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Friday, May 21, 2021

Fort Thomas City Council Reviews Ongoing Projects

The basketball courts in Tower Park have been painted and prepared and are ready to go!

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by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

At its May meeting, Fort Thomas City Council heard reports on several ongoing construction and improvement projects throughout the city.

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City Administrator Ron Dill noted that the North Fort Thomas Avenue sidewalk project has made significant progress and, weather permitting, is on schedule to be completed by its June 1 target date. He noted he was pleased with the work of the contractor, TMS Construction, with its responsiveness to the residents in the area.

Dill outlined several more projects. All appear to be on track and several will be finishing up over the next few months. They included:

The street resurfacing programs: Due to issues brought about by the pandemic, the city combined some of the planning and scheduling for both 2020 and 2021. Dill reported that the 2020 program is well underway. City staff has completed curb placement on Crowell and is working on curb and sidewalk repairs on the remaining streets. The streets in the 2020 program are scheduled to be resurfaced in July.

Bids for work on the two streets in the 2021 program, Waterworks Road and Wilbers Lane will be opened and presented to council for review at the June 7 council meeting. On a separate but related note, Dill said the city engineer and staff are continuing research and working on some ideas for traffic calming and crosswalk issues on Waterworks Road.

Work on the city building is well underway and going very well, he said. At the rear of the building, underground utilities have been relocated, and the relocated tower is scheduled to power up in the first week in June. Construction of areas in the back of the building will begin soon. Front and side facade panels have been removed, and roof replacement is underway as well. He noted that the Fire Department has moved to the Armory so that duct work on that part of the building can be done.

Tower Park is looking great. Work on the volleyball and basketball courts has been completed. Trees, landscaping and sidewalks around the proposed playground will take place over the next few weeks. Equipment for the playground is scheduled for installation later this summer.

Dill noted that the Tower Park ballfield saw its first game recently. "I watched most of the first game and not a single ball went into the woods thanks to the new fencing. It was a great night," he said.

Design work is happening now for the shelter, restrooms and concession stand. The new bleachers have been installed, and related concrete work is continuing.

Amenities for the Shelter Three are coming, but progress has been slow due to delays that are being felt across the country. "We ordered tables for the shelter in February but they are telling us we may have them in August. That’s how slow some of this is going," he noted.

Dill also noted that bike racks are being installed and painted throughout the city.

Annual reports

Council received annual reports from Debbie Buckley, economic development director, and Kevin Barbian, general services director. Both staff members remarked on the changes, quick decisions and staff commitment throughout the past year.

Buckley noted it is her last yearly report as she is retiring June 1. She noted that the past year brought difficulties but also brought out creativity by staff, volunteers and the community. She noted that many events were altered, such as the Fourth of July, which became a house decorating contest, and the Veterans Day celebration, which became a heartfelt video for veterans by veterans on staff. Other events were adjusted to be drive-through events and a few, like Sidewalk Chalk Day, were added to the mix.

She concluded by thanking her colleagues on the city staff, city officials, volunteers and the community for their support over her career with the city.

Dill announced that the city will welcome Chanda Calentine to fill the position starting in July. A native of Washington Courthouse in Ohio, Calentine comes from her current position as program and artistic director for the city of Asheville, North Carolina. She will be relocating to our area.

Chanda Calentine. 

Barbian took the opportunity to thank his staff for their exceptional work over the past year. " want to commend all our employees for adjusting to the situation...with all the extra duties and still providing the necessary services." He also listed the many city boards whose volunteers have kept the city on track throughout this difficult year.

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More city business

Fire Chief Chris Ammon presented the monthly Fire Department report. He said operations were moved to the Armory on May 1 due to construction in the city building. He said training has been ongoing, and last month firefighter/paramedics participated in a large scale EMT training with doctors from the University of Cincinnati. He said part of that training involved landing air care in Tower Park.

Ammon also reminded residents that Kentucky’s burn ban went into effect on May 1 and would stay in effect until the end of September.

Fort Thomas Chief of Police Casey Kilgore introduced and welcomed two new officers – Chris Vance and Jeremy Moore.

He also noted the success of the spring drug takeback program on April 24. Detective Nick Hoffman and Officer Sean Donelan set up and provided drive-through service for those wishing to drop off unused and expired prescriptions. They collected more than 150 pounds of medications during the event. A drug drop off box is also available at the Police Department throughout the year.

City council passed two ordinances on second reading. The first established a meeting time and schedule for council meetings, switching the location of the meetings officially to the Fort Thomas Community Center/Mess Hall, 801 Cochran Avenue, for the duration of city building construction. Meetings will be held at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of the month. June and September will include two meetings to accommodate the budget.

The 2021 street resurfacing program for Waterworks Road and Wilbers Lane was also passed.

Recreational Trails Grant application

Council also passed a resolution by the city to apply for a Recreational Trails Grant to make improvements to the Tower Park trail. The grant, funded by the Federal Highway Administration and administered through the Kentucky Department of Local Governments, provides funding for projects with an 80/20 split with the applicant municipality.

The city would like to pave a section of the Tower Park trail running behind the ball courts that would loop into the trail coming back and connect with the area behind the Amphitheater. It would be 10- to 12-feet wide. The cost of the project is estimated at $197, 564, so the city would need to set aside just under $40,000 for its share (20 percent) of the cost.

This would be the only section of the trail that will be paved, and it would allow for those using strollers, walkers and wheelchairs to access and enjoy the park trail. The project would be a first phase, he said. The plan is to go back in the next grant cycle to apply for more funds to help improve more of the trails within the park.

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