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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Highlands Blitzes Rowan County on Road

Bluebirds Handle Vaunted Rowan County 2-3 Zone

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior forward Oliver Harris makes a pass in a recent game.

The Rowan County Vikings of the 16th Region have run a 2-2-1 full-court press and a high, aggressive 2-3 zone defense for years since Head Coach Shawn Thacker came over from Somerset in 2008.

It has bothered a number of teams over the years. But it did not both the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (16-4 overall) Friday. Highlands hit the running clock late in the third quarter in an 86-54 victory in Morehead.

Friday, February 26, 2021

In Kentucky, door may be closing on some no-knock warrants

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, explaining Senate Bill 4, legislation he introduced relating to warrants that authorize unannounced entry, commonly known as no-knocks.

Legislation to limit the use of no-knock warrants passed the Kentucky Senate today by a 33-0 vote.
The measure, known as Senate Bill 4, would create procedures and requirements for the issuance of both search warrants and arrest warrants that authorize entry without notice, commonly known as no-knocks.
“We are not here to criticize police in general, but on a night this past year 2020, there was some bad policing that took place,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said about the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. “This brought to the forefront some things that needed to be changed because what happened that night could happen to anybody. The sanctity of our homes should be protected – and they are by both of our constitutions – but sometimes we have to do more to clarify the process.”
SB 4 would greatly limit when no-knock warrants could be sought. They would be allowed for instances where someone was believed to be in immediate danger, such as kidnapping cases. The no-knock warrants would also be allowed when sought in connection to cases involving certain violent crimes, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
SB 4 also prescribes how to obtain no-knock warrants. An officer seeking a no-knock warrant would have to get approval from supervisors and certify the warrant application hadn’t been “shopped,” the practice of trying to find a receptive judge. The bill would also make clear that an officer’s false statement in a warrant application constitutes felony perjury. And the approving judge’s signature would have to be legible.
“How would this have changed the circumstances of that night where Breonna Taylor lost her life?” Stivers said. “As I understand it, this was a no-knock search at 1 o’clock in the morning for ... evidence of drug trafficking. Think about that.”
Stivers then rhetorically asked if police officers should be going into someone’s home unannounced at 1 a.m. before answering himself with a “no.”
Stivers remarks were followed by a nearly two-hour floor debate on race, policing and the role poverty plays.
Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, recounted how he was once assaulted by a police officer.
“I support Senate Bill 4, but this is just the beginning,” he said. “Our problems are broader. They are deeper. They are going to require a long-term willingness to understand and do those things that serve us all.”
Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said he supported SB 4. He then read a portion of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which speaks to unreasonable searches and seizures.
“This is the framework this discussion is based on,” Schickel said. He added that his prior experience as a police officer, jailer and U.S. Marshal made him realize warrant reform has been needed in Kentucky for a long time.
“There were times when I would leave these search warrants with not a real good feeling in my stomach, knowing we could have done a better job,” Schickel said while recalling working on narcotics investigations.
Another retired law enforcement official, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, also stood in support of SB 4. He and several other lawmakers, however, also stressed that law enforcement was not the enemy.
“I respect the police officers,” Carroll said of law enforcement across Kentucky. “I respect the community. I respect the troubles the minority community has in trust with police officers. My belief is we can make it better if we commit ourselves on both sides to making it happen. We can make a better commonwealth for all of our people.”

Election reform bill to make some measures implemented during pandemic, permanent

Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, testifying on House Bill 574, which would promote both participation and security in elections.

A bill to promote both participation and security in elections cleared the House floor today.
House Bill 574 would make some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic permanent.
Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, who is one of the primary sponsors of the bill, praised Kentucky for a record-breaking turnout in the 2020 election.
“And that result caused many people in this room, many representatives, and many citizens to consider what, if any, of the emergency election procedures should be adopted into law,” Decker said on the House floor.

Decker said she and other lawmakers met with county clerks, members of the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State Michael Adams and many others when crafting HB 574.
“We have not followed a political agenda in drafting this bill and we hope that as you reviewed this bill you have come to understand that it will create free and fair elections for our state from this point forward,” Decker added.
The legislation would offer Kentuckians three days – including a Saturday – leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting.
With the fiscal and logistical impacts in mind, HB 574 would allow for the counting of absentee ballots to begin no earlier than 14 days before Election Day. It would also allow county clerks to continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail.
Another part of voting during COVID-19 was that counties were allowed to create voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote. That would continue under HB 574.
The bill also addresses some ballot integrity concerns. HB 574 would ban “ballot harvesting” in which third parties collect and submit ballots. The practice is already not allowed in Kentucky, but the legislation would expressly prohibit it in statute and set penalties.
Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville, filed a friendly floor amendment to allow a person who is homeless and lacks an established residence to choose an address of a non-traditional place of residence, such as a shelter, for the purposes of voting.
“One of the things we strive to do is to have the homeless participate in our communities, so that they can get their lives back on track with just a little bit of help,” Stevenson said on the House floor before her amendment was adopted.

Measure to increase access to handicap license plates passes the House

Representative McPherson, R- Scottsville, presents House Bill 363 on the House floor on Thursday. The measure passed 94-0.

The House of Representatives passed a measure today that would allow parents and guardians of disabled minor or disabled adult to obtain a license plate to allow them to park in a handicap parking spot. This measure is sponsored by Representative Shawn McPherson of Scottsville.
“This is such a commonsense issue that at first, I was surprised that this provision wasn’t already permitted,” McPherson said. “This measure would allow those parents and guardians of disabled children or adults to park in the handicap spot instead of parking across the parking lot and facing the decision to either drop the child or adult off or to wheel them across the parking lot.”
House Bill 363 also clarifies that in order for the parent or guardian to park in the disabled spot, they must be accompanied by the disabled child or adult.
House Bill 363 will move to the Senate for further consideration in the upcoming weeks of the 2021 general session

Frustration over unemployment insurance leads to bill passage

Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, explaining Senate Bill 7, a measure he introduced relating to unemployment insurance benefits.

The Senate unanimously passed legislation today designed to give relief to out-of-work Kentuckians who have been asked to return their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
“We cannot legislate that the executive branch functions efficiently or effectively,” Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, said after citing a long list of widely reported problems within the state’s UI office. “What we can do ... is make it possible for this administration to start to fix what they have broken."
Known as Senate Bill 7, the measure would provide a procedure for people who received overpayments of UI benefits to request a waiver so they are not required to repay the money. The bill would cover overpayments made from Jan. 27 through Dec. 31 of last year.
For the waiver to be granted, the recipients must have received the overpayment through no fault of their own, according to language in the bill. The recipient would also have the right to appeal any denial of the waiver. The bill was amended on the floor to double the amount of time an appeal can be filed to 30 days. The amendment was made by Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg.
“The second part of the legislation deals with the future as we talk about a new system,” said Givens, the primary sponsor of SB 7. “This legislation puts in some integrity parameters to try to avoid some of the chaos and calamity we are dealing with now.”
SB 7 would also require the UI office to take numerous steps in the future to verify the eligibility of persons claiming unemployment benefits, prevent fraudulent filings of claims and prevent overpayments. Another section would entitle the state attorney general access to UI records to investigate and prosecute fraudulent claims.
“To the best of our ability, this legislation deals with today, a slight portion of the future and small elements of the past,” Givens said, “but we still stand in a place where the administration is culpable and responsible for the delivery and adequate oversight of this necessary fund.”
Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, defended the executive branch’s actions.
“If we are going to point fingers let’s look into the mirror too because this is a longer and deeper conversation than just unemployment,” he said. “We knew last year we didn’t have enough money to run the basic need and obligations of state government as it currently existed.”

The co-sponsor of SB 7, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, was one of many lawmakers who stood during a nearly two-hour floor debate to express frustration with how the UI office has handled a backlog of claims brought on by COVID-19 and the resulting business closures. He said the executive branch hasn’t taken up the legislative branch’s repeated requests to help find a solution.
“It has been very frustrating trying to get answers and representing the people,” Carroll said. “People expect us to be able to help them. The reality is we haven’t been able to help them other than a few cases. It is very difficult.”
Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, suggested statewide office holders in Frankfort should be required to stand in the unemployment line the next time an executive order is issued closing down businesses.
“Sometimes you have to put yourself in the miserable pit everyone else is in before you might want to turn around and fix it,” he said.
SB 7 passed by a 35-0 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

Summary: here's what happened in the Kentucky legislature this week

Kentucky Senate Chambers. FTM file. 

The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 session reached one of the milestones Capitol observers eagerly await with this week’s arrival of the deadlines to introduce bills in the Senate and House.


Now, with 881 bills filed for consideration, we have a fairly comprehensive view of the issues lawmakers may consider in the remaining weeks of the session. Legislation filed before the deadline included bills on education, elections, taxes, public safety, gambling, civil rights and numerous other topics.


An issue that has been the subject of many headlines over the past year was taken up by the Senate this week with the passage of legislation that would limit and set guidelines for the use of no-knock warrants, which allow officers to enter a premises without notice.


Under Senate Bill 4, the warrants would be allowed in limited instances when someone was believed to be in immediate danger or in other certain cases, such as those involving violent crimes or terrorism. These warrants would have to be executed by a SWAT team or a response team with special training. The bill would also specify in statute that it would be perjury if an officer made a false statement in an application for a no-knock warrant.


SB 4 passed the Senate on Thursday and now goes to the House.


Other bills that advanced this week include the following:

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House Bill 95 is aimed at helping those with diabetes by capping cost-sharing requirements for prescription insulin at $30 per 30-day supply for state-regulated health plans. The legislation passed the House on Tuesday and has been delivered to the Senate.


Senate Bill 10 would establish the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity. The group would be formed to conduct studies and research on issues where disparities in areas including education, child welfare, health care, the economy and criminal justice system. Senate Bill 10 passed the Senate on Wednesday and has been sent to the House.


House Bill 574 would make some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic permanent. The legislation would offer Kentuckians three days – including a Saturday – leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting. It would allow county clerks to continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail. It would also counties to offer voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote. The bill passed the House on Friday and now goes to the Senate.


Senate Bill 67 would allow certain restaurants to sell alcohol, including cocktails, with to-go and delivery orders when purchased with a meal. The bill passed the Senate on Monday and now awaits action in the House.


House Bill 140 would permit telehealth services that were allowed to expand due to COVID-19 pandemic to remain in place even after the pandemic ends. This passed the House and Monday and has been sent to the Senate for consideration. 

Fleeing driver strikes Alexandria Police Officer; leads high-speed chase through Campbell County

Walmart in Alexandria is located at 6711 Alexandria Pike. 

A women is under arrest after striking an Alexandria police officer with her car before leading them on a high-speed chance that ended across the river in Ohio. 

Chelsea Knipper, 31, is under arrest on multiple charges: Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, failure to comply with police, identity fraud, forgery, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, driving under a suspension and not wearing a seatbelt.

She was booked into the Clermont County Jail at 3:40 a.m. Friday. 

According to a release by Alexandria Police, officers approached Knipper's vehicle around midnight Friday while doing an area check at Walmart in Alexandria, located at 6711 Alexandria Pike. During the check, police found that Knipper had an active felony warrant for her arrest out of Kenton County. 

According to police, Knipper gave the officer false information when asked to identify herself and failed to comply with officers when they asked her to exit the vehicle. 

"Officers made several attempts to request she exit the vehicle and Warner her that she would be removed from the vehicle and taken into custody," said Chief Lucas Cooper in a news release. 

That's when police said that she started her vehicle. Alexandria Police attempted to use a window break took to gain access and then Knipper, police say, ran over the foot of an officer as she fled northbound. The chase followed US 27 through Cold Spring, Highland Heights and into Ohio on 471 and ultimately on Montgomery Road. 

Highlands Downs Simon Kenton

Bluebirds Win Make-Up Non-Region Game

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore point guard Alyssa Harris slides past a pick in a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team (13-5 overall) won a make-up non-region game over the Simon Kenton Lady Pioneers, 35-23 in a low-scoring affair Thursday in Fort Thomas.

Cold Spring Votes to Appeal Decision on Open Meetings Violations

Cold Spring city council voted to appeal a recent decision by the attorney general that they violated open meeting law in two December meetings. FTM file. 

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

At the February 22 council meeting, Cold Spring city council members voted to appeal a decision by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron that the city had violated open meetings laws in two meetings in December 2020.

According to the decision, the city had failed to give proper notice for two special meetings held December 17 and 30, and also had taken actions not on the agenda following executive sessions.

The attorney general ruled the city violated the law when it failed to respond to a complaint by Campbell County schools attorney Jason Reed that the council had not provided adequate information about how to access the meetings, which were held via Zoom. Cameron also agreed that the city was in violation because it took action after the closed session, while the agenda stated no action would be taken.

A battle of interests

The complaint stems from the ongoing battle between the city and the Campbell County School District over property belonging to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). The $6.5 million property is approximately 30 acres located at 3725 Alexandria Pike.

A circuit court ruling earlier this month established the city had a legitimate interest and the right to intervene, allowing the city to continue with its plan to become owners of the property through an agreement with developer Al. Neyer and the DAV. The pivotal part of the plan is to bring St. Elizabeth onboard to develop a healthcare facility on the site.

At the same time the school district is awaiting news on its move to condemn the property through eminent domain. The property would provide a building and acreage for a much-needed new middle school to serve the northern tier of the county.

The decision to appeal

Although the agenda for the February meeting stated council would go into executive session to discuss whether or not to appeal the decision, technical difficulties made that impossible. City attorney Brandon Voelker asked council if they would like to proceed with the discussion of the matter in the open meeting, although he would refrain from discussing courtroom strategy.

Voelker reiterated his public response to the decision. He cited three previous decisions that allowed for councils to take actions coming out of executive session even if these are not stated specifically on the agenda. Stating that an action might be taken has been considered more of a courtesy to the public, to let people know so they can decide whether to stay until the executive session is over, he explained.

He argued that this new decision departs from previous decisions, making it hard for public entities to know the correct and best way to proceed.

"My concern is this opinion stands for bad law because it goes against three straight holdings. It’s just not what they’ve ruled in the past...So the issue is now, they’re creating conflict as to what is the proper action to take."

Council member Cindy Moore noted the council does not create the agendas. "I was concerned because [the decision] said council had illegal meetings and all that, but ... we don’t make the agenda. We are just following the agenda we are given."

Voelker agreed, "You point out a fundamental problem. The attorney general of this state doesn’t even have an understanding."

Moore asked about penalties and fees involved. According to the law, the party making the complaint could be awarded court costs if the violations are proven to be willful, and the court could award the complaining party up to $100 per violation, and actions taken could be voided.

As far as fees to appeal, Voelker said, it would be minimal, under $250. The council voted to appeal the attorney general’s decision. 

Ongoing technical difficulties

Technical and related communication issues have plagued the city’s council meetings since the decision to provide live meetings online. After the complaint by the school district, the city decided to return to offering in-person meetings to increase public access. Yet, most of the members have chosen to continue to join in the meetings remotely.  

Sound issues in the council chambers have caused members joining via Zoom to ask for clarifications because they cannot understand everyone in the room.

Officials have tried different ways to address the sound situation. When City Administrator Steve Taylor asked if sound had improved for remote members, Moore said she still had some difficulty understanding what was being said.

Council member Chris Ampfer noted the sound coming from Taylor’s mike was good, but he could only hear clearly whatever came through Taylor’s mike, not from others in the room.

These issues forced the cancelation of the executive session part of the meeting as it could not be determined how members could return to open session after it was concluded. Paul Kloeker was the only council member to attend the in-person meeting. Members Ampfer, Moore and Deanna Hengge joined via Zoom. Members Lisa Cavanaugh and Adam Sandfoss were unable to access the meeting properly due to technical difficulties and so could not fully participate.


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Gov. Beshear to Co-Lead Governors’ Discussion on $2 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal with U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg

The scene at the Brent Spence Bridge after a lengthy repair, which was caused by a crash. 

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Today, Gov. Andy Beshear and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster will lead a virtual conversation with U.S. governors and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

On Jan. 20, Gov. Beshear and Gov. McMaster were selected to co-chair the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Economic Recovery and Revitalization Task Force.

“I was deeply honored and humbled to be asked by the NGA to work on this crucially important issue,” the Governor said. “I said yes so Kentucky’s concerns and interests would be front and center as we sprint out of the pandemic, build our economy back stronger than before and lead in the post-COVID world. As Secretary Buttigieg has emphasized, we can’t do that without heavily investing in our infrastructure to make sure it’s pushing us forward, not holding us back.”

The discussion will take place during the NGA's virtual Winter Meeting, focused on ending the COVID-19 public health crisis and launching a strong and equitable economic recovery.

President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes a variety of projects that would enhance roads and bridges, public transit systems, the electrical grid and more.

At 4:30 p.m. EST, governors will meet with President Biden virtually. The President’s remarks will be livestreamed here. Gov. Beshear will be available to take questions on the NGA Winter Meeting after his 5 p.m. press briefing on COVID-19.

Campbell County Hiring for 2021 Park and Golf Course Positions

It may not feel like it now but Spring will come to Campbell County and AJ Jolly Park is hiring Park Rangers, Camping and Concession Workers and Park Maintenance Workers. 

Fort Thomas Drug Center owner praises medicaid cost saving measure after KY House passage

Fort Thomas Drug Center. FTM file. 

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a measure aimed at providing additional oversight and ensuring cost savings in administering pharmacy benefits for Medicaid recipients in Kentucky. 

HB 222, sponsored by Representative Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, would require the Department for Medicaid Services (DMS) to contract with a single independent entity to monitor all Medicaid pharmacy benefit claims.
“In 2020, our state transitioned to a single pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM,” Sheldon said. 
“HB 222 continues to build on that legislative success by allowing the Department for Medicaid Services to contract with a company that will find administrative mistakes when handling pharmacy benefit claims. These mistakes can unfortunately be very costly, and this bill will continue to promote increased cost savings to the taxpayers and to the state as a whole.”

The bill is a net positive in the eyes of local independent pharmacist, Craig Seither of Fort Thomas Drug Center. 

“The fleecing of Kentucky taxpayers as it pertains to managing the prescription benefit for Medicaid Patients is coming to a close," he told Fort Thomas Matters.  

"Patients, taxpayers, and providers have suffered for the last 10 years with the implementation of managed Medicaid in KY.  These “middleman” have billed the taxpayers high, and payed the provider low, many times less than the cost of the medication.  Naturally, this “price gouging model” created hardships with Pharmacy closures and reducing healthcare accessibility.  The future is more transparent with one Pharmacy Benefit Manager (currently several) operating in a fair manner.  The result will be greater savings for the taxpayers, better care for the most fragile in our society, and a pharmacy that can keep the lights on.”
HB 222 would require the contract to last for no longer than two years, and to be eligible for the contract the selected entity must have at least five years of experience reviewing and auditing pharmacy claims. The entity would be tasked with identifying and correcting errors in pharmacy benefit claims, as well as identifying underpayments made by the state pharmacy benefit manager to pharmacies. Total compensation paid by DMS to the contracted entity during the initial two year contract period is capped at 30 percent of the total savings generated by the contracted entity. This means Kentucky would retain 70 percent in savings from discovered errors.

Highlands Downs Holmes, moves to 15-4

Bluebirds Own Six Straight Wins

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior guard Leyton Read brings the ball up the court in a recent game.

18 N. Fort Thomas Ave. Located in the Hiland Building. 

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (15-4) may not have run away with this one.

But the Bluebirds did come away with their sixth straight victory with an 89-78 victory over the Covington Holmes Bulldogs (3-9) Wednesday in Fort Thomas. Highlands is 8-3 in 9th Region play.

"Holmes is a good basketball team," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "They have a lot of pieces. Their athleticism and ability to attack the basket really caused us a lot of problems. They shot the three well. Some of the guys that had been struggling knocked some shots down. But our guys were able to make some stops at critical times and we shot the ball really well."

Senior forward Luke Muller scored 30 and sophomore guard Will Herald added 28. The duo combined for 14 three-pointers.

Highlands senior point guard Sam Vinson battled foul trouble in this game. But junior guard Leyton Read made some big steals in the second half to help the Bluebirds extend the lead.

"As a team, we stepped up when Sam got in foul trouble," Read said. "We moved the ball really well. We had to handle the ball because losing Sam makes a big difference. It opens up a lot when we attack because we have the shooters. We get a lot of good shots."

Vinson still scored 17 points and seven rebounds and junior guard Zach Barth scored 11. Highlands made 35-of-63 shots for 56 percent including 16-of-27 from three-point range for 59 percent and 3-of-5 free throws for 60 percent to go with 21 rebounds. 

Senior guard Quantez Calloway led the Bulldogs with 30 points. Senior guard LC Brown followed with 22 and sophomore forward Eian Elmer scored 13. Holmes made 34-of-60 shots for 57 percent including 6-of-15 from three-point range for 40 percent and 4-of-7 free throws for 57 percent.

"It was good we had to handle some adversity," Listerman said. "We came out and pulled out a W coming off a big win the night before so I'm very proud of our kids."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Positivity rates drop but 51 deaths makes today seventh deadliest of Covid-19 pandemic

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On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state’s positivity rate has declined to 5.9%, the lowest since Oct. 27.

“We are getting these vaccines out faster than the federal government can provide them, so there’s a lot of hope moving into the future,” said Gov. Beshear. “We are going to defeat this virus this year, but until then, we’ve got to protect each other.”

Case Information 
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, Gov. Beshear reported the following COVID-19 numbers:

New cases today: 1,306
New deaths today: 51
Positivity rate: 5.9%
Total deaths: 4,527
Currently hospitalized: 883
Currently in ICU: 228
Currently on ventilator: 112

Kenton 50
Boone 37
Campbell 31 

Notre Dame Academy President Resigns for New Role national organization

Dr. Laura Koehl to serve in management position in Sisters of Notre Dame new national organization 
Dr. Laura Koehl, a Fort Thomas resident, will assume a leadership role in new national organization. 

Barre3 Ft. Thomas. Located at 90 Alexandria Pike. 

The Notre Dame Academy (NDA) Board of Directors announced today that Dr. Laura Koehl is resigning from her position as President of Notre Dame Academy to take on a new role as Executive Director of the SND National Sponsorship and Network Office and Chief Operating Officer of the National Ministry Corporation.  
Dr. Koehl, a Fort Thomas resident, will continue to serve as President of Notre Dame Academy assuming her new position with SND USA on Sept. 1, 2021. After that date, she will serve as NDA President Emerita to provide continuity to the institution if a new president has not yet been named and to assist in the transition when a new president is hired. 
Dr. Koehl, a 1975 NDA graduate, has served in many capacities at the school since coming to Notre Dame Academy in 2006. She began as a science teacher and later served as NDA’s first lay Principal from 2010-2015. Dr. Koehl became NDA’s first lay President in 2014 and has served in that capacity since that time.  

“Throughout her 15-year tenure at Notre Dame Academy, Dr. Koehl has provided exemplary leadership to our high school and our community,” NDA Board Chair Amy Quinn Dye said. “She conveys the mission of NDA and the charism of the Sisters of Notre Dame in all she does. She will be greatly missed by our institution.”  
Notre Dame Academy began the President/Principal model of leadership in 2006 when it named Sr. Mary Shauna Bankemper, SND, to the position. Sr. Mary Lynette Shelton, SND, served as the second President of Notre Dame Academy from 2011 to 2014. The NDA Board of Directors will lead the process to search for a new President of NDA. 

Committee approves student rights bill

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process for those accused of a crime or misconduct.
House Bill 145 would make sure students facing disciplinary action at a public postsecondary education institution have those rights.
The House Judiciary Committee approved HB 145 today, but not without discussion.
Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort. Mitchell, one of the primary sponsors of HB 145, testified that the bill came to be after hearing from students at colleges and universities across the state express concern about the disciplinary policies at multiple institutions. Some students reported inconsistent rulings, lack of proper notice of hearings, lack of ability to see evidence against them and more.
Banta said HB 145 would guarantee that the accused and the victims receive fair treatment.
“There’s no consistency in standards, punishments or sanctions,” Banta said about the current system. “Plainly put, our colleges have policies that automatically put the future of our students on the line in these hearings.”
According to Banta’s testimony, thousands of students at public colleges and universities across the Commonwealth are subjected to disciplinary hearings every year and that statistics and information about these hearings are not properly reported. HB 145 would require universities to publish a report annually on the number of student hearings and demographics to make sure discrimination is not taking place, she added.
“I want to make clear that HB 145 isn’t meant to shield students from accountability,” Banta said. “145 is here to ensure that our publicly funded universities provide rights and give fair hearings for thousands of students that are held accountable through their disciplinary processes.”
Under HB 145, students would have the right to be timely notified of a hearing, access to evidence against them, ability to cross examine through counsel and the ability to appeal a ruling.
Banta said she and other lawmakers worked with schools, students, the Kentucky Student Rights Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union and others on the bill.

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, expressed concern for sexual harassment and sexual assault survivors.
“The single biggest problem we deal with on university campuses is that people don’t report (sexual assault) because they just can’t deal with being re-traumatized,” Minter said. “… We want to get this right. We don’t want to cause any harm.”
Banta said those concerns were taken into consideration while drafting the bill, but some compromises were not made due to the desire to make sure those accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
HB 145 will now go before the full House for consideration.

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Cap on Insulin Prices Passes Ky. House

The Kentucky House of Representatives decided Kentuckians should not have to choose between rent and insulin Tuesday.

House Bill 95 would cap cost-sharing requirements for prescription insulin at $30 per 30-day supply for state-regulated health plans.

Rep. Danny Bentley (R-Russell), one of the primary sponsors of HB 95, said insulin is needed to treat diabetes and without it people can suffer serious health consequences, such as losing their vision or a limb and even death.

Bentley testified that people often have to choose between paying their rent or buying insulin due to how expensive insulin can be. He said that the amount people are charged for insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, despite the cost to manufacture insulin being $3.69 to $6 per vial.

“If I was paying cash for my insulin, if I didn’t have the insurance I have, my insulin would cost me $12,000 a year,” Bentley added.

Rep. Patti Minter (D-Bowling Green) who is also a primary sponsor of HB 95, asked the House to pass the legislation in a unanimous vote just as it did during the 2020 legislative session.

“No one should lose their sight because they don’t have access to something that costs $6 a bottle to manufacture,” Minter said.

Employee Retention Credit: The Little-Known Provision That Can Produce Big Savings on Quarterly Payroll Taxes

Similar to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the passing of the second stimulus package, or the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), included another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and tax relief provisions for businesses. However, there is an overlooked element included in the CAA that can help organizations receive potentially large tax credits on quarterly payroll tax returns: The Employee Retention Credit (ERC).

At a time where few employers can afford to leave money on the table, understanding what ERC is and the basics of qualify for it could produce significant savings for your business.


Previously, ERCs could not be claimed if a business accepted PPP loans. However, under the CAA, businesses that were granted PPP loans are now retroactively able to take advantage of ERCs if they qualify. ERCs are open to small businesses and non-profits, with 500 or less employees and meet one of the following criteria:

2020 Credit Eligibility:
1. Was your business partially or fully shut down due to federal or local government health orders during any part of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic? This includes businesses that have been impacted by curfews, reduced capacity, full shutdowns and more in accordance with orders.
2. Did you experience a decline of gross receipts of 50% or more in any quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019?

2021 Credit Eligibility:
1. Was your business partially or fully shut down due to federal or local government health orders during the first and/or second quarter of 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic? This includes businesses that have been impacted by curfews, reduced capacity, full shutdowns and more in accordance with orders.
2. Did you experience a decline of gross receipts of 20% or more in the first and/or second quarter of 2021, compared to the same quarter in 2019? For newer businesses, you compare it to the applicable quarter of 2020.
3. Did your fourth quarter 2020 gross receipts decline by 20% or more compared to fourth quarter of 2019? An election can be made to sue the prior quarter’s gross receipts.

For 2020, an ERC is a fully refundable tax credit for employers equal to 50% of qualified wages and health insurance paid to an employee. The total credit is capped at a maximum of $5,000 per employee for the year. For the first and second quarters of 2021, the ERC was raised to 70% of qualified wages and health insurance paid to an employee with a capped maximum credit of $7,000 per quarter per employee.

There are several caveats to the two qualifying factors above. First, under the first qualifying option, businesses will only receive a credit on wages paid during the part of the quarter the business was shut down. Second, gross receipts are per the basis of accounting used on your tax returns. For 2020 ERC credits are open to businesses of 100 employees or less. For 2021, ERC credits are available to employers with 500 employees or less. 


As we have learned from experience, should a business meet one of aforementioned qualifying standards, they could receive a substantial sum.

For example, a restaurant client of ours with 25 staff, not all of whom are full-time employees, will be receiving a 2020 ERC credit for approximately $100,000. For 2021, they will likely still be eligible, leading to an even bigger credit in an industry severely impacted by COVID-19. In the case of a larger client that is in the professional services industry that is also eligible for an ERC, we have calculated a preliminary credit of $365,000 in 2021 alone. 

Because gross receipts are evaluated every quarter, the number of businesses across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky that qualify for ERC is significant – as well as the savings.


KDE to allocate federal emergency relief funding to non-public schools

Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion. 

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has allocated $40,817,799 to Kentucky for emergency assistance to non-public schools in the state. All non-public schools may apply to the state for reimbursement of COVID-19 related costs, or to provide COVID-19 related services, through the recently authorized Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER).

“We are happy to be able to administer this much-needed funding,” said Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “We hope this provides assistance to our non-public schools, who also have worked so hard to continue to educate our children during such an unprecedented time.”

The application will be available online for 30 days, with a three-day submission window beginning on day 27. The application is expected to be available at the end of February.

KDE will announce when it is open on its website, Kentucky Teacher and social media channels. Additional information will be available on KDE’s EANS webpage.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will provide virtual training and technical support for schools completing their applications in early March. Award notifications will be issued to schools within 30 days after the application submission window closes.

“This is an education first administration and this pandemic has affected all of our schools,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “So many of our schools and educators have stepped up to take care of our children during a really trying year and we want to do all we can to assist these schools so they can continue to educate and look after our students.”

Bluebirds Throttle Pioneers

Highlands Wins Fifth Straight

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior guard Leyton Read inbounds the ball in a recent game.

The final score does not indicate it.

But the host Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (14-4) fell behind 13-2 to start the game before rallying for a 98-70 victory over the Simon Kenton Pioneers (9-6) just missing the century mark. This marked the second highest scoring game of the season for the Bluebirds and the fifth straight victory.

The teams have not been playing on a yearly basis in recent years. But this marked the first time in four meetings the Bluebirds beat the Pioneers since Kevin Listerman became head coach in the spring of 2013.

"It started with our defense," Listerman said. "We were able to get them to turn it over and got rolling. We were able to get out in transition. We are really sharing the basketball. We're doing a lot of good things really at both ends of the floor."

Utility Bill Relief Program Could Help Those Suffering Economic Impacts of COVID

The economic impact of COVID-19 has affected people all over the country. Fort Thomas residents owe close to $200,000 to just two area utilities, but a federal program offers help. (FTM file)

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Hundreds of residents throughout Campbell County are facing economic challenges and hardships as a result of job loss, hours reduction, medical bills and related issues brought on directly by the COVID-19 crisis. 

While there is a moratorium on utility shutoffs right now, many people have gotten far behind and worry about what will happen when the moratorium is lifted.
Relief for utility bills, in the form of a federal community block grant, is making the rounds in cities throughout the county. Cities discussing and holding public hearings on the matter over the next few weeks include Alexandria, Bellevue, Cold Spring, Highland Heights, Newport and many others. 
Fort Thomas, despite having a higher median household income than most cities in the county, has not escaped these financial troubles brought on by the pandemic. 
City residents owe $197,000 to just two area utilities — SD1 and the Northern Kentucky Water District — according the Lisa Cooper, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD).

Cooper addressed the February meeting of the Fort Thomas city council to let the city know help is available through a federal Community Development Block Grant Utility Assistance program.

What funds are available?

Cities are required to apply for the program on behalf of their communities and would serve as a pass-through for the funds. No city funds would be used, and the money would be distributed to residents through the local offices of the Community Action Commission (CAC).

The maximum allowed for each city application is $200,000, Cooper explained. She urged city officials to consider applying. The data shows city residents have almost reached that maximum with just the two utilities, SD1 and NKWD, she noted.

"This is before we have data from Duke, so we are quite certain the dollar amount is going to be well above the $200,000. We would encourage you to apply for the maximum, " she advised city officials.

Cooper and her colleagues are making the rounds throughout the eight Northern Kentucky counties within the NKADD jurisdiction to let cities know about the funds. She said the funds would be available to residents by about mid-April.

What is the program?

Through the program, city residents who are behind in utility bills due to the effects of COVID would be eligible for up to $250 a month for six consecutive months. These months could have occurred any time between January 21, 2020 and present.

As noted above, funds will likely be available by mid-April through the nearest Community Action Coalition office. People will need proof of city residence, delinquency notices and other information for the application. Full detailed information will be made available throughout the county as we get closer to the time funds become available, explained Cooper.

The program is designed specifically to help people affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It’s not for people who are habitually behind with their bills, Cooper said, although people self-identify their need in this case. If people owe more than the allotted amount, they would still need to work with their utility company on a plan for the remainder not covered by the program funds. 

Fort Thomas council member Connie Grubbs asked what would happen if Fort Thomas residents did not need the full $200,000 in the program. Cooper noted that the program covers three years, but on the off chance the funds are not fully utilized, the money could be re-allotted to other areas as needed. The NKADD will be monitoring the program, she said. 

City council voted to pass a resolution allowing the mayor to make the application for the utility block grant program. Not only will the program help individual residents, said Cooper, but also provide some relief for area utilities.

The nearest CAC location to Fort Thomas is the Campbell County Neighborhood Center at 437 West Ninth Street in Newport. More information will be made available once the application is made and funds are ready for distribution.

Signs of Movement on McDonald’s Property in Cold Spring

After six years of no action, it appears McDonald's is considering building on property in Cold Spring it has leased since 2014.


Meet Jessica, click here! 

by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Although McDonald’s has leased the property at 3720 Alexandria Pike in Cold Spring since 2014, it is only recently that they have begun to make moves towards building on the site, although details have not been shared at this point.

Campbell County officials confirmed that the company submitted a building permit request in November 2020, but has not yet provided details about construction. In February, the company was set to present at the county Board of Adjustments with a request for a variance regarding placement and size of its sign, but that meeting was cancelled and has not yet been rescheduled. 

The Burger King was located on the site, which sits across from the DAV property and in front of Furniture Fair, but the spot has been empty since 2015. The property is owned by Cold Spring Land Company, LLC, associated with Bellevue-based developer Brandicorp. 

Fort Thomas Matters reached out to Brandicorp to ask about McDonald's move. Company officials confirmed that McDonald's has had the lease, but they had not been informed about any plans by the company.

Before the variance meeting could be held, Cold Spring Council Member Lisa Cavanaugh shared news of the move on social media, "I just got word that McDs (sic) is planning on coming into the old Burger King location in front of Furniture Fair...They've had first rights/option on that property for awhile."

At press time, no news was available, but Fort Thomas Matters will report developments as they unfold. 

Satellite view of the property leased by McDonald's at 3720 Alexandria Pike. The company submitted a request for a new building permit in November. (Google Maps)


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

NKU's Faulkner and Warrick earn Horizon League honors


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

Trevon Faulkner and Marques Warrick both earned postseason recognition by the Horizon League, as voted on by the conference coaches, the league office announced on Tuesday. Faulkner was named to the All-Horizon League Second Team, while Warrick was tabbed Freshman of the Year and was tabbed to both the All-Freshman and All-Horizon League Third Teams.
Faulkner started all 23 games for NKU, leading the team in scoring with 381 points. He averaged 16.6 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 79 percent on free throws. Faulkner also grabbed 5.4 rebounds a game, distributed 2.5 assists and swiped 1.5 steals per game. The native of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, registered six 20-point performances on the year, including a career-high 28 points at Kent State.
Throughout the course of the season Warrick started 21-of-23 games for the Norse, averaging 15.9 points per game on 46 percent shooting, 37 percent from beyond the arc and 82 percent from the free the line. He also averaged 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest.
Warrick elevated his play in League competition, ranking fifth in league-only games at 17.5 ppg. He maintained his impressive shooting by making 47 percent from the field, 39 percent from long range and 83 percent from the charity stripe. The Lexington, Kentucky, native had nine 20-point outings this year and his seven Horizon League Freshman of the Week honors tied for the third-most in league history.

Restaurant Flexibility Measure Heads to the Senate

Local restaurants like Padrino Fort Thomas had to get creative during 2020. The newly opened restaurant is located at 14 N. Grand Ave. 

Legislation aimed at supporting the food service industry in Kentucky passed the House of Representatives unanimously today. Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, sponsored the measure.

“This bill provides restaurants the option to offer basic grocery staples to their customers. It will assist businesses in staying afloat by supplementing lack of revenue and having to pivot food supply,” said Rep. Blanton. “Establishing a concept where guests could purchase affordable produce, meat, and other essential pantry items while supporting a local business removes barriers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.”

HB 190 would exempt legally permitted food service establishments from any state or local laws and administrative regulations that prohibit the sale of grocery items such as bread, milk, and other grocery staples to any customer. 

The bill is a continuation of the provisions included in SB 150, which was passed during the 2020 Legislative Session. SB 150 was an integral part of the General Assembly's response to the COVID outbreak.

Newport Aquarium, Dollywood operators taking over Kentucky Kingdom

Newport Aquarium. 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear joined Herschend Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wexler, state officials and community leaders to announce that Herschend Enterprises has become a majority partner and operator of Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay amusement and water park located in Louisville, Kentucky.

2000 Memorial Parkway. 

Georgia-based Herschend is the nation’s largest family-owned theme attractions and entertainment company. Herschend operates popular tourism attractions such as the Dollywood® Parks & Resorts in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and the Newport Aquarium® in Northern Kentucky.

“Kentucky’s ability to attract nationally recognized companies to the commonwealth is part of our commitment to build a stronger Kentucky by fostering partnerships that create opportunities for future economic growth and revenue,” said Gov. Beshear. “Herschend is a proven innovator and leader in the tourism industry, and we are delighted that they recognize the potential Kentucky has to offer and have committed to expanding their operations in the commonwealth.”

As a national competitor in the tourism industry, Herschend has a history of delivering world-class entertainment experiences to its guests. Through a collaborative effort between Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP, the Kentucky State Fair Board, the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, and the Finance and Administration Cabinet, Herschend will now expand its business operations to Louisville as the new majority partner of Kentucky Kingdom Theme Park, LLC. This expansion will bring enhanced entertainment and amusement park management experience that will benefit the operations at Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay.

“After opening Newport Aquarium in 2008, we’ve been actively seeking an opportunity to bring even more entertainment to the great state of Kentucky and that dream begins today,” said Herschend Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wexler. “We’re honored to be welcomed into the beautiful and historic city of Louisville, and thrilled to build upon the exceptional 25-year legacy of Kentucky Kingdom.”

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay cover a 65-acre entertainment complex that enjoys a solid reputation of being a safe and fun amusement and water park, offering visitors the convenience and value of two parks in one. The park opened to the public in 1987 following an announcement by the Kentucky State Fair Board that a theme park would be built on the grounds of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Negotiations with Herschend Enterprises began last year for the sale of ownership interest in Kentucky Kingdom, LLLP.

“We are pleased to turn the park over to a new generation of leadership. Herschend is an outstanding operator, who will undoubtedly take Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay to the next level. We expect their involvement will add greatly to the Commonwealth’s thriving tourism industry,” said Kentucky Kingdom’s founder, President and CEO Ed Hart.

As part of its commitment to the park, Herschend Enterprises is bringing Craig Ross, Dollywood’s President for the past 10 years, to serve as Kentucky Kingdom’s interim General Manager. Ross plans to further develop Kentucky Kingdom’s exceptional 25-year legacy by tapping into his decades of family entertainment experience at one of the nation’s top theme parks. Under Ross’ leadership, Dollywood surpassed Disneyland and was named among TripAdvisor and USA Today’s best theme parks in the world.