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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Council Roundup: COVID-19 Discussion, Support for Small Business, Speed Limits

City officials in Fort Thomas are looking for more ways to support small business during the COVID crisis. Council voted to eliminate alcohol license fees for a 12-month period.


by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

The COVID surge was a point of intense discussion among members at the November meeting of the Fort Thomas City Council.

Keeping residents and staff safe was top of the list of concerns, but council also explored ways the city can support area businesses hard hit by the pandemic with the possibility of even harder times ahead.

 



Council voted unanimously to pass a municipal order, first proposed by member Mark Collier, to eliminate retail drink and supplemental bar license fees for Fort Thomas bars, restaurants and related hospitality businesses for 12 months. Licensees who renewed in 2020 will not pay in 2021; those who did not renew in 2020 will not be required to do so until 2021.

Mayor Eric Haas also read a proclamation declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2020, to be Small Business Saturday in Fort Thomas. As part of the resolution, he read off some facts about the importance of small business in our economy and our lives:

  • There are 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S., and they represent 99.7 percent of all the firms with paid employees in the country.
  • Small businesses were responsible for 64.9 percent of net new jobs created from 2000 to 2018.
  • Sixty-two percent of small businesses reported they need to see consumer spending return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2020 to stay in business.
  • Ninety-five percent of consumers who shop on Small Business Saturdays said it made them want to support small businesses all year long.

The mayor said he hopes residents will support our local small businesses this holiday season and beyond.


Exploring more the city can do to fight COVID


Council member Ken Bowman asked his council colleagues to explore and strongly consider additional measures to model and encourage healthful behaviors to fight the spread of the disease. At this time of surge, especially, he asked fellow council members and city officials to recommit to efforts to remind and encourage residents to wear masks and to practice social distancing and good hygiene habits.

While the city has been following all health and safety guidelines, and encourages residents to do so as well, he said he felt more could be done. He has been working with City Administrator Ron Dill and city staff to explore additional measures to model and encourage healthful behavior.

Some of his suggestions included:

  • Making the messaging clearer and more prominent on the city website, Facebook and other digital resources.
  • Doing much more to reach out to those residents who do not use or have access to the internet with messages sent via postcards, the city newsletter and other printed sources.
  • Using current signage, marquees and banners available to the city, adding new signs and encouraging others with signs in city to display reminder messages about health and safety.
  • Ensure all city staff to model safety behavior at all times.
  • Discourage large gatherings; offer safe alternatives for holiday events.
  • Encourage testing and provide information about testing availability.

Dill has been meeting with his staff, Bowman and others on this topic and said the city is doing many of these things, but will continue to explore these suggestions and look for additional ways to support the message. 

Council members discussed Bowman’s suggestions, how much the city can do and what kinds of things they can do. One promising idea is the possibility of creating a public forum with a local health official from St. Elizabeth Healthcare or the health department for citizens to ask questions and hear from the experts. 

Recently, Haas joined a regional effort along with Fort Thomas Independent Schools District Superintendant Karen Cheser and Campbell County Judge Executive Steve Pendery, to promote health and safety to residents in our community as the holiday season approaches.
 

One area the city has been particularly successful, said Dill, has been providing alternative citywide celebrations and events. This year’s Halloween Goblin Tour, a drive-by event that replaced the annual Jack-o-lantern Walk, was a big hit, he said, and many families asked that it be added to Halloween events in the future even after the COVID-19 crisis.

He said he was very proud of city staff and citizens who put together a virtual celebration of Veterans Day. Plans are being formed for upcoming holiday events as well. Likely a home decorating contest will be one of the activities, but more ideas are coming, he said.

Glenway ordinance and city updates


Council also passed the ordinance to lower the speed limit on Glenway Avenue to 15 miles per hour. The move, initiated by council member and Public Safety Committee Chair Adam Blau, is part of a goal to develop a comprehensive citywide traffic safety plan.

RELATED: Fort Thomas City Council Discusses Lowering Speed on Glenway and More

Dill shared updates on several other city projects underway:

Fort Thomas city building — Dill reported that the city is on schedule to get bids for the building upgrade out by December 1. If all goes as planned, a bid could be awarded by the December council meeting. He noted that a plan is underway to relocate staff to the Armory as needed once the project begins.

Waterworks Road project – This is an SD1 project, Dill noted, but the plan is for the city to go ahead with resurfacing after SD1 has completed their work. Right now, SD1 appears to be about six months ahead in their schedule and may be near completion of their work at the end of this year.

Chesapeake Avenue plans – The city is assisting residents of Chesapeake Avenue with their application for funding from a Vision Zero grant. The application is due this month. No news yet on the project timeframe.

Sidewalk grant – Dill said the city was turned down for a sidewalk grant in the last cycle, but plans to resubmit an application in the new cycle that opens in March.

New ambulance bid – A figure of $225,000 was included in this year’s city budget, and bids went out as planned. Dill said he worked closely with Fire Service personnel to identify what was needed. He said he was happy to report Specialty Truck Sales and Service of Wilder bid and won — and the new ambulance should come in under budget at $210,000. The company is an approved dealer of Horton emergency vehicles, a well-known brand in the industry.

Staffing issues – After the news earlier that Fire Department Chief Mark Bailey is retiring, city officials have formed a committee to search for a new chief. The city also has an opening in the police department as well as anticipation of some additional openings in fire service. Dill also reiterated the city’s need for crossing guards and encouraged anyone interested to call the city.

Jann Seidenfaden to retire


The city will have another important position to fill in the next few months. Longtime City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden announced she will retire from the practice of law in March 2021.

She noted that she started with the city in 1985. "I’ve worked with four mayors, 18 councils, three CAOs [chief administrative officers], three finance directors, three fire chiefs, six police chiefs and four zoning administrators," she noted. "It has been by honor and privilege to represent the city and work with all of you."

The mayor, city administrator, council members and all present congratulated and thanked Seidenfaden for her years of service to the city and the community. 


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