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Monday, January 13, 2020

City Council Discusses TANK Redesign Study, Changes in Sunday Alcohol Sales

Proposed changes to TANK service would eliminate Bus 11 in Fort Thomas. FTM file

by Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) Redesign Project was a focus of discussion at the January Fort Thomas City Council meeting.

The company is proposing cutting route 11 entirely and combining it with route 16. Route 11 is the main route serving Fort Thomas. Route 16 skirts the city as it provides service to St. Elizabeth Hospital Fort Thomas.

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About every five years TANK does a complete re-evaluation of its routes and service, although the company proposed cutting 11 in 2017. Citizen and city input helped secure the route at that time, but now its back on the chopping block due to low ridership.

City Administrator Ron Dill has been attending special meetings with TANK aimed at city leaders, and residents, as well as some council members, have attended some of the company’s recent open input sessions.

"Two years ago we went through a similar process with them where they reduced some of the route delivery. We participated in those meetings, and we will continue to participate in these meetings," he said.

City council member Ken Bowman was in attendance at the last TANK public meeting. "I spoke the TANK general manager Andrew Aiello. Compared to what the last round of changes were, this is far more drastic. It basically takes Fort Thomas off the map."

Bowman said the company offered a lot of data to back up its proposal but did not offer any alternative solutions to cutting or consolidating routes. He said he asked about the use of vans or smaller buses for low-ridership times or routes but was told the expense was mostly in the salaries of the drivers.

Mayor Eric Haas said TANK has been a point of discussion for a group of Campbell County city managers and mayors who are working on riverfront development issues.

Looking for alternatives for public transportation, the group has proposed the possibility of a private company providing on-demand rides in the area, but Haas said, "The way it was proposed I don’t feel comfortable with it, because they are looking for additional revenues from the cities to fund this and we already provide tax revenues to fund TANK."

"Yet," he said "the concept of TANK eventually going to an app-related thing that is more responsive when ridership is needed may be a possibility."

Haas said he will meet soon with a group of local mayors and again TANK will be a topic on the agenda. "At least they are being open minded and having discussions with people, but we have to stay on top of this."

Council member Mark Collier noted that TANK proposed a Park and Ride site in Newport as part of their solution to provide service to Fort Thomas, but many people who need the bus do not have access to cars or do not want to drive to Newport to take the bus.

Comments from the public are still being accepted until January 31. TANK provides a "Customer Feedback Form" on its site. The company also gives a TANK System Redesign email for feedback.

TANK will be discussed at the upcoming Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting on January 15 at the Campbell County Administration Building, 1098 Monmouth Street in Newport, staring at 5:30 p.m. (Boone County will discuss TANK as well at their meeting on January 14)

RELATED: Tank Schedules Public Meeting to Present Draft Recommendations for Redesigned Bus System

A proposal for change in Sunday liquor sales restrictions

Council member Adam Blau proposed a change in Fort Thomas Sunday liquor sales. Right now, liquor may be sold in the city after 11 a.m. on Sundays. He would like the city to consider moving the time for liquor sales up to 9 a.m. on Sundays.

State liquor laws do allow for the sale of alcohol from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, but provides for communities to set their own restrictions.

The restrictions of nearby communities have been changing, said Blau. "The reason I’m bringing this up is I want to be proactive instead of reactive. We need to give our businesses the opportunity to sell earlier if they want to be competitive with outside markets."

He noted that Newport allows Sunday liquor sales starting at 9 a.m., and Bellevue City Council would be voting at their January meeting on going to 9 or 10 a.m. He also noted that Covington also allows sales at 9 a.m., while Alexandria and Silver Grove open sales at 6 a.m.

Counter to this Dayton, Highland Heights and Cold Spring sales begin at 11 a.m.

Blau said he spoke with Fort Thomas businesses that would be affected by the change as well as local public safety officials. All the businesses agreed the 9 a.m. sales time would be a welcome change, he added.

The normal process to change such a restriction is to propose it for discussion first at the city’s Law, Labor and License Committee. Blau said that since the request was for a small change and all three council members on the committee were present, he had hoped discussion of the two-hour change could be started without a formal committee meeting.

A change would have to go through a first and second reading at subsequent council meetings.

The members of the committee are David Cameron, Collier and Roger Peterman. Cameron, chair of the committee, said he felt it was a small change. Collier said it appears to be in keeping with the city’s goal to work toward consistency across the region.

Haas suggested the city attorney draft an ordinance and have it looked at by the committee at its next meeting which is right before the next council meeting. By then more information can be gathered about what other cities are doing, and it could be presented for a first reading at the February council meeting.

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