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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

KDE Advisory Group Offers Feedback on Healthy at School Guidance

Additional feedback has been released on "Healthy at School" plan.

On June 29, the Education Continuation Task Force became the first of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) advisory groups to provide feedback on the Healthy at School guidance document released last week.

OrangeTheory fitness, Newport Pavilion

“I know there is a lot of anxiety out there about starting school,” said KDE Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. “But I believe we are in a much better place now than we were last week just because a lot of this is coming to fruition and we’re able to see with a little bit better clarity what this is going to look like.”

The guidance recommends that students or staff should stay home or be sent home if they have a temperature of greater than 100.4.

State Rep. Tina Bojanowski (Louisville) raised concerns with 100.4 being the determination between “sick and not sick.”

“As a teacher, what I found often in the classroom is you’ll have a child who doesn’t feel well and you have to send them down to the office. The office takes their temperature and they may not quite have what the temperature requirement is and the child is sent back up to the classroom,” she said.

In addition to checking for temperature, Bojanowski asked if there are other measures in place for school nurses to determine if a student may need to be sent home as a possible COVID-19 case.

“With COVID, not only is temperature an indicator, but there’s really a whole list of symptoms that we want to be able to have folks assess,” said Kay Kennedy of KDE’s Division of District Support.

Within the Healthy at Schools guidance document, there is a list of symptoms to keep an eye out for, including temperature, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, new rash and exposure to a COVID-19 case.

The guidance recommends schools have a designated area for isolation of sick students with an ability to maintain adult supervision until the student is picked up by a parent, guardian or designee.

Since it has been reported that some individuals can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, Executive Director Jim Flynn of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents asked about the value of temperature checking every student before entering the school building due to the logistical and financial challenges for districts.

Twenty percent to 40% of those infected with COVID-19 show no symptoms, which means up to 80% of individuals are symptomatic, said Dr. Connie White, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH).

White added that fever is one of the most consistent symptoms that people have and, while temperature checking is not a panacea, it is still vital to consistently check the students before entering the school building.

“We think that catching that early, before symptoms of cough, shortness of breath and rash and all of the other things that we list … is important,” she said.

Another question raised by the task force was with an already limited number of school nurses statewide, would the school nurse be required to conduct COVID-19 tests?

Angela McDonald, a nurse consultant from KDE’s Division of District Support, said no. McDonald said the COVID-19 test is an invasive procedure and she would rather parents be with the child when and if they are tested. School nurses will assess the student and then refer them to their health care provider for testing.

To address the shortage of school nurses throughout the Commonwealth, McDonald encouraged superintendents to consider utilizing either their district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds or Medicaid funds to hire school nurses for their district.

Transportation Guidance
KDE also released new guidance on student transportation last week and both Kennedy and Elisa Hanley, manager of the Pupil Transportation Branch in KDE’s Division of District Support, walked through the guidance with the task force.

The first thing that districts should do, according to the guidance, is survey parents to gauge the number of students who will require pupil transportation. If more families are going to drive their children to school, districts will need to examine their staffing numbers to ensure they have a way to control the traffic flow in and out of the school, said Hanley.

The guidance also recommends that districts evaluate their current bell times to see if changes can be made that will allow fewer students to ride the bus at the same time. Ideally, Hanley said, districts would not have elementary, middle and high school students riding the bus together.

If schools must have multiple grade levels on the bus together, it is recommended to load the bus from the rear. Younger students should sit in the front because they will be easier to see and because kindergarteners will not be required to wear a mask to school.

“Students will need to have assigned seats and attendance will need to be taken before everyone leaves the bus and this is for contact tracing,” said Hanley.

The contact tracing program is an online tracking system that allows public health workers to record individual information of Kentuckians who have been exposed to COVID-19, conduct outreach and monitor wellness.

According to DPH, public health has used contact tracing for decades to identify individuals with a communicable illness, isolate them and quarantine others with high-risk exposure to the infected person to prevent disease spread.

If districts already have monitors on their buses, it is recommended that they perform temperature checks before a student enters the bus. However, not every district has monitors on the bus.

KDE is working with Infinite Campus to see if there is a way to set up a parent assurance online, according to Robin Kinney, associate commissioner of KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations. If a parent were to opt-in to this option, they would be assuring the district that they checked their child’s temperature before allowing them to board the bus. The school still will need to check the student's temperature before they would be allowed to enter the school building.

Food Service Guidance
On June 22, KDE released food service guidance to Kentucky’s 172 school districts.

The document, “COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools: Food Service Operations – USDA School Meal Programs,” includes several considerations, including modifications to the layout of the cafeteria and kitchen to keep with public health recommendations while holding in-school dining.

The guidance states meals should be served in supervised, non-congregate settings that ensure social distancing guidelines are followed. Pre-planning and thoughtful consideration of the delivery and service of meals to individual groups of students is needed to enable contact tracing.

Food service staff will need to check temperatures and complete any employee health screening per district protocol upon arrival at the workplace. Staff who develop symptoms during the workday will follow district protocol for staff illness. Food service staff shall always wear face masks at the workplace unless the employee has been granted a medical exemption.

Lauren Moore, director of KDE’s Division of School and Community Nutrition, informed the task force that the deadline to apply for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program has been extended to July 10.

The P-EBT program provides households with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card with benefits equal to the value of breakfasts and lunches a student was not able to receive during the days schools were closed. Households can use these benefits for grocery items eligible under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

P-EBT benefits are entirely federally funded and were originally projected to provide up to $187 million in food assistance for up to 595,000 qualifying children. The plan will provide each eligible student with up to $313.50 for the time period of March through May to help with nutritional support during the time that schools have been closed during the pandemic.

If a family is approved for P-EBT in a month following March, they will receive benefits for the month in which they became eligible through May. The benefits will remain active for one year.

To apply for P-EBT, visit

Highland Heights Passes Budget, Reviews Past Year

Highland Heights earned the right to be called a "Tree City" in 2020. When plans for Arbor Day were canceled due to the virus, they distributed more than 50 trees to area residents.

By Robin Gee, city council beat editor

At the June 2 city council meeting, Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers provided an update on the "state of the city." In his message, he acknowledged the many challenges and uncertainty as a result of the pandemic, but also took the opportunity to thank city staff, officials and residents for their flexibility, support and willingness to adjust during this time.

"We were cruising along very well until February when this Corona virus hit. We are not the only ones in this boat; everybody is. I just want to thank our department heads. We worked through this, and Jeanne Pettit [city clerk/treasurer], Steve Lehman in our public works, Police Chief Bill Birkenhauer. We all have a full agenda of work all day. We’re keeping all our employees employed, and I think that’s great..."

He went on to thank a long list of city staff as well as city boards and commission members, professional consultants, as well as city council members for pulling together to keep things going throughout the crisis. He also outlined the health and safety measures staff and department personnel are taking to keep the public and employees safe.

Meyers noted a list of city accomplishments and ongoing projects. This year, the city earned the national designation of Tree City and formed a Tree Commission. Staff has been working on a project with the state to digitize and organize city documents and is working through city ordinances to identify those that need to be updated or removed.

The Police Department has continued with training throughout the year, especially in the area of drug enforcement. Public works staff have been busy with ongoing street repairs and handled a number of snow events last winter. They also planted 27 trees in the city, maintained parks and recreation, all the while adjusting to closures and other guidelines from the state.

The mayor outlined efforts to relax some city restrictions to allow area businesses to post advertising banners along the US 27 highway and to spill out into some parking areas to provide curbside services. He noted that some development projects planned for this year have been delayed, but that the new St. Elizabeth medical building is now open and fully operational, the Highland Heights Senior Village development is now 100 percent full and work continues on a town center projects.

He listed events that were canceled but expressed hope that upcoming fall events may be able to go ahead, but is adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

"In conclusion, I want to say Highland Heights is a nice place to live, work and raise your family," Meyers said. He added that it would be a difficult year coming up, but the city is prepared to work together as things unfold.

Budget amendments

The meeting marked the second reading for budget amendments. City council quickly passed an amendment to adjust the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget to reflect the year.

As with other cities across the commonwealth, the plan for the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget was conservative. In his address to the city, Meyers noted retirement system contributions, the rising cost of health care and maintaining the city’s competitive tax rate as features of the budget. The costs of dealing with COVID-19 has been a challenge, and it remains uncertain what the coming year may bring.

"This will be a really difficult year when it comes to proposing budgets," City Attorney Steven Franzen told council. "Don’t be surprised when we go to amend next year, there may be significant changes from where we thought we might be."

Franzen read the proposal for FY 2020-2021. Expected resources available are $2,351,687 with a total expected revenues of “3,883,800,” bringing the grand total of resources available to $6,235,487. Expected total expenditures are $4,170,344. City council voted to pass the budget.

City announcements

Council voted to cancel a planned June 16 meeting, as well as the July 7 meeting of council. The council will meet next at the end of July. Meyers noted the next meeting may be done in person depending on state guidelines.

The Tree Committee chose two Yard Beautification winners for June: Celeste Roberts of 531 North Miller, and Greg and Barbara Yeager of 17 Honeytree. They will be invited to the next in-person meeting to receive their awards. Both yards have signs indicating their honors.

Because Arbor Day activities were canceled, the city gave away between 50 and 60 trees to residents in a "Trunk-a-Tree" giveaway on June 13. Residents were invited to come to the city building to pick up either a dogwood or cherry tree.

In Other Words: It’s Through the Crack the Light Enters

Nick and Amanda. Courtesy: Nick Fite
By Chuck Keller

The family story goes like this. Grandpa had a drinking problem. He went out one day and never returned. Grandparents divorced. Life moved on. My father eventually found his father - living in a flop house near the slaughterhouse. It was hot, cheap, and smelly. Dad would periodically check on him.

Shortly after I was born, my father went to check on him only to discover his father dead in an alley gutter. He drank himself into a stupor, passed out in the gutter, and died. I can’t imagine how my father felt. He never spoke about it. I only know this from my mother and she didn’t reveal the story until many years after my father had died. The truth is that my grandfather died an addict.

The sad part is that I don’t recall my grandmother or my father ever speaking about him. Never. I’m not sure if it was grief, shame, or denial. But telling the story could have served as a cautionary tale and prevented some difficult family episodes. The story was left hanging, unfinished. And that strikes me as particularly sad. We don’t know if grandpa ever felt remorse or shame or sought forgiveness. That will remain a mystery. I am encouraged, though, when people talk openly about addiction in their lives.

Nick Fite reached out to me last week with his story of love, addiction, and death. I’ve known Nick almost twenty years now. He was a student of mine. On this day, though, he was grieving. His “forever partner” died a few days before from an opioid overdose.

Her name is Amanda and she died at age thirty-three. She and Nick share a child and they each had a child from previous relationships. She was vivacious, had a radiant smile, and loved her children and Nick.  He says she had an infectious laugh. “It could change the most dismal moment,” he says. She also struggled with addiction, as do tens of thousands of people.

She had been “clean” for at least six years, the length of their relationship. But one day, according to Nick, “She slipped and struggled and it just took her.” Within a month, she died. Nick found her.

Nick is open about his addiction to alcohol. He recalls that he began drinking when he was thirteen. “We were piddling about town. Went home and found the bottle. Everybody begins with social experimentation. When I took that first drink something changed inside me. I was an alcoholic from the first drink,” he says. And it created problems. But with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous he has remained clean for many years. As a father, he wants to be an inspiration to his children.

I asked him if he was tempted to drink to deal with the tragedy. He says, “The first few days it was on me. It comes in waves.” But he has managed to resist.

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I asked how he was dealing with the adversity. He replied, “I don’t know yet. God didn’t put this pain in me to go without answers. If you don’t deal with the fear now, it could be worse the next time you face that fear…. As strong as people tell me I am, I could not do this alone. And for anyone who has to go through that, my heart goes out to them.” He’s seeking support through his religion and family and AA. Every day is a struggle. I could hear the  pain and love in his voice.

Nick reached out to me to tell his story in order to help others. As tragic as his story is, there is hope. And he wants you to find hope in his story. He sees it in his children, in his work, in his spiritual pursuits, in honoring the life of Amanda.

Now this is just an observation but we seem to have lost our collective ability for compassion. We are angry about everything. We live in an Age of Rage. Instead of confronting a problem with love we rage against it and often the problem compounds.  Nick reminds us that there are other ways.

Nick suggests that we remember and try to act upon the following:
Everybody suffers from something.
Be forgiving.
Don’t be judgmental.
Love each other.
Accept people for who they are.
Your words reflect who you are.

These are great rules for life that we need to periodically revisit. I’m reminded of one of my favorite observations by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There’s a crack in everything God made.”  But it’s through that crack the light enters.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Rep. Roberts and Rep. Wheatley Send Request to Gov. Beshear for NKY Unemployment Office

Rep. Roberts and Rep. Wheatley send Gov. Beshear a request for an unemployment office in NKY.
(Img: Lisa Cooper, NKADD, Representative Buddy Wheatley, Erin Bates, Brighton Center, Representative Rachel Roberts, Tara Johnson Noem, NKADD)

Representative Rachel Roberts (D-Newport) and Representative Buddy Wheatley (D-Covington) have requested a temporary, or even possibly permanent unemployment office in Northern Kentucky to assist people still waiting for benefits due to job losses during COVID-19.

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The request, sent to Governor Beshear last week, is for an office that is staffed with unemployment adjudicators who can offer assistance to the self-employed and others finding themselves in difficult times due to the pandemic.

“During the past three months, I have heard from constituents who are having difficulty receiving unemployment insurance payments, despite the expanded coverage during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Rachel Roberts. “I have been contacted more on this issue than any others during this unprecedented time; people who work for small businesses who have never filed for unemployment before or work in both Cincinnati and Northern KY are having the most trouble and need personal assistance.”

Representatives Roberts and Wheatley met with NKADD staff and officials at the Kentucky Career Center in Covington on Wednesday to discuss the feasibility of offering in-person unemployment assistance. “The Career Center offers wonderful career counseling services to citizens, and has been a huge help to many people attempting to navigate Kentucky’s unemployment system. Navigating the unemployment for the non-traditional employee is especially difficult and can require one-on-one attention from adjudicators,” said Representative Roberts. “Our request to Governor Beshear is coming at a time when he has made major changes to the state Office of Unemployment Insurance. We look forward to discussing our needs in Northern Kentucky with him soon.”

“Our close proximity to Cincinnati presents its own set of challenges,” said Representative Buddy Wheatley. “Many people in Northern Kentucky are struggling with the system and need the help of a live person. Representative Roberts and I want ensure our constituents have all of the state's available resources for assistance.”

“Governor Beshear announced this week that there will be in-person unemployment help in three cities during the next three weeks,” said Rep. Roberts. “Past administration budget cuts reduced the number of trained unemployment staff in the Commonwealth, which has led to unprocessed unemployment claims during this extremely high usage period.

According to Governor Beshear when he spoke about during a press conference on Monday, Kentucky saw nearly 25,000 new claims for unemployment insurance during the week of June 20th, which is a decline from previous weeks but still very significant.”

Johnson Elementary School Names Assistant Principal

Johnson Elementary School has selected Kristina Sheehy to serve as assistant principal. Sheehy is currently the assistant principal at Southern Elementary School in Pendleton County, a position she has held for the past five years.

Sheehy’s educational experience includes teaching at Straub Elementary School in Maysville, and Grant’s Lick Elementary School for a combined eight years before advancing to an administrative role as director of curriculum and assessment in Pendleton County Schools.

Sheehy earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, her master’s degrees in School Counseling and Educational Leadership from Northern Kentucky University. Additionally, she earned National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Literacy.

Principal Ashley Dikeos stated, “We are so excited to bring Mrs. Sheehy on board at Johnson Elementary. She is going to provide great knowledge and positivity to our culture, and I can’t wait to introduce her to our students and families!”

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“I am so honored and privileged to be the new assistant principal at Johnson Elementary School and be part of the Fort Thomas Independent School District team who has a tradition of success,” said Sheehy. “I can’t wait to join the Johnson family and support the outstanding principal, staff, students, and families!”

Sheehy lives in Alexandria, KY, with her husband Jeff and their two daughters Brinkleigh and Presleigh. She will begin serving as assistant principal July 1, 2020.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Weekend Grand Openings in Newport: Bridgeview Box Park and Riverfront Commons Bridge

The new Bridgeview Box Park has had a "soft opening" for a few weeks but the owners are ready to celebrate big time with a Grand Opening event Saturday, June 27.

 by Robin Gee

Need a reason to get out in the fresh air this weekend? Newport is celebrating two grand openings with two ribbon cuttings and plenty of festivities on Saturday, June 27, down near the river at Newport on the Levee.

The events mark the opening of a new pedestrian bridge that will connect Newport on the Levee and the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, and the Bridgeview Box Park, a new outdoor retail, restaurant and entertainment park located at the Levee.

Here’s a quick glance at the schedule:

At 11:15 a.m. — City of Newport officials, Southbank Partners and members of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Goverments (OKI) will gather to cut the ribbon on the new Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge.

At 11:45 a.m. — Officials from North American Properties (NAP), owners of Newport on the Levee, will be joined by Newport city officials to cut the ribbon for the Bridgeview Box Park.

All day, until 11 p.m. — Live music, great food and a chance to enjoy our region’s greatest asset – the Ohio River.

The Bridgeview Box Park

Completed this spring, the Bridgeview Box Park is located in the plaza next to Newport Aquarium. The space includes four shipping-like containers, an octagon-shaped structure and a food truck that houses restaurants and retail businesses as well as seating areas and a programmable entertainment space.

The Box Park has been open for a few weeks, allowing businesses time to set up and prepare for visitors. So far there are eight businesses. The facility is part of an overall development plan for Newport on the Levee by North American Properties.

"We are focused on redeveloping the Levee to better engage the riverfront and maximize the potential of its gathering spaces so that it becomes a true community destination," said Tim Perry, managing partner at NAP. "The opening of Bridgeview Box Park marks a major milestone in our efforts and is a great example of the types of experiences and programming we’re bringing to Newport."

The park is also a creative addition to the overall plan for developing the entire riverfront corridor known as “Riverfront Commons” and led by Southbank Partners along with city and state officials.

RELATED: Newport Levee Owners Get Creative with Bridgeview Box ParkThe Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge 

The Bridgeview Box Park overlooks the river and the Cincinnati skyline.

Outdoor fun for all ages at the Bridgeview Box Park

The Bridgeview Box Park and Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge add connectivity along the riverfront.


Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge

Kicking off events for the day on the Riverfront level of Newport on the Levee, will be the grand opening to celebrate the new Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge connecting the area to the Taylor-Southgate Bridge. The goal of the Riverfront corridor is to create a walkable and bike friendly trail and recreation space connecting Northern Kentucky communities along the river.

The addition of the pedestrian bridge also opens up more pedestrian and bike access to all that downtown Cincinnati has to offer across the river.

Riverfront Commons is an 11.5 mile walking and biking path that runs along the Ohio River from the city of Ludlow on the west to the city of Ft. Thomas on the east. The project involves six riverfront cities and focuses on eco-system restoration and riverside stabilization, economic development and recreation.

What’s in store at the Bridgeview Box Park

The Box Park’s eight local restaurants and retailers are now fully open and operational. They include:

  • Kon Tiki, a laid-back tiki bar serving exotic tiki drinks in a comfortable and eclectic setting.
  • Ché on Wheels, a food truck version of the Argentinian restaurant located in Over the Rhine (OTR), offers handmade empanadas in multiple varieties and fresh beverages.
  • The Little Spoon Bakery and Café, a bakery by Courtney Augsback specializing in custom sugar cookies and baked goods, is located in the “Octagon” adjacent to the Newport Aquarium. Little Spoon serves Carabello coffee and a full-range of espresso drinks and beverages.
  • Bon Mi Street, an Asian street food eatery with a unique spin on the traditional banh mi sandwich and refreshing milk tea with a variety of toppings.
  • Leaf & Limb, an exotic boutique featuring indoor plants and curated goods from local and worldwide artisans.
  • Farmhouse Lemonade, a food truck specializing in hand-crafted, freshly squeezed lemonade in 10 to 15 flavors.
  • Wooden Cask Brewing, a craft beer purveyor founded by a husband and wife duo. Wooden Cask has a special focus on English, Scottish and Irish-style beers, as well as non-beer options.
  • Second Sight Spirits, a local distillery specializing in bourbon, rum and moonshine. Signature cocktails include the smoked cherry rum limeade, black and blueberry mixed mojitos and the “Levee Tea,” a bourbon mixed with blueberry iced tea.

For more on the Bridgeview Box Park and other plans for the development, see the Newport on the Levee website. For information on the Riverfront Commons Plan, see the Southbank Partners website.

Manyet Dance Instructor To Lead Newport Central Catholic Dance Team for 2020-21

Newport Central Catholic is happy to announce that Taylor Anne Walz will be leading its Dance Team this school year.

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Taylor Anne Walz is a 2015 graduate of Newport Central Catholic. Taylor Anne has been dancing with Manyet Dance, LLC for 21 years and has been employed as a lead instructor for 11 years, working with ages three to 18. After graduating from NCC, she attended Thomas More University, where she received a degree in elementary education. While at Thomas More, she continued her dance training and helped to form the inaugural Thomas More Dance Team in which she served as captain for three years. After graduating, Taylor Anne took the position of events manager for the Office of Institutional Advancement for the university and is continuing her education by working to complete her master's degree in ethical leadership.

Taylor Anne has been the assistant dance team coach at Bishop Brossart High School for the past three years and is very excited to take this next step into a head coaching position and launch the dance team program at NCC.

"I am overjoyed to be back up on the hill doing something that I love so much! My time at Newport Central Catholic was filled with many wonderful opportunities and experiences, and I’m honored to be able to invest back into my school and our students. A dance team is something that I always wished existed at NCC, and I believe the program will offer current and prospective students an athletic experience rooted in community, faith, and success.”

Athletic Director Jeff Schulkens said, “We are pleased to have another talented alum on staff. Taylor is highly qualified, and we look forward to the dance team returning this school year.”

Light Up the 4th with Fireworks from Paul's Fireworks

Want 20 percent off this year's best selection of fireworks? We'll tell you how to get it...
(Img: Paul's Fireworks)

By Jessie Eden

It's that time of year again! If you're looking to get some fireworks, Paul is your guy! Since 2011, Paul's Fireworks has set up a tent in Bellevue to provide a wide selection of quality fireworks for your whole family to enjoy.

Don't forget to pick up some fireworks from Paul's Fireworks to celebrate the fourth!

Paul's Fireworks is once again hosting its annual pop-up firework shop in Bellevue, right across from Donatos and McDonalds. This year, he'll be set up from June 27 through July 4th.

Paul even has some new products this year...dragon and unicorn fountains!

Special Offer: 20% Off

Everyone likes saving a little money and here are two ways you can do it;

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2) Mention this article and get 20% off any purchase at Pauls Fireworks (Tent located at 10 Donnermeyer Drive, Bellevue, KY / Parking lot of One Stop Liquors).

Paul's Fireworks is open from June 27 - July 4th. Hours are 12 p.m. to dusk

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Please show the coupon below. While supplies last. (Expires July 4, 2020)

Rossford Park Plans Moving Forward With Help from St. Elizabeth

Thanks to support from St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas, city officials are looking at equipment for three exercise stations in Rossford Park.

By Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Here’s a spot of bright news in a time fraught with challenges — Rossford Park may soon boast an outdoor exercise experience with three fully equipped exercise stations, thanks to a partnership with St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas.

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The announcement underlined the city’s commitment to move forward with plans and projects outlined in the comprehensive plan update. Due to the health, safety and financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, city budgets are tight and revenue streams for public projects are uncertain.

With that in mind, city council passed a cautious budget for Fiscal Year '20-'21 last week, but officials said they are focused on doing what they can do to keep momentum going on implementation plans.

Mayor Eric Haas reached out to St. Elizabeth for help, knowing the healthcare provider’s commitment to community wellness — and St. Elizabeth leaders agreed.

Partnership boosts spirits and momentum

The St. Elizabeth partnership and financial support for the Rossford Park exercise project gives a much needed boost to the city’s plan focus on its parks and recreation. The hospital system will cover about half of the total expenses for the project.

"We are grateful to St. Elizabeth for their participation. It goes with their initiatives to support wellness. It will be a nice offering in the community and possibly one we can duplicate elsewhere. We’re pretty excited about that," said City Administrator Ron Dill.

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For its part, the project fits in nicely with St. Elizabeth’s goal to promote wellness in the community.

"The exercise equipment and fitness stations at Rossford Park is a further investment in Campbell County and our vision to help lead Northern Kentucky to become one of the healthiest communities in America. Along with promoting healthier lifestyles, it gives the people of Ft. Thomas and surrounding areas an accessible place to exercise in the fresh air," said John Mitchell, senior vice president and chief operating officer for St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas.

Focus on city comprehensive plan implementation

Dill has been working closely with Chris Manning of Human Nature and city staff on implementation of the comprehensive plan. Some things have been put on hold, but the St. Elizabeth partnership enables a move forward on the Rossford Park improvements. Right now, Dill and others are busy researching and picking out the equipment.

The three stations will include stationary equipment designed to allow participants to work out and keep fit. They are part of an overall plan that will include improvements in landscaping, restoration and maintenance of nature trails and enhancement of exercise and recreation opportunities in all Fort Thomas parks.

Example of equipment under consideration for the Rossford Park exercise stations.

Another example of the kinds of equipment under consideration for Rossford Park. More information will come as the project moves forward from the planning stage.

Resources to keep up with plans, projects and reopening news

For more on what is planned for the community, see details in the Fort Thomas Comprehensive Plan. Also helpful is Dill’s presentation outlining progress on implementation of the Fort Thomas city plan that was made to city council in January 2020.

Since that time, the pandemic has put some projects on hold. For information on the reopening plans for parks and recreation, keep an eye on the Fort Thomas city website.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

New Highlands AD Brings Numerous Years of Experience in Athletics

Caldwell Calls Highlands AD Position "Top Five Premier Jobs in Kentucky"

New Highlands Director of Athletics Wes Caldwell helped Lexington Catholic to state championships in baseball in 2006 and football in 2005.

The new Highlands Director of Athletics in Wes Caldwell has had a lot of positive experiences growing up around athletics.

Caldwell wants to help the student-athletes at Highlands have more of those experiences when he settles into his new role on July 1. Caldwell graduated from Lexington Catholic in 2007 and had been an assistant AD there before taking the Highlands job.

Alexandria Village Green TANK Stop Saved From Cuts

Alexandria will keep one its bus stop at Village Green, one of the two city stops that had been on the chopping block in the recent TANK bus system redesign.

By Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Alexandria city council met June 18 to discuss the fiscal year '20-'21 budget, responses and planning around the COVID-19 pandemic and other city business, but it was the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) decision not to cut one of the city’s only two bus stops that was a highlight of discussion.

OrangeTheory fitness, Newport Pavilion

As a part of a complete overhaul of the bus system, TANK had proposed elimination of Alexandria’s two bus stops, one at a park and ride at 9000 Alexandria Pike and the other at the Village Green Shopping Center. TANK proposed cutting service of the 25 and 25X to Alexandria altogether, reworking the routes to stop short of the city. The nearest stop would then be at the Meijer store in Cold Spring.

Mayor Andy Schabell, as well as community members and city officials, met with TANK on several occasions, attending public forums and private meetings with TANK General Manager Andrew Aiello to plead their case.

City officials argued that the city was named the fastest growing city in the county in 2018, and plans were underway for new housing developments. They also pointed out that the stop was the only one for employees who work for the nearby Walmart and other area businesses.

The second argument may have been key, as final results of the TANK plan show a focus on employment centers. Other Campbell County cities, including Fort Thomas, did lose bus service in the final TANK plan.

RELATED: Alexandria Officials Voice Strong Concern About Potential Loss of TANK Routes

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City budget and other city business

City officials briefly reviewed and approved a first reading of an ordinance adopting a budget for Fiscal Year ’20-’21, but there was little discussion. A second reading is planned but a date was not set.

The city is eligible for the federal CARES act reimbursement for expenses incured in dealing with issues of the CORONA-19 virus. Council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to apply for the funds on behalf of the city.

Schabell will ask for $55,000, which will cover the city’s small business grant program. Eligible area businesses were invited to apply for the grant to help support them during the pandemic. Twenty-two small businesses applied and all received funds from the city’s program.

In other news related to the pandemic, the city’s long running and popular craft show had been postponed but will now be virtual. The city is working on a plan to provide crafters an opportunity to share information about their items so that they can reach buyers.

No crafter or vendor fees will be charged, but they plan to launch a site where customers can view and purchase from their favorite crafters. Information on the event should be available on the Alexandria city website or Alexandria city Facebook page soon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Healthy at Schools plan announced for Kentucky

Phase three in reopening Kentucky's economy will begin on Monday, June 29.

Governor Andy Beshear reported 229 new cases today and said that Kentucky’s cases are not growing at the rate of other states seeing spikes.

“Make sure you’ve changed your lifestyle until we get a vaccine,” said Beshear. "Reduce your normal contacts by 50%. The plateau in numbers comes as testing has increased significantly from where we were a month or two ago."

RELATED: See the 24-page document released

Beshear reported that they were adding a testing location in Kenton County.

"We're seeing some disturbing numbers in the Cincinnati area and increases in Northern Kentucky," said Beshear.

The big news that came from the conference was the guidance that was released on reopening schools next year.

“What we cannot do is make recommendations that we know would protect not just students but the teachers and the bus drivers and the rest,” Beshear said.

Healthy at Schools plan announced 

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman went over guidelines for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

"It is not fair to put new expectations on hundreds of thousands of children that come to the same school building every day without also allowing for our schools to be able to innovate and to be able to change the way they do things in the name of health and safety," said Coleman.

Coleman said that safety is important for both students and staff.

“It is our duty to protect every child, but it is also our duty to protect every adult and every family member of the folks in our school buildings."

She outlined a memo that will allow schools to have unlimited NTI days for new school year, to base SEEK funding on previous years’ attendance and will allow 75% more children to be served under Expanded Care program, with 3:1 federal match.

She called on the federal government to issue more funding for schools as they work to support students amid the ongoing pandemic.

Related: Kentucky superintendents ask public health about face masks, other COVID-19 standards

Interim Education Commissioner, Kevin Brown, also mentioned the flexibility to use non-traditional instruction days.

"There will also be continuity and predictability in education funding this year," he said.

Brown gave some guidance on expectations, which will be required, and best practices that will help keep schools open. Brown discussed social distancing, face coverings, screening, sanitation and contract tracing. He also said guidance will continued to be updated after the initial release today.

“If a student is moving, they need to have a mask on. If they are less than six feet from another, they need to have a mask on. If they are on a bus, they need to have a mask on. Kids need to see adults they know and respect modeling social distancing and mask wearing," said Brown.

This article will be updated as the guidance is posted. 

WEDNESDAY 6/24/20 - SUMMARY UPDATE from Governor Andy Beshear:

> NEW CASES: 229 new cases, 315 yesterday. (Total number in Ky: 14,363).

Boone Co. - 6
Kenton Co. - 7
Campbell Co. - 1
Grant Co. - 1

Record Voter Turnout in Campbell County, Primary Election Results to Come

Absentee voting and important races garner record turnout and excitement for primary election, but no official results until June 30.

 By Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Despite concerns that having less polling places in Campbell County could suppress voter turnout, officials expect a record turnout for the county thanks, in part, to the loosening of rules for absentee voting due to the pandemic.

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In fact, county officials said the average voter turnout for a primary election is about 14,000. This year, 20,000 people requested absentee ballots and that number — 14,000 — had been returned in the mail even before officials counted those that were dropped off at secure locations in the county.

There are thousands left to count and, according to the Campbell County Clerk’s office,4,200 people in the county voted in-person yesterday, June 23.

By all counts, officials in Campbell County and in the Northern Kentucky region, said the record turnout is on par with a general election, rather than a primary. They expect about a 30 percent voter turnout.

When we will know final results

Although, a few candidates in primary races have conceded or claimed victory, due to the large number of absentee ballots, official tallying will not be complete until June 30. The absentee ballots must be received by the county clerks no later than June 27 to be included in the count.

Again, due to the need to count the mailed ballots, results will not be available until June 30.

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The race to watch in Campbell County

So far, presidential nominees leading in the primary races in Campbell County are as expected, Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D), and the Democratic primary to determine a challenger to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell is a close one with national attention on challengers Amy McGrath and Charles Booker.

In Campbell County and Northern Kentucky overall, the focus is on the U.S. House race for the seat held by incumbent Thomas Massie.

In the GOP primary, a challenger to Massie, Todd McMurtry, from Covington, has already conceded the race. Massie claimed a preliminary victory with 80 percent of the vote that has been tallied so far. He said he did not expect the absentee ballots would affect the outcome.

In the Democratic primary, Fort Thomas resident Alexandra Owensby is in the lead with 60 percent of the tallied vote over her opponent Shannon Fabert of Burlington. Owensby issued a statement thanking her supporters, family and campaign staff.

"While we won't be getting the full results until June 30, so far it appears that we're winning every single county, making us confident that we'll be the next Democratic nominee for Kentucky District 4," she said.

The Cares Act, Loan Forgiveness and Your Business

New legislation has cast a confusing cloud on PPP loans – unless you know how to stay on top of yours

Dan Tillett is a CPA with Rudler PSC in Fort Thomas.

By Dan Tillett, CPA and Senior Tax Manager for Rudler, PSC

Signed into law this March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was seen as a beacon of hope for small- and medium-sized businesses facing sizeable uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

A $2 trillion economic relief package, the act’s main tenet, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provided business owners with loans to cover business expenditures, such as payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. However, given the sheer number of businesses seeking funds and the speed at which the legislation was passed, many working to secure the loans felt as if we were dealing with the financial equivalent of the Wild, Wild West.

Now, PPP loan recipients are facing a new, extremely pertinent – and potentially problematic – aspect of the CARES Act: Loan forgiveness, or rather the conditions businesses must meet to to have their PPP loans forgiven.


The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act was signed into law on June 4, 2020 and provided generous expansions to PPP forgiveness opportunities. Originally, the CARES Act mandated that once the funds hit their bank account, business owners had eight weeks to spend their funds, 75% of which had to be used for qualified payroll costs. 

That percentage has now been reduced to 60%. Additionally, business owners now have the option to expand their time to spend PPP funds from 8 to 24 weeks. This is a significant change that may help restaurants and retail owners who, until recently, were ordered to remain closed until phased re openings began.

The new legislation also provided significant changes for those unable to, for whatever reason(s), spend or satisfy the terms of their PPP loan. Originally, unforgiveable loan amounts would become 2-year loans that must be paid back at 1% interest; the newly passed legislation has extended these into 5-year loans at the same 1% interest rate.

Another change with the new legislation affects business owners and payroll tax deferrals.

When first passed, business owners with PPP loans could only defer their employer portion of Social Security tax up through the date in which their PPP loan was forgiven. Now, all companies including those whose loans are forgiven are eligible for deferral of the employer’s portion of Social Security taxes this year.


Staying ahead of the changes to ensure your PPP loan is forgiven requires the utilization of some immediate next steps. With so many question marks and unknowns surrounding the new legislation, the best thing any business can do right now is actively monitor how they are using PPP funds. It is essential to ensure the right percentages are being met in terms of spending and that employees are meeting their full-time equivalency status. Maintain your annualized wages to make sure they meet the requirements for each employee; each individualized employee cannot experience a salary drop of more than 25%, as it will affect your loan forgiveness potential.

These are the steps we have been recommending to our clients to ensure they will be in the best possible position to secure the forgiveness of their PPP loans. In fact, we have developed a process internally where we can examine the use of PPP funds and then examine the percentages of payroll versus occupancy-related costs. With this information and a thorough analysis of possible payroll dollar or full-time equivalent (FTE) reductions, we are able to provide a complete picture on the outlook of PPP forgiveness. In doing so, small- and medium- sized business owners are giving themselves the best chance to maximize their loan and forgiveness of it.

As we continue to move forward in unprecedented times, simple record keeping – even as the legislation and its subsequent guidance is both complex and evolving – will help owners care for employees and their business alike.

Tallant Music Studio To Host Open House This Sunday, June 28

Tallant Music Studio will host an open house this Sunday, June 28 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

By Jessie Eden

A new music studio, which is opening in the former "Framed NKY" space, is hosting a special open house this Sunday, June 28 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Masks will be required while inside the building and there will be a limit to the number of people allowed inside at a time.

Tallant Music Studio owner Caileen Tallant announced a month ago that she would be opening a new music school in Fort Thomas. Caileen was a former instructor at Slater Music Academy. Slater Music Academy announced in March that it would be merging with NKU Preparatory Academy. Owner Rebecca Slater thanked the community for 24 years of service.

Afterwards, Caileen saw a need in the Fort Thomas community for a new music school...and Tallant Music Studio was born.

Covid-19 Safety Policies

Caileen has prepared a full list of Covid-19 policies to ensure safety for students and parents coming into the studio. "We will invite one group (no more than 5 in one group) in at a time to take a tour of the studio", said Caileen. "At this time, we ask that no one touches the instruments. After completing the tour they are welcome to meet some of the teachers outside in the back parking lot. Masks will be required at all times when inside the building. We will have registration forms at the open house if anyone would like to sign up for lessons in person."

With eight instructors, Tallant Music Studio is ready to serve the Fort Thomas community. "We are looking forward to meeting everyone and answering any questions you may have!" said Caileen.

Lessons are offered in the following concentrations;

  • piano
  • voice
  • music theory
  • music composition
  • guitar
  • banjo
  • ukulele
  • bass
  • violin
  • viola
  • cello

Lessons are billed by term. You can purchase the entire term or make monthly payments, which are charged at the beginning of the month. 

2020 - 2021 Term Schedule:

Summer 2020: July 1- August 16 (abbreviated due to COVID)
Fall 2020: August 17- December 21*
Spring 2021: January 4- May 30

Tallant Music Studio plans on opening officially for lessons on July 1.

For more information, please contact Tallant Music Studio.