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Friday, June 25, 2021

Council Passes Budget, Continues Skate and Splash Park Discussion

One of the boards showing one idea for the proposed bike and skate park in Tower Park. The boards will be displayed around town all summer for resident input. Click image to enlarge.

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by Robin Gee, city council beat editor

Over the past year, despite challenges presented by the pandemic, city officials and staff have been working through a long list of projects around town outlined in the Fort Thomas Community Plan.

Among these have been improvements to Tower Park, including a new shelter, upgrades to the tennis courts and softball fields and public parking, as well projects in other local parks.

At the June 7 and 21 city council meetings, Fort Thomas officials and staff continued discussing more amenities on their list and are opening up that discussion for community input.

After a few years of conceptual work by the Parks and Recreation committee, word is out that the city is considering a possible splash park in Highland Hills park and a combo bike and skate park in Tower Park. A few residents who spoke at the meeting were concerned about where these would go and the traffic, parking and potential safety issues they could cause in certain neighborhoods near those parks.

Mayor Eric Haas responded that it is still very early in the planning stages. City officials and staff have some ideas and have been working with planners on those ideas, but the plan is to first share ideas with residents at various public city events throughout this summer in an effort to spark interest and input.

"We’ve been looking at different locations. Once we filled up the bottom level of Highland Park, we realized we had so much land available, we’d be able to do a splash park and have a practice field, so we looked at that as a possibility," he said. However, "there has not been any details about anything yet. In fact, we have been bringing out great big boards with some of the descriptions and pictures ...When you see those boards, which will be around at all the events we have this summer, look for that, go up, give your ideas."

Residents can leave sticky notes with questions, concerns and ideas. Residents are also welcome to share their ideas and concerns directly with the city as well, he said.

"We’ll spend the whole summer gathering input and then in late summer or early fall, the city recreation committee will discuss all the input we’ve received," he explained.

A board depicting a potential splash park and other improvements for the Highland Hills Park. Click image to enlarge.

A close-up view of potential improvements in the Highland Hills park. Watch for boards like these at the Fort Thomas Farmers Market and other locations throughout the city this summer. Click image to enlarge.

More city business

This was the second reading for the city FY 2021-2022 budget. The budget ordinance was passed unanimously. For the second year in a row, officials kept property taxes frozen at the 2019 rate.

The budget includes funding for the street resurfacing program and several city projects now underway such as the completion of the city building and improvements in area parks. It also includes other projects tied to the comprehensive plan scheduled to start this year.

Council passed related budget items including the 2020-2021 budget amendment and ordinances setting salaries and classification plans for city employees. 

RELATED: Fort Thomas City Council Reviews Budget, Freezes Property Tax Rate for Second Year

Also on its second hearing was the ordinance to create an Entertainment District in Fort Thomas. Two potential districts are named in the ordinance, but plans are in place to request the appropriate license for only the Midway Business District for now. By also including the Central Business District in the ordinance, officials would have the option to pursue that area in the future.

Language in the ordinance was kept simple, relying on city laws already in place for noise and related issues, according to the mayor. The plan is to gain some experience with the special district before adding restrictions if needed. The Entertainment District ordinance also passed unanimously.

City Administrator Ron Dill gave a brief update on city projects. The city building project is progressing as planned with work on the foundation for the new addition, the elevator shaft and duct work. The work on North Fort Thomas Avenue is near completion except for one small section he expects to be completed very soon.

Haas noted the city is preparing for the Fourth of July celebration on July 3. Events start at 5 p.m. and fireworks are again scheduled for all three city parks so that residents may see them from all over the city.

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