposal curbing the cost of insulin,
  • Ending surprise medical bills that can financially devastate families,
  • Defeating pharmaceutical companies and require every dollar from these companies go towards ending the opioid epidemic,
  • Criminal justice reform to end the state’s high incarceration rate that hurts our budget and our communities.

He emphasized his commitment to speeding up the Mountain Parkway project in Eastern Kentucky and building the I-69 bridge to open up Western Kentucky.

NKY Health Department plans forum to educate the public on the dangers of youth e-cigarette use

The Northern Kentucky Health Department and other community partners are planning a forum titled, “Prevent the Next Generation of Addiction: A Forum to Stop Youth Vaping” to educate parents and those who work with youth on the dangers associated with youth e-cigarette use.

The event will take place on Thursday, January 23, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Ignite Institute, located at 37 Atlantic Ave., Erlanger.

The event will feature a keynote presentation from a mother whose child was diagnosed with vaping-related lung illness. It will also include a panel of educators, physicians, and other professionals discussing how adults can talk with youth about not using e-cigarettes, what is being done at the state and regional levels to prevent youth e-cigarette use, and resources to help youth quit.

Now open at 2000 Memorial Parkway. 
There will be an opportunity for questions at the end. For more information on the event, click here.

“The increase in youth e-cigarette use is alarming,” according to NKY Health’s District Director of Health, Lynne Saddler, MD, MPH. “Youth and parents need to know e-cigarette use is not harmless. Youth e-cigarette use increases the risk of addiction due to the high nicotine content in e-cigarette liquids. It can also lead to long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health.”

According to the 2018 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention Survey, 20.3 percent of Northern Kentucky 10th graders reported e-cigarette use in the past month, up from 7.7 percent in 2016.

In December, the Northern Kentucky Independent District Board of Health passed a resolution directing the Northern Kentucky Health Department to educate the public about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes, as well as advocate for policies that prevent e-cigarette use and provide resources to help people quit. For a copy of the resolution, click here.

Fort Thomas Business Owner Honored as Global Leader

Local business owner Tracy Davis received a Global Leader Award for her support of Fort Thomas Schools. She stands with Highlands High School Principal Matthew Bertasso.

by Robin Gee

Fort Thomas resident and business owner Tracy Davis has received a Portrait of a Graduate Global Leader Award from the Fort Thomas Independent School District. Davis, owner of a State Farm insurance agency, was honored for her partnership and support of Highland High School’s security badge program.

Superintendent Karen Cheser explained that school staff had discussed the idea of providing students with security badges to allow them access to locked school buildings for after hours activities. While this was something all agreed would improve student safety, the money was not available in the current budget. Then, someone suggested looking to community members and businesses for sponsorship.

Davis stepped up to provide funds and to form a partnership with Highlands High School for the project.

Highlands Principal Matthew Bertasso explained the importance of the project and Davis’s donation. It was not uncommon to see doors propped open with books so that students could get in and out when the doors were locked.

"In the evening the whole building is locked up and yet we have practices going on, rehearsals going on, we have Dance Team, We the People, Mock Trial, winter sports...Now, we can keep the building quite a bit more secure," he said.

"When we came up with this idea, we checked with [Director of Operations] Jerry Wissman, and he said we could do it but we figured out it was going to be expensive. You don’t want the price tag to get in the way of something as important as school safety. It has been great the we have partners like this to help us out."

Said Davis, "As a small business owner, I try to find things that align with what my personal connection is...Having kids in the school system in this community has blessed us so I’m glad we could work it out. I appreciated that you considered a small business for this partnership."