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Thursday, December 24, 2020

City Council Approves Building Remodel Bids at Year-end Meeting

Fort Thomas purchased a new ambulance. It arrived December 2 and is already in service.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Fort Thomas City Council members said their good-byes to several longtime and highly regarded city staff and council members at their December 21 council meeting. Members expressed gratitude and congratulations to a number of people retiring or moving on with new things.

Fire Department Chief Mark Bailey passes the baton next month to a new fire chief, Chris Amon. Bailey has been with city for 16 years, building in his words a department of "18 firefighters who are the best in the business."

The chief congratulated Amon and addressed council, "I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done for me over the last 16 years. Going back in time, I want to thank not only the present council in front of me this evening but also the past councils I’ve had the opportunity to worked with, all of which have been the most professional bunch of people I’ve could ever think about trying to work with."
Haas and several council people, including outgoing long-time council member Roger Peterman, thanked the chief for leading and creating one of the area’s top fire service agencies.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Fire Chief Mark Bailey to Retire After 45-year Career in Fire Service.

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More departures

The meeting also marked the departure of Economic Development Director Debbie Buckley who recently announced she would retire at the end of January. City attorney Jann Seidenfaden announced at the November meeting that she, too, will retire this coming March. Council members praised both for their hard work, direction and support for the city over the years.

Council members David Cameron, Mark Collier and Roger Peterman are also moving on, and this was their last meeting with council. Haas and their colleagues thanked each one and noted their accomplishments.

City Administrator Ron Dill thanked all three for their passion and contributions to the city. He said he and the staff appreciate this council’s leadership, especially during this year of COVID.

All three department members shared their appreciation for their colleagues, staff and the city. Peterman has been on council he longest, for 20 years. He noted former and current leadership on staff and council and his pride in working with all of them and in representing the city.

City building remodel moves ahead

A total of five contractors bid on the planned remodel of the Fort Thomas city building, and bids were fairly close. City staff and the architecture firm working on the project, Robert Ehmet Hayes and Associates, recommended the city accept the company with the lowest bid, Cincinnati-based general contractor Graybach LLC.

The company’s bid was $5,148,000 dollars. The bid also included alternative bids, extra parts of the project that can be broken out and accomplished separately. Architect Joe Hayes said he recommends the company also do one of the alternate bid items, decorative wainscoting. With that addition, the project would come in at $5,234,000. It should take approximately 12 months.

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Dill noted that two additional projects related to the building remodel will need to be bid separately. While much of the asbestos in the building has been removed when the fire service area was remodeled and in subsequent building projects, there may still be some in the building and a remediation company will need to remove it. 
He also said there will be bids necessary for the work of moving the radio transformer located at the back of the city property. All told, these projects could come to about $200,000, he said.

Council members voted unanimously to approve Graybach for the project. Company owner Pete Subach happens to be a Fort Thomas resident.

City reports

Police Chief Casey Kilgore gave a brief end-of-year report and noted that police calls were around 13,000 this year, about the same as they were in 2019. Chief Bailey noted that this is also true for the fire department with calls on par with the previous year despite the pandemic.

Dill shared news on a number of projects:

North Fort Thomas Sidewalks: Finally, he said, movement is underway for the North Fort Thomas Avenue sidewalk project. The Kentucky Traffic Cabinet has approved construction plans and authorized the release of the project for bid. The plan is to bid the project out in January, select a bid winner in February and begin work as soon as possible with a target completion at the end of June. After the sidewalk work is complete, road resurfacing on the avenue will be added to the annual road surfacing project.

City events: While the holiday walk is canceled due to the virus, the mayor was able to do a virtual Christmas tree lighting at Inverness on December 12. Santa was also on hand at the city building to collect letters from children and to pose for photos. A tree was planted at the Inverness spot this year and dedicated to the Jack and Joyce Steinman family who have been instrumental in the establishment of the park at Inverness. On the night of the tree lighting, area restaurants offered special menu items. A house decorating contest is underway with officials scheduled to do the judging after the council meeting.

Temporary move for city staff: While the city council remodel is taking place, city offices will surge to the Armory. Dill reported that staff is ready and can move over the next two weeks. The goal will be to be open city offices for business by January 4.

Employee health self-insurance: Dill noted that it has been two years since the city decided to go to self-insurance for employee health care, working with city staff unions for employee buy-in. Right now, the plan is going extremely well, but he said, it is hard to get a picture of how self-insurance will go in a typical year. The first year was only a partial year in the program. This year, due to COVID, the usage in the first three quarters of the year was way down as people canceled elective surgeries and office visits. This has resulted in a surplus for the program, and so Director of Finance Joe Ewald announced no premium increases will be passed on to employees for the coming year.

Request for easement:
Dill asked council to consider an easement on property in Riggs Park for the sewer district. SD1 is planning significant improvements to sanitary and storm sewers in the vicinity at the intersection of Strathmore and Rosemont and asked for permission to transverse the park. The district’s plan is designed to avoid existing park amenities but if there are any disruptions, the district will put everything back to rights upon completion of the project. City council voted to approve granting the easement.

City ordinances and municipal orders

City council heard the first readings of two ordinances. The first was the transfer of the cable systems franchise agreement made with Cincinnati Bell, to the company’s new owner parent, Red Fiber Parent LLC. This is basically a name change and nothing in the agreement will change.

The second is an ordinance setting the terms of compensation for the new fire chief.

Council passed a municipal order appointing council member Ken Bowman to be the council’s representative on the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Council of Governments for 2021.

Next meeting: January 4 

Before adjourning, Dill announced the first meeting of council for 2021 will be January 4. At this meeting new council members will be sworn in. The meeting will also include a comprehensive update of implementation of the Community Plan.

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