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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Tight Loss for Highlands Bluebirds Girls Basketball

Five-Game Win Streak Ends for Highlands Girls Hoops

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior forward Kelsey Listerman brings the ball up-court in a recent game while senior Emma Mallery (top) runs to her left.

A slow start in the first quarter ended the five-game winning streak for the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (7-4 overall) Friday.

Highlands fell behind the Dixie Heights Colonels (8-2), 10-1 after the first quarter. The Bluebirds trailed 26-11 at halftime and 30-19 entering the fourth quarter before losing 36-33. Highlands is 4-3 against 9th Region competition.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Blue North Announces Board of Directors

Kenton County Judge Executive, Kris Knochelmann, is the new Board Char of Blue North.

Blue North, Northern Kentucky’s hub for entrepreneurs, startups, creatives, and small businesses, is excited to kick off 2021 by announcing members of its Board of Directors.

“We’ve assembled an all-star team to advise and guide Blue North and its offerings to the region’s entrepreneurs and startup community, and I’m excited about our region’s future with their leadership,” said Brit Fitzpatrick, Executive Director. “Our growing Board of Directors represents Northern Kentucky’s eCommerce, healthcare, local growth, and supply chain sectors. A new year presents new opportunities for many – especially as we continue to navigate through the pandemic – and Blue North is the ecosystem’s resource connector and expert.” 

The Board of Directors are:

Kris Knochelmann, Board Chair
Kris serves as Kenton County Judge-Executive and previously served as County Commissioner for District Three. A lifelong resident of Kenton County, Kris and his wife Lisa are owners of Schneller and Knochelmann Plumbing, Heating and Air, a business founded in 1928, with offices in Covington and Cincinnati. Kris has been working in the industry since he was 15. The company now consists of 85 employees. He is a Covington Latin School graduate and a Xavier University alum with a degree in accounting.

Stephen Saunders, Vice Chair
Stephen currently serves as the Director of Innovation & I.T. at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). He has a deep passion for data analytics and visualization and fed that desire while serving as Senior Manager of Terminal Operations and Customer Service Operations Analyst at CVG. Through the rapidly growing innovation portfolio that he helped create and now leads at CVG, Stephen has become very accustomed to collaborating and building with start-up companies around the world. Stephen holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from the University of Mount St. Joseph and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northern Kentucky University.

Matt Hollenkamp, Secretary
Matt is an Emmy-award winning advertising and marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience building brands across consumer-packaged goods, health care, and non-profit industries. He’s currently Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for St. Elizabeth Healthcare. A lifelong Northern Kentucky resident, Matt previously spent nine years at P&G, where he held a variety of leadership positions in brand management and within their Ventures organization. Matt is active in the Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurship and innovation community serving as a connector, advisor, and mentor. He received his bachelor’s degree in business from NKU and MBA from Xavier University.

Christine Russell, Treasurer
Christine is the Vice President of Strategy for Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. In this role, she is responsible for defining and implementing the strategic direction of the organization, as well as managing the day-to-day operations and finances. Christine previously served as Economic Development Director for the City of Springdale, Ohio where she focused on expanding the economic base of the city through business attraction, business retention/expansion, and project development. Christine has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Master of Science from the University of Findlay.

Carmen Hickerson
Carmen serves as the Assistant Vice President of Economic Engagement & Government Relations at Northern Kentucky University. She has more than 25 years of experience in public affairs, corporate communications, and consulting in the corporate and non-profit sectors, including banking, healthcare, and business association management. Her previous roles have included Vice President of Strategic Relations for Metro United Way (Louisville, KY), and Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications for Greater Louisville Inc. Carmen earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from Morehead State University in communications, public relations, and public affairs.

Jesse Simmons
Jesse is the President of Simmons Supply Chain Solutions. A retired P&G executive, Jesse is an innovative and resourceful supply chain expert, providing insight and leadership to Supply Chain OKI, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, and the National Fund for Workplace Solutions. He is a graduate of DePaul University. 

Opinion: The DAV site in Cold Spring is destined for development

By Joe Heil

Nearly 60 years ago, government and business leaders from the City of Cold Spring and Campbell County showed tremendous foresight in charting a future path of prosperity for one of the most desirable parcels of property in the region.

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization that sits along Alexandria Pike has been a tremendous asset to Cold Spring and a great neighbor to my restaurant, which is just across Industrial Road/KY 1998 from DAV site.

With the DAV's decision to relocate its headquarters and sell the site, discussions have emerged about the future of the property. It is rare that an attractive and high-profile piece of property on a major transportation artery becomes available for development.

In my mind - as a Cold Spring business owner and long-time resident - there is no doubt that the highest and best use of the property is for the development of a healthcare-anchored facility that has been proposed. And thanks to those city and county leaders that I referenced earlier, it is the City of Cold Spring that has the legal authority to make that call thanks to a deed that was signed in 1963.

Here is some brief but important history about the property.

The property was first developed in 1870 when the Diocese of Covington opened the St. Joseph Orphanage, which operated for decades on the property. I have a special affinity for the former orphanage and the property.

My wife Jane's grandfather, Clarence S. Kelley, was just five years old when he was placed in the orphanage after his mother died. Clarence not only grew up in the orphanage, but he became caretaker and spent his career there. He and his wife, Anna, raised their seven children - along with countless others - at the orphanage. 

By the early 1960s, the orphanage had closed and the Diocese had conveyed the land to the City of Cold Spring.  The city recognized that this property was ideally situated for development and, as such, extremely important to its long-term growth. On March 1, 1963, the city sold the 88-acre site for one dollar to the Campbell County Business Development Corp., which promoted and fostered economic development in the county.  As part of the sale, an agreement was put into place that would ensure Cold Spring would have a say in the future development and use of this important property.

Just about two years later in June of 1965, the Campbell County Business Development Corp. sold the land to the DAV for its national headquarters. Included as part of the deed was the 1963 agreement with the city. This agreement, now a restriction in the deed, preserves Cold Spring’s right to approve any use change on the property.  The city and county leaders who forged and signed those documents had the vision to ensure that if the property ever sold, it was the City of Cold Spring that would determine what is developed on the site. 

Through my business and involvement in the city, I talk to a great many residents every week. And while I don't claim to speak for others, I am convinced that a development that would generate the most tax base for the city, county, fire district and Campbell County Schools while generating hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in new construction and investment has strong support among Cold Spring residents and business owners.  

Preliminary estimates indicate that an $80 million project with a substantial number of good paying jobs would generate new property taxes, new payroll taxes, new revenue for the Central Campbell Fire District and a significant amount of new tax revenue for the Campbell County School District. 

I stand in awe of our previous leaders, who six decades ago took the site of a former orphanage and helped turn it into a national headquarters for a tremendous organization that serves military veterans.  

They had no idea if or when the DAV would sell the property. But they knew should that day come, that it was in the best interest for the people of Cold Spring to keep the property in the control of the city. That way, the property could provide benefits for the community, for generations to come. 

Joe Heil is a Cold Spring resident and the co-owner and operations manager of Barleycorns.

Leaving With Love: Longtime Fort Thomas Wedding Designer Retires

Kevin Ford retired after more than 25 years as one of the top wedding designers in our region.

40 years in the business! Home building, room additions, deck building, roofing, structural work, concrete, painting. (513) 205-4020

by Robin Gee

"When I turned 40, I decided I wanted to leave the business I loved while I still loved what I did," said Kevin Ford, owner of Ford-Ellington Wedding and Event Design, in a post to his customers and friends on Facebook.

Ford, who had recently turned 60, decided the time had come. He was ready to retire from the business—and lifelong passion—after more than 25 years in wedding design and another 10 as a florist in Fort Thomas.  
Ford-Ellington Wedding and Event Design was located at 16 North Fort Thomas Avenue. Ford owns the building and has put it up for sale. It makes sense as he has moved on to sunnier climes near Fort Lauderdale.
He said he is ready to relax a bit before new adventures.

"It’s definitely a job that I have loved. When you own a business, it’s a 24-hour-a-day job. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, designing in my head. I’d be thinking about contingency options like weather conditions... now, for my first few years, I want to relax, maybe look into volunteering."

Always one to stay busy, he said he’s already on the lookout for charities that might need his help.

From florist to designer 

Flowers are a big part of any wedding but so much more goes into the planning from lighting to linens to venue. Ford said he was on site to make sure it all went as planned.

Ford started in the business helping his mother who owned her own florist shop. She bought the business, he said, when he was in high school. He went on to college and earned a degree in psychology, but returned to the business he had grown to love.

"I started working full time as a florist in 1986, and after eight months I asked my mom if I could buy her out." She had two locations by that time, so she was happy to sell the Fort Thomas business to her son.

Ford operated his florist business for six or seven years, he said, before moving into wedding event design. In the early 90s, thanks to the popularity of Martha Stewart and better access to information via the Internet, people were becoming interested in and educated about the many aspects of big, creative weddings. It was a good time to be a florist, and he found it was a good time to learn about the wedding planning business.

Yet, it was when he provided the flowers for a large wedding held in the Omni Netherland’s Hall of Mirrors, seeing it all come together, that he decided wedding design was for him. As he learned more, he slowly moved his business exclusively into wedding event and design.

Groundhog Day Family Fun Event Set For Tower Park

Groundhog Day is Tuesday so to honor the furry marmot the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy will sponsor a family friendly socially distanced Groundhog Day event for children in Tower Park on Tuesday, February 2 between 4:00 - 5:00. Prizes will be awarded at 5:30. 

Meet at the tennis courts in Tower Park to start the hike. Participants will search for the groundhog shadows that will reveal a bit of information about groundhogs and their special day. When you find the hidden word you win a child’s groundhog day craft. 

FTFC Education Director, Trisha Schroeder, will lead the event. “I think it should be a lot of fun, and it is socially-distanced  because it is a self-led hike through the woods.” 

You can reserve a spot by sending an RSVP by February 1 to Trisha Schroeder at 


Thursday, January 28, 2021

Highlands Dominates Bellevue on Senior Night

Bluebirds Hit Century Mark

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands freshman Brody Benke runs up-court in a recent game. Benke scored 14 points in the win over Bellevue on Thursday.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (5-3 overall) celebrated Senior Night with a convincing 104-42 win over the Bellevue Tigers (1-5) on Thursday in 36th District action.

This marked the first time Highlands hit the century since Kevin Listerman took over as head coach in 2013 and the first time the Bluebirds have done it in a while. Highlands scored a season-high 97 points in a win over Covington Holmes during the 28-4 season last year.

"We started the four seniors for Senior Night. They set the tone and we talked about the greatest way to respect your opponent is to give your best effort," Listerman said. "I thought our kids responded and did that very well. They played hard and they played unselfish. They just made the right pass at the right time."

The four Highlands seniors are point guard Sam Vinson, guard Daniel Buchanan and forwards Luke Muller and Bryson Cody. Highlands saw 14 different players score in the victory with five scoring in double figures. Cody scored 13 with Vinson, junior guard Zach Barth and junior forward Oliver Harris scoring 10 each.

Highlands made 41-of-69 shots for 59 percent and 10-of-15 free throws for 67 percent. The Bluebirds also had 32 rebounds, 21 assists and 10 steals. Vinson and junior forward Cole Kocher had six rebounds each. Vinson also had four assists and three steals. Harris added three assists and three steals.

"I think we have to come into practice every day with the mindset to where something like that does happen like (Thursday) to where we need to come off the bench and play some valuable minutes," said Austin Duncan, Highlands junior guard. "Everyone that played had a fantastic game. That's a pretty good thing for a high school game."

Bellevue made 14-of-29 shots for 48 percent and 9-of-13 free throws for 69 percent. Senior guard Derek Leedy led the Tigers with 12 points and eighth grader Zach Mertens scored 11. The Tigers also had 10 rebounds and six assists.

Mentoring Plus Music Fest, Saturday January 30

Mentoring Plus, the non-profit mentoring program for at-risk teenagers in Northern Kentucky is presenting its second annual Music Festival, postponed from November and part LIVE and part VIRTUAL, on JAN. 30, 2021, at SOUTHGATE HOUSE REVIVAL in Newport at 7 p.m.

The LIVE Show features the LEFTOVERS, with Opening Act, BEN WALZ. Also performing will be TRAUMA ILLINOIS.
Appearing virtually on the Mentoring Plus Facebook Live page will be:
Acoustic 12-string slide guitarist, Wyndham Hill recording artist JEFFREY SEEMAN from Nashville.

Also appearing on video will be a reunion the Cincinnati band, WHEELS (with FRIENDS), after 40 years, as well as MIKE REID, the DANNY FRAZIER BAND, the WEBSTER & DEVOTO BAND, BETSY LIPPITT and JAKE WALZ.
Tickets for limited seating (100) for the LIVE Show with the video portions on large screens are $20 in advance, $30 day-of-show. 

Tickets are available at

Covid-19 cases, positivity rate continue to decline; most deaths ever reported Thursday

Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state, in partnership with Kroger Health, will open its first regional vaccination site at the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County next week. Three additional regional sites are opening through partners Ephraim McDowell Hospital in Danville and Western Baptist and Lourdes Mercy both in Paducah.

The Governor also unveiled a new state website,, and hotline that help Kentuckians determine if they are eligible to receive a vaccine and then helps them find one in their region.

Gov. Beshear stressed that Kentucky, like other states, receives its vaccine doses from the federal government and due to limited supplies it will take time before everyone can be vaccinated. But, he said, everyone will get a turn.

“Beginning Feb. 1, 2021, the COVID-19 vaccination priority will be phase 1B, people ages 70 or older, and all vaccination sites are asked to prioritize this population until further notice,” Gov. Beshear said. “Other Kentuckians from phases 1A and 1B remain eligible for vaccination and as vaccine quantities and available appointment times allow, persons in phase 1C may also be scheduled, to ensure each vaccination site administers 90% or more of all vaccine doses received within seven days of arrival.”

Beginning Tuesday, Feb. 2, a regional vaccine site at Kentucky Horse Park’s Alltech Arena will open to those 70 and older who have an appointment. The Governor said appointments will be indoors for now but may expand to drive-through as weather warms and supplies from the federal government increases. He added that more Kroger and regional partner sites will be added and announced soon.

The Governor was joined Thursday by Pheli Roberts, health leader for Kroger Louisville Division, who shared more information about the first regional vaccination site.

Kentuckians can be vaccinated by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday the week of Feb. 1, then from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday beginning the week of Feb. 8.

“At Kroger Health we are committed to helping people live healthier lives and we’re happy to be able to provide an easy solution to those Kentuckians seeking a vaccine,” said Roberts. “Our team at Kroger Health stands with you to keep Kentucky and the surrounding communities healthy and safe.”

Find a Vaccine Website
By answering a series of questions on the new website, which is protected and secure, Kentuckians can determine if they are currently eligible for a vaccine and if so will be directed to a map that shows available vaccines sites across the state, like the four new centers added Thursday. As vaccine supplies increase, more sites will be added to the map and announced.

Kentuckians not currently eligible or unable to locate an available vaccine are encouraged to sign up for text or email updates by entering their name, county of residence and an email or phone number at The sign-up is not a wait list or appointment scheduler, but aims to provide alerts when a person’s eligibility changes, or, for example, when vaccines are available in an area.

Find a Vaccine Hotline
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said in addition to the Find a Vaccine website, a new hotline has been added to help Kentuckians who do not have access to the internet or computer or need additional assistance. The hotline – 855-598-2246 or TTY 855-326-4654 – is available 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

“Hotline operators are prepared to walk a person without internet through what's on the website via a phone call,” Dr. Stack said. “For those who are vaccine eligible, the operator can help them identify a vaccine location and connect them by phone or even help them look for an available appointment. For those not currently eligible, the operator can help the caller sign up for text or email notifications.”

Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, who also serves as director of the Vaccine Distribution Project, shared a map of the Kentucky Horse Park location, discussed parking access and stressed patience as the state only has a limited amount of vaccines from the federal government at this time.

“We have no doubt that any available appointment will fill up immediately and we need every Kentuckian to know our ability to add more appointments and vaccine locations is strictly dependent on supply,” Secretary Gray said. “We do already have more Kroger regional sites planned in the weeks to come and we look forward to sharing that exciting news soon.”

This week, the Governor said the federal government will increase each state’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee a minimum supply for three consecutive weeks.

“The top-line message on vaccines is the same as it has been: Our one issue is supply. Our only limitation at this point is the number of doses we can get from the federal government,” said Gov. Beshear.

The Governor added that the state had three specific challenges, all related to a limited supply of the vaccine. First, the small number of doses the state receives compared to the very large number of health care providers who would like to distribute it. Second, the state does not have enough vaccine doses or small enough vaccine batches to distribute them equitably on a county by county basis – instead the state is distributing equitably by region. Finally, as the state moves into larger and larger phases, the type of infrastructure needed from providers to accommodate patient needs changes.

Case Information 

Fort Thomas Ice Cream to Become Fort Thomas Parlor

Fort Thomas Ice Cream will now be Fort Thomas Parlor: Coffee, Ice Cream and Cookie Dough. 

Over 50 years experience in NKY. Call now, mention FTM. (859) 287-2499.

by Robin Gee

The address for Fort Thomas' favorite ice cream spot will remain, but the business is changing. The good news is Fort Thomas Ice Cream owner Jason Williams will stay on to continue to bring customers his own special ice cream treats. What's even more good news? Cookie dough!

The Parlor Ice Cream, with locations in Pendleton, Milford, Mt. Washington and Ludlow, recently purchased the Fort Thomas location from Williams, who will stay on making his ice cream for the new owners Keith Hazelwood and Joshua Bolin.

Hazelwood and Bolin will bring the Parlor branding and popular menu of soft serve ice cream, espresso drinks, edible cookie dough and more. 

Fort Thomas Ice Cream owner, Jason Williams, with Joshua Bolin and Keith Hazelwood. 

A chain of events—and people

Parlor Ice Cream can trace its roots back to Nick Ganim, whose family opened a bakery and ice cream shop in Mt. Washington in 1957. This became Mt. Washington Creamy Whip & Bakery. From there Ganim opened the Old Milford Ice Cream Parlor.

For his next venture, he joined with Adam Sommers to open a location in Pendleton. Things were going great. Sommers brought in his friend Bolin to explore opening another location across the river in Ludlow. Plans were in motion, and they were all set to launch in spring of 2020, but then COVID hit. They put their plans on hold.

This is where Hazelwood came in. Ludlow is his hometown, and he had just retired and returned there after living 30 years in Fort Thomas. He had heard there was an ice cream parlor opening in Ludlow, but when nothing happened, he investigated. He got in touch with the owner of the building and asked him to arrange a meeting with Bolin and Sommers.

Hazlewood was able to convince them to partner with him and to open up the Ludlow Parlor despite the virus. The three worked on the project all summer and opened up on election day November 3, 2020.

Barre Fort Thomas. 90 Alexandria Pike. 
On to Fort Thomas

It was Hazlewood’s next suggestion that led to the Fort Thomas Parlor.

"Fort Thomas is my second home. I go there often. My aunt had a house there, and I have friends at Midway Cafe. In fact, I go there almost every week for the wings. I don’t know what possessed me to ask, but I was in Fort Thomas Ice Cream, and I asked a staff member if he thought Jason might be interested in a collaboration with another ice cream/cookie dough business," he said. 

He got Williams contact information, and Sommers followed up to ask he would indeed be interested. 

Williams said yes. He told Sommers what he really enjoyed most was creating the flavors. Sommers, Bolin and Hazelwood could bring their expertise to the marketing side of things. The match was made, and Fort Thomas Parlor was born.

The next step for the business will be to secure approval from the city’s Design Review Board for a few changes they plan to make to the outside of the building. They will bring in The Parlor branding, including their iconic mustache and monocle logo and a modern upbeat decor.  

Fort Thomas Parlor is located at 1013 South Fort Thomas Avenue. Opening date is set for March 1.

John A. Roebling Bridge Restoration Project to Begin Nine-month closure

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) advises motorists the John A. Roebling Bridge will be reduced to a single lane of traffic beginning Monday, Feb. 1, and completely closed to vehicular traffic two weeks later, Feb. 15, for a lengthy restoration project to preserve the 154 year-old historic landmark.

The bridge was closed in April 2019 as a safety precaution after sandstone fragments broke from the east side of the north tower. Temporary netting was installed, and the bridge was re-opened in August 2019. KYTC and representatives of the State Historic Preservation Office have been working to develop a project that will address several issues and help preserve and protect the structure for future generations.

The $4.7 million project was awarded to Lithko Restoration Technologies, LLC. The project includes masonry work and the repair and replacement of sections of sandstone on the north and south anchorages and towers.  Other work includes minor deck and sidewalk repair.

“The bridge will be limited to a single lane of traffic for two weeks, then closed to traffic altogether for this restoration,” said Bob Yeager, chief district engineer for the Department of Highways District 6 office. “But we know what a vital connection this is and we will keep a pedestrian sidewalk open during the project.”

Special traffic signals will be installed to allow for a single lane of traffic, enabling crews to prepare for the full closure that begins Feb. 15. The bridge is scheduled to reopen to traffic by the end of November and the overall project is expected to be complete by Dec. 31.

Cold Spring Moves Ahead With DAV Purchase, Offers Schools Assistance on Finding Alternative Sites

A new development in the battle over the Disabled American Vets property may bring Cold Spring city and Campbell County School Board officials to the table.

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor 

The friction continues between the city of Cold Spring and the Campbell County School Board over the Disabled American Veteran’s (DAV) property. Actions and reactions to recent developments were the focus of the January 25 city council meeting. Yet, it appears the city has extended a hand.

While city officials approved agreements related to the city’s purchase of the property—as well as a motion to file a complaint against the school board—they also gave the go ahead to an item under "new business" authorizing the mayor to reach out to school officials to offer some alternatives and assistance in the quest for a second middle school.

Voted best Yoga Studio in Kentucky by Best Things Kentucky. 18 N. Fort Thomas Ave. 

Escalating tensions

While the school board awaits a determination by the Campbell County Circuit Court on whether it can use eminent domain to seize the DAV property, the city has been continuing with its plan to purchase the property through an agreement between the city and developer Al. Neyer, and between the developer and the DAV.

In short, the developer has a purchase agreement with the DAV, but at the same time has an agreement to assign the purchase to the city, resulting in the city becoming the official owner of the property and Neyer remaining on as the developer.

City council gave final approval to these agreements clearing the way to proceed with the purchase of the property. They also approved the filing of an "Intervening Complaint" asserting the city’s right to be involved with the DAV purchase. This comes after several weeks of correspondence and complaints by both sides.

In the intervening complaint, the city claims the school board went ahead with filing for condemnation to allow the taking of property under eminent domain, despite knowing of the city’s interest in the property and in an effort to block the city from purchasing or being involved with the purchase.

The complaint outlined the city’s interests in the property for economic development. It also laid out why the city felt the school board did not have the right to condemn the property under eminent domain.  

RELATED: Cold Spring to File Suit Against School District Over DAV Property

The latest volleys

Fort Thomas Matters has obtained a packet of information about the dispute including correspondence between the city and the school board.

In an email sent December 30, City Attorney, Brandon Voelker, informed Board of Education Attorney, Jason Reed, that the city was filing suit against the Board for interfering with the city’s purchase contract and for ignoring a 1965 restriction on the original deed for the property that assured the city a say in the future uses of the property for economic development.

Voelker also noted the reasons he felt the school board had not followed the letter of the law in terms of the condemnation, in particular that the Kentucky Department of Education had not approved the purchase of the property and, therefore, the board did not have the right to interfere with the city’s purchase of the property.

"As you know, I filed to intervene in the case to protect the city’s rights and instead the District responded Cold Spring does not have an interest in the property, regardless of the contract to purchase and the deed restriction. While I do not agree with the Board’s response, the response also accused the City of collusion and other acts, essentially said 'sue us.' In as much, the City authorized such a suit."

In response to Voelker’s letter, on January 4 Reed said, "There is nothing in the response which 'essentially said [to the City] sue us.'...To the contrary, the overwhelming point of the response is that the city has no legal claim to assert against the Campbell County Board of Education in connection with the condemnation action, and any substantive objection the city has with the condemnation can be raised by Disabled American Veterans."

He went on to say the school board was not prepared to purchase the property at this time, and that condemnation (the taking of property under eminent domain) was not a purchase anyway. And, because it is not a purchase, final KDE approval is not necessary at this point in proceedings.

He went onto explain the condemnation would give the board time to explore and research the property before determining whether or not to proceed. The question of whether the school board can condemn the property will be determined by the courts within the next 90 to 120 days, he said.

He noted the DAV has not vacated the property yet, and that any plans for the building would not come to fruition for nearly a year. He suggested the city wait for the ruling. 

Is ice beginning to thaw?

Despite the contentious language and filing of motions between the city and school board, city officials approved a move that could go a long way to mend the relationship between the two entities.

Under new items on the meeting agenda was a request to authorize the mayor to negotiate with the Campbell County School Board to help find another parcel of land for a new middle school and for the city to provide some infrastructure or financial assistance to aid in building a new building. The most promising candidate would be land adjacent to Crossroads Elementary, but council members made additional suggestions on potential properties.

The measure passed, and Voelker sent the offer to school board officials after the meeting. In the email, obtained by Fort Thomas Matters, he described the 28 acres available near Crossroads and noted that the owners of the property, CMC, recently outlined plans to extend Crossroads to the AA highway, which would be a plus for the school.

He also noted that the city would be willing to "help financially offset any additional monetary requirements associated with other sites in Cold Spring."

He extended an invitation to meet to Superintendent Dr. David Rust who has since responded that he would be happy to meet and requested some figures from Neyer on property values.

The city is finalizing its purchase while the school board awaits the eminent domain decision, but the two sides said they are ready to sit down together to open discussion.

Merk & Gile Injury Attorney. 526 York Street, Newport. Free consultation 513-713-0862

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Highlands Girls Hoops Wins Fifth Straight

Highlands Wins Second County Rivalry Game in Three Days

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore point guard Alyssa Harris (with ball) looks to make a pass against pressure in a recent game while senior Emma Riccobene (31) flashes toward the ball.

Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion. 

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (7-3 overall) ventured south and came away with another county rivalry win Wednesday downing the Campbell County Camels (1-6) by a 43-34 count.

"It was a good win, especially (since) we didn't shoot the ball well inside the paint," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "Thankfully, we shot 50 percent from the three-point line so we overcame our easy bunnies and made some tough three-point shots. We hit free throws down the stretch when we needed to. The girls are coming in, doing what we're asking them to do and finding ways to win."

The original start time was 7:30 p.m. But the game started at 6 p.m. with the cancellation of the junior varsity game. Campbell County has had two games cancelled as a result of Coronavirus 2019 precautions.

Highlands has won five in a row. The Bluebirds have held three straight opponents below 40 points. They've also done in four out of five games during the winning streak and five times in their seven wins.

Highlands again played a six-player rotation without junior 6-foot-0-inch center CC Shick and senior guard Kate Vaught. Junior guard Meg Gessner again played more minutes than usual.

"We played well as a defensive unit," Gessner said. "What helped is we worked as a team really well. Our communication has been key honestly telling everybody who's cutting, where the shooters are."

Senior post Rory O'Hara put on a clinic scoring 23 points for the Bluebirds making two three-pointers and 11-of-12 free throws. She added 12 rebounds for a double-double. Highlands made 15-of-18 for 83 percent.

Highlands made just 11-of-34 shots including 6-of-12 from three-point range for 50 percent. The Bluebirds also had five steals, 10 turnovers and 24 rebounds.

Junior forward/guard Kylie Koeninger led Campbell County with 12 points. Campbell County made 11-of-12 free throws for 92 percent.

New Covid-19 Variant Strain found in Northern Kentucky

Dr. Steven Stack details new strain and how this will affect Kentucky. 

Phone: 859-905-0714 - Email: This is an advertisement.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) has notified the Northern Kentucky Health Department (NKY Health) that COVID-19 positive test samples from two Kenton County residents in January contain the B.1.1.7 strain. This strain is also known as the United Kingdom (UK) variant. The UK variant is a mutation of the SARS CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. These are the first cases of this strain detected in Kentucky and in Northern Kentucky.

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH), spoke to Kentuckians about the implications of the United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant. He also encouraged individuals to keep getting tested for COVID-19 and reminded them it was normal if they experienced mild side effects after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The vast majority of COVID-19 mutations have no clinical meaning, they don’t functionally have an impact on us if we’re infected. But some of the mutations do cause the virus to be more effective,” said Dr. Stack. “The COVID-19 B117 variant, the one we believe was first found in the United Kingdom, that variant is more contagious. If you get exposed to it, you’re more likely to be infected, so that means it can infect more people more easily.

“It’s not more dangerous or lethal for the person who gets it, but because it spreads to more people more easily, you could have more people who get sick and die. It is more important than ever that we wear our masks, watch our distance, wash your hands and stay at home and get tested when you are sick.”

Prior to receiving notification from the KDPH about the cases with the new virus strain, NKY Health had already completed the disease investigations and contact tracing on the positive cases. As with all cases, the individuals who are positive were interviewed to gather information on symptoms, close contacts and exposure. These individuals who were positive for COVID-19 were required to isolate/quarantine and those considered in close contact to the cases were notified to quarantine, monitor for symptoms and get tested if feeling ill.

The UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in the United Kingdom and has since been detected in 293 cases in 24 states in the U. S. The CDC as well as the KDPH and local health departments have been monitoring the emergence of this strain, including proactively testing positive COVID-19 specimens for variant strains of the virus. There may be more cases as the state continues to test samples throughout the state.

“This particular strain of virus is more contagious – it’s easier to catch than other strains we have seen thus far in Northern Kentucky,” stated Dr. Lynne Saddler, District Director of Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. 

“Now more than ever, we all must absolutely be vigilant in using the preventive measures that we know are effective – wearing face masks, social distancing, avoiding gatherings, handwashing and not going to work, school or events if you are feeling ill. These actions will help protect you and those around you. Getting vaccinated when you are eligible will provide an additional level of protection.” Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are effective against this variant.

NKY Health will continue to work with the Kentucky Department for Public Health to identify additional cases with this new strain of COVID-19, conduct disease investigations and contact tracing for positive cases and vaccinate individuals who are currently eligible as vaccine is available. 

Case Information 

Nominations open for 2021 Kentucky Teacher Awards; get form here — deadline is February 20

FTM file. 

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 Kentucky Teacher Awards, sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Education and Valvoline Inc.

Any full-time public school teacher in the state with at least three years of experience is eligible. Nominations may be submitted here.

Teachers may be nominated by students, parents, teaching peers, principals, superintendents or anyone from the community who has an interest in honoring an outstanding educator.

“The Kentucky Teacher Awards are an excellent opportunity to highlight the people who work every day to prepare our children for a bright and meaningful future,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “We encourage everyone to think of teachers who are making a positive impact on young people’s lives and nominate them for this recognition.”

All nominated teachers must complete a formal application and submit it by Feb. 20.

A blue-ribbon panel of education professionals from around the state will judge all applications in March. Up to 24 Valvoline Teacher Achievement Award winners will be announced in spring 2021. The top nine contenders from those 24 will receive additional evaluations, which will culminate in the selection of the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.

The Kentucky Teacher of the Year will be announced in Frankfort. At that time, all 24 teachers will be honored with a cash prize and other awards. Teacher Achievement Award winners will receive a cash gift of $500 each; two of the three finalists will receive $3,000; and the Kentucky Teacher of the Year will receive $10,000, along with the opportunity to represent Kentucky in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Kentucky Lottery closes first half of fiscal year on record pace with more than $710 million in sales

@Dylan_Nolte, via Unsplash. 

The Kentucky Lottery reported Friday that sales for the first half of FY21 (July 2020 through December 2020) were higher than the first six months of any other fiscal year in the company’s history.

Overall sales for the period were $710.3 million, which is $169.5 million (31.3%) more than the same period in the previous fiscal year. This was led by a 33.1% jump ($107.5 million) in sales of Scratch-off tickets to a total of $431.9 million. Draw games were also up $30.7 million (14.9%) to $236.6 million.

Also significant is the rise in play via the internet. While overall sales on the platform remain a relatively modest part of the business, the percentage growth has exploded. Internet sales from the first six months of FY21 to the same period in FY20 have grown over 232% ($34.8 million) to $49.8 million.

In a shorter-term gain, the board also learned of increased recent sales for both the Powerball and Mega Millions games. Both had seen lackluster sales for some time, but the longest jackpot runs in the history of the games (Powerball just ending at 36 drawings and Mega Millions having its 37th drawing Friday) have led to tremendous interest and subsequent sales of the game. The Mega Millions jackpot for currently stands at $1 billion.

In other business, the board approved:

• Contract renewals with Smartplay International for both draw machine and random number generator maintenance and repair;
• A contract renewal with Garron Lottery Products for draw machine and ball sets maintenance and new items on an as-needed basis, and;

• Rules and regulations for two Scratch-off tickets, five Instant Play games, and amended Pick 3 and Pick 4 rules.

Campbell County Attorney: It's not too late to avoid delinquent property taxes

Steve Franzen. 

By Steven J. Franzen, Campbell County Attorney

If you own property, you must pay taxes on that property every year.  While the 2020 tax bills for property located in Campbell County were due on December 31st, you have until April 15th, 2021 to pay your balance before the tax bill becomes delinquent.  The consequences for delinquency are costly.  State law mandates that delinquent tax bills incur penalties and interest.  Fees as much as 30% of the face tax amount are added to the tax bill in addition to 1% per month or 12% per year in interest.  Ultimately, the longer the delinquent tax bill goes unpaid, the more expensive it becomes. 
In addition, unpaid tax bills become liens against the property, and these tax liens are put up for sale in August of each year.  The already burdensome penalties and interest that are applied increase exponentially when the tax bill is actually sold.  State law permits third-party tax bill purchasers to add administrative fees, costs, and attorney fees to its bill.  After this process, your tax bill is several times the amount of the original bill, and you are in danger of losing your property in a foreclosure sale.  If you also have a mortgage on the property, you may face additional repercussions pursuant to the contractual terms of your mortgage.
In order to avoid these consequences, you must pay your 2020 tax bill to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office before the April 15th deadline.  You can do this online at, by mail with checks made payable to Mike Jansen, Sheriff, or in person at either the Newport or Alexandria Sheriff’s Office location.  If you did not receive your tax bill or have misplaced it, state law places the burden on you to obtain a copy of your bill from the Sheriff’s Office or Clerk’s Office and pay the balance.

Building Industry Association of Northern Kentucky: 2020 a year of notable growth for construction

Construction near the Ovation site in Newport, Kentucky. FTM file. 

Residential single-family construction grew 23 percent over 2019 as homebuyers enjoyed the lowest interest rates on record. The pandemic changed day to day life for many, with homeowners spending more time at home, bringing them a heightened awareness of inadequacies in their living arrangements. For the first time since the Great Recession, we ended 2020 above 1,000 building permits, with a total of 1,140.

Residential remodeling permitted projects grew only 8 percent over 2019. It is important to note that these projects represent only permitted projects which include structural or mechanical alterations. The average value of these projects grew by 23 percent, showing that Northern Kentucky homeowners invested more into their home during the pandemic than in the year 2019. While the volume growth is less impactful than that of residential single-family construction, 2020 permitted remodeling volumes have increased by 50 percent when compared to 2018.

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Multi-family residential building slowed in 2020 when compared to 2019. That comes after a year of substantial pullback in multi-family building from 2018. This represents a decline of 38 percent over two years; a reduction mimicking the national trend.

Nationally, the commercial/industrial sector contracted 2.1 percent while Northern Kentucky crushed that trend in 2020. New development of commercial/industrial projects show a permitted value of $568 million, a figure that is 25 percent greater than that of 2019, a figure that doubles that of 2018.

Commercial/industrial reinvestment also continued to grow in Northern Kentucky in 2020 at a pace 11 percent above 2019, which also shows an improvement of 84 percent of 2020 over 2018. This means while growth continues for this part of the construction sector in Northern Kentucky, the pace of growth is slowing. Contributing to expansion in this sector is the Amazon Prime International Air Hub. While total new and reinvestment commercial/industrial projects totaled $910.7 million, the air hub or Amazon operation projects account for 93.5 percent of all projects in this sector. Without Amazon related projects, we would have seen little to no growth for commercial/industrial growth in Northern Kentucky over the last few years.

Tuesday Round-Up: Highlands Boys Hoops Blitzes Scott

Bluebirds Move Above .500 with Non-Region Victory

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Leyton Read (4) guards Scott senior guard Grant Profitt (3) in the first half of the non-region game Tuesday.

The final score in this one does not indicate how close it was until late in the third quarter.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (4-3 overall) had to earn this win just as much as the Bluebirds did against any of the first six opponents -- all of which are ranked in the Kentucky Sports Radio Boys Basketball Top 25 poll. Highlands is ranked 10th in that poll.

The Bluebirds led just 45-44 with 3:02 left in the third quarter on the road against the Scott Eagles (3-3) from the 10th Region. But senior forward Luke Muller caught fire making three three-pointers over the next 90 seconds. He added two free throws with 21.6 seconds left to give Highlands a 60-49 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bluebirds then sealed the deal with a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter on their way to an 85-60 victory.

"All the credit goes to the kids. We talked about making adjustments and stepping up. They took it to heart," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We cranked up the defensive intensity. I felt like it helped us relax on offense. You could see the game change on a couple possessions (after Muller's shots). That's what you want seniors to do - step up and make plays when you need them to."

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Saint Thomas School Open House This Weekend

St. Thomas School located at 428 S. Fort Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas, KY. 

Saint Thomas School will be hosting their annual Open House, this weekend.  

It is appointment only to allow families to safely tour the school.  Saint Thomas has undergone several renovations throughout the school over the last year and welcome new & prospective families in Preschool through 8th grade.  Please visit the link below to sign up for a tour.

Sunday, January 31
1:00 - 3:00 p.m. 
428 S. Fort Thomas Ave.
Fort Thomas, KY 41075

Gov. Beshear: President’s COVID-19 Team Increases Kentucky’s Vaccine Allocation

More contagious COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom confirmed in Kentucky

On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said he had a call today with the President’s COVID-19 team where he learned the federal government will increase each state’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines by 17%.

“That is a great start,” said Gov. Beshear. “The other thing they are doing is guaranteeing a minimum supply for three straight weeks. One of the tough things we’ve been dealing with is only knowing on a Tuesday what we would have the next week and not knowing what we would have in the weeks after.”

He also said two cases of the COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom (UK) have been confirmed in the commonwealth.

“Public health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack is going to talk about this more tomorrow. The UK variant does spread more aggressively, but he’ll take us through all the implications of having this strain here,” said Gov. Beshear.

Case Information 
As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, Gov. Beshear reported the following COVID-19 numbers:

New cases today: 2,714
New deaths today: 35
Positivity rate: 9.63%
Total deaths: 3,495
Currently hospitalized: 1,566
Currently in ICU: 391
Currently on ventilator: 228

Kenton: 86
Campbell: 58
Boone: 46

Long Term Case and Congregate Settings:
Cases: 12.3%
Deaths: 64.1%

Recovered: 41,878, 11.95%

New St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky Food Pantry and Thrift Store Coming to Cold Spring

St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky is bringing a new Campbell County food pantry and thrift store to Campbell County. 

Voted Best Wings in Greater Cincinnati. 1017 S. Fort Thomas Ave.  

The store is located at 3970-3972 Alexandria Pike in Cold Spring, Kentucky.  

SVdPNKY serves neighbors in need with emergency financial assistance and basic necessities across Northern Kentucky, including over 5,800 residents of Campbell County. According to a release, St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky believes this new location will make it more convenient for those living in Campbell County to access the basic necessities that SVdP offers as well as to support the organization with material donations.

St. Vincent de Paul already operates three other thrift stores in Erlanger, Florence, and Falmouth and two food pantries in Erlanger and Falmouth, operating solely on the donations of generous Northern Kentucky donors. The new location will be a place where residents of Campbell County can more easily receive help with basic necessities, with plans for the store to carry clothing, household goods and furniture.  The location will also serve as a donation drop-off site, where supporters can donate gently used clothing, furniture and housewares.  Lastly, the organization welcomes those who enjoy thrift store shopping as all purchases help support St. Vincent de Paul’s programs.  

This new location is part of the organization’s strategic plan to make their services more accessible in Northern Kentucky. 

“Access to the basic necessities we offer can be difficult for those we serve in Campbell County, requiring a drive to Erlanger, Florence or Falmouth to find what they need," said St. Vincent de Paul Northern Kentucky’s Executive Director, Karen Zengel. 

"Our new location is centrally located in Campbell County and on the bus line.  This physical expansion of our outreach will make it much easier for our neighbors to access assistance with food, clothing and household items.  It also provides a convenient place for our material donors to drop off their gently used items.  We are very excited for this new opportunity.”

Meredith Brewer named Kentucky Department of Education’s director of education policy

Roofing, siding, gutters, painting. Call Matt. 859-393-5264. 

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Commissioner Jason E. Glass announced on Jan. 26 the hiring of Meredith Brewer as the department’s director of education policy. She will continue to serve as director of KDE’s Division of Educator Recruitment and Development until officially beginning her new role on Feb. 1.

As director of education policy, Brewer will serve as the executive director for the Kentucky Board of Education and as the federal liaison with the U.S. Department of Education. She also will work with the director of government relations and key policy staff on the development and execution of education policy.

“Meredith has been a tremendous asset to the Kentucky Department of Education and I am excited for her to embark on this new journey as our director of education policy,” Glass said. “She will work alongside the Kentucky Board Education as they continue to focus on eliminating the inequities that exist in our public schools.”

Since joining KDE in 2019, Brewer has provided leadership for the department’s statewide educator recruitment initiative, GoTeachKY, and has identified and shared emerging trends and policy priorities for teacher recruitment, retention and professional development.

"I am honored to have this opportunity to support the board in its mission to ensure that every student in Kentucky has equitable access to high-quality, lifelong learning,” she said.

Brewer said she is also excited to work alongside the department's policy advisers.

"We are fortunate to have an outstanding team of policy advisers at KDE and I look forward to working with them to help prioritize the development of policies that advance the educational experiences of all students," she said.

Prior to joining KDE, Brewer served as director of the Kentucky Center for Mathematics, and taught at Summit View Elementary (Kenton County) and Rapoport Elementary (Waco, Texas).

Highlands Hoops Pulls Away from NCC

Bluebirds Win Fourth Straight

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior post Kelsey Listerman (middle) gets in defensive position along with teammates Emma Riccobene (31) and Meg Gessner (11).

14 N. Grand Ave. 

The hosts knew anything could happen in this rivalry game if they allowed the visitors from the hill to stick around.

But the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (6-3 overall) took care of business in the fourth quarter using a 12-0 run to pull away from the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (4-4), 54-39 Monday. Highlands has won four straight and moved to 4-2 in 9th Region play. The Bluebirds have won both 36th District games on the schedule.

"It was great," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "When we have wide-open shots, we have to knock them down. I thought in the second half, we knocked some shots down when we were open. That was huge for us."

Senior guards Kelsey Listerman and Emma Riccobene led the charge scoring 22 and 17 respectively. Listerman made 6-of-8 shots and 7-of-8 free throws to go with four assists, six steals and eight rebounds and Riccobene made two three-pointers to go with six rebounds.

NewCath tried a box-and-one defense on Listerman in the fourth quarter and the Bluebirds took advantage of it. Senior guard Emma Mallery had two three-pointers including a crucial one in the fourth quarter.

"Just realizing that kind of stuff was important," Listerman said of the NewCath defense. "It definitely showed as we started taking advantage of that. That allowed me to become a screener. There were an odd number of people on (certain) sides of the floor and they could potentially take it to the basket."

Highlands made 14-of-30 shots including 6-of-21 from three-point range and 8-of-10 free throws for 80 percent. The Bluebirds also had 14 assists, 18 steals, 11 turnovers and 27 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Alyssa Harris had five assists.

"I definitely think that aggression was one of our biggest challenges this year," Riccobene said. "We were kind of more passive in the first few games. But all the attacks on the basket and the (free-throw) attempts that we had (Monday) really showed that we're maturing as a team."

Highlands started the game without two key players. Senior guard Kate Vaught and junior center CC Shick were not able to play.

It also did not help that senior post Rory O'Hara fouled out. But she had a crucial steal and score during that 12-0 run. O'Hara had six steals.

NewCath made five three-pointers and 2-of-5 free throws. Junior guard Rylee Turner scored 11 and junior guard Emily Heck had 10 to lead the Thoroughbreds.

Highlands led 18-9 after the first quarter. Richey credited junior guard Meg Gessner for helping build the lead with five points having to play more than usual. Mallery made a three with three seconds left in the quarter.

But the Thoroughbreds fought back in the second quarter scoring 10 straight to go up 19-18 following an senior guard Annie Heck offensive putback.

But Listerman made a jumper and two free throws to put Highlands back up 22-19 with 2:02 left in the half. Highlands went to a four-corner offense after that and Turner hit a lay-up in the final seconds to trim the margin to 22-21 at halftime.

"We had a lot of unforced turnovers there in the second quarter," Richey said. "That limits our shot attempts."