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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Fort Thomas Adjusts as City Business Continues

Visitors can drop off things and pick up forms available in the lobby of the city building, but public contact with city staff is limited at this time. The city looks to adjusting restrictions as guidelines from the state and federal government allow. 

By Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Staff and officials for the city of Fort Thomas have been making adjustments to accommodate changes brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. Following federal and state guidelines, the city has had to limit access to some public spaces, move some business and meetings online and overall make quick changes to ensure vital city business continues as smoothly as possible.

City council held its monthly meeting online in March and again scheduled a special meeting of council April 6 so that council could attend to pressing business including discussion and creation of a business grant program now known as the Emergency GROW grant and the rehiring of Fort Thomas City Police Chief Casey Kilgore.

Council members also took care of other pressing city business that would have been addressed at their usual council meeting scheduled for April 20. Because of this, the April 20 meeting was canceled.

RELATED: City Council Goes Live for March Meeting

City business continues

Mayor Eric Haas opened the April 6 special meeting with a thank you to the citizens of Fort Thomas for maintaining social distancing and all the new requirements necessary for the health and safety of the community. He was joined by City Administrator Ron Dill in thanking and praising the work of the city’s first responders who are handling important public safety issues on a daily basis.

The mayor noted that the city building lobby provides some limited access but that most contact with city staff and departments, including public safety, should be done by phone or email whenever possible.

Dill noted that city staff has been in constant contact with state and federal agencies and are adjusting as new information and guidelines become available. In addition to government agencies, he said, the city is in continued communication with Triad, the Chamber of Commerce, St. Elizabeth Hospital, the Kentucky League of Cities and other organizations to keep abreast of community needs and plans.

City Administrator's Report

Dill reported on various projects around the city and how they are being affected by the health restrictions and guidelines now in place. He noted that many city facilities are closed including park amenities such as water fountains, restrooms, shelters, recreation facilities that require interaction (basketball, tennis), as well as the Mess Hall and city museum.

Other projects include:

Street resurfacing program
— While planning, bids and other parts of the program can and are continuing, the public hearing scheduled for March was canceled. He said he is adjusting the timeline so that another opportunity for public input will be made available.

"Worst-case scenario, it [public hearing] could get pushed into late summer. If that is the case, we can still do bids for the work and have the work scheduled for the spring of 2021, but we will have to wait and see. This doesn’t stop the program, but it could delay the original timeline."

He still plans to have the work done by the end of the fiscal year, and is considering options for the public input portion. He noted that plans are already delayed for two of the streets in the program. Work on Crowell Avenue is being delayed to allow for water main replacement by the Northern Kentucky Water District. The district’s plans will also delay work on Military Parkway due to some construction that will impact the road.

Watch for details of when and how public input will be taken on the street program.

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North Fort Thomas Avenue sidewalk project — Plans for the sidewalk have been sent to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for approval. Once that happens, the next step will be the bid process for the work.

Shelter Three project — The construction of Shelter Three in Tower Park continues as planned.

Implementation of the Community Plan — The city is in the process of getting feedback from the architect on city building plans and is working on related design concepts and cost estimates.

Work on other park amenity projects continues albeit at a hectic pace with some projects held back and others adjusted in response to the current situation.

City budget development
— As city budget planning begins in the coming month, Dill and city Director of Finance Joe Ewald are gathering requests and input from city department heads. Dill said they expect the COVID-19 situation will impact the budget but do not expect it to be drastic.

In this year, the city will renegotiate all city staff union contracts. While negotiaions have opened, due to restrictions, officials and union representatives have not been able meet in the same way. First responders in particular are busy with work related to the health crisis. This may end up condensing the timeline for the negotiations to occur, said Dill.

Dill also mentioned some non-city projects. The Alexander Circle project is nearing completion and planned resurfacing work will occur soon. The One Highland project has been suspended through the crisis period, but developers say they are committed to the project and will adjust as the situation unfolds.

Old Business

Two ordinances pertaining to retail liquor sales that were in second reading were passed by council. The first ordinance amends city code to change the times permitted for Sunday liquor sales from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Another ordinance amends city code to reduce annual charges for an alcohol license from $1,000 a year to $830 a year.

Both bring Fort Thomas code closer to that of neighboring municipalities.

New Business

In addition to the appointment of the Chief Kilgore and returning acting chief Brent Moening to his position as Police Lieutenant, the city passed several re-appointments to boards and commissions. These were re-appointment of:

  • Jerry Noran to the Planning Commission
  • Tim Michel to the Planning Commission
  • Larry Schultz to the Planning Commission
  • Jeff Mohr to the Tree Commission
  • Mike Rice to the Tree Commission
  • Mike Federle to the Board of Ethics
  • Mary Brown to the Board of Ethics

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