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Friday, July 3, 2020

Grand Opening of Highland Park on July 6 Includes Youth Toss, Freshman Exhibition Game

On Monday, July 6, there will be a Grand Opening event at Highland Park. The event starts at 4:45 p.m. with a Youth Toss and High School exhibition game between incoming freshman at 6 p.m. Social distancing is encouraged.

By Joe Grimme
Field of dreams – right here at home

For many years, it was a dream to have an artificial turf field upon which our community could practice and play games. Approximately eighteen months ago, I decided to take the initiative to try and make this dream come true. With the generosity of many people in Fort Thomas, as well as the surrounding communities, this dream has become a reality. It’s time to play ball – and we want you to celebrate with us.

On Monday, July 6, the “Grand Opening of Highland Park” will take place, which will be our way of welcoming everyone to attend and see the new field. The festivities will begin at 4:45pm with a “Youth Toss”, when kids of all ages can show up with their glove to toss on the new artificial turf infield. This will be followed up with an opportunity to thank several people that are responsible for the completion of this project. After a ceremonial first pitch is thrown by former Highlands Baseball Coach Ken Lehkamp, an exhibition game between incoming freshmen will take place at 6:00pm, which will involve close to 40 players.

Please note that this is NOT a school-sponsored event. In addition, we would like to remind everyone that this is a public park with ample space to socially distance from others in order to enjoy the festivities.

After all is said and done, the installation of the artificial turf infield will have cost approximately $220,000. Most of this was accomplished through borrowing funds from private investors, in addition to corporate sponsors (advertising banners) and the selling of engraved bricks that are located behind home plate near the concession stand.

This facility used to be a dirt field, which had no pitcher’s mound, no fencing, no dugouts, and no structures of any kind. To say we have come a long way would be an understatement. Much of the improvements over the years have been the result of many hours put in by former coaches, parents, the City of Fort Thomas, and current Highlands Baseball Varsity Head Coach Jeremy Baoini. Without the countless hours of everyone combined, we could have never gotten to where we are today.

While the infield project is finally complete, the work is not over. We must now work hard to produce income through field rentals, additional corporate sponsors, and ongoing brick sales.

We need your help. 

Please consider any of these options and take a look at what we have done – when you are at Highland Park. If you are free tomorrow night, please join us for the Grand Opening and bring your family. We will have concessions, music, an announcer for the game, and an ice cream truck. 

If you would like to participate in any way to help continue to support our facility, please contact me via email

Thank you and let’s PLAY BALL!

- Joe Grimme

Newport Celebrates Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for NKY's Riverfront Commons Pathway

Elevated pedestrian walkways connect path to Taylor-Southgate Bridge, Newport on the Levee

On June 27, SouthBank Partners and the City of Newport hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new pedestrian bridge.
(Img: SouthBank Partners Facebook)

Two Newport legs of the Riverfront Commons Pathway – a pair of elevated walkways connecting the urban trail to the Taylor-Southgate Bridge and Newport on the Levee – were formally dedicated Saturday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the pedestrian bridges.

Conceived and spear-headed by Southbank Partners, Riverfront Commons is an 11.5-mile walking/biking path that runs along the Ohio River and links all Northern Kentucky’s river cities – Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton and Ft. Thomas. The pedestrian bridges connect on the east and west sides of the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, an Ohio River span that links the downtowns of Newport and Cincinnati. Southbank Partners promotes and manages economic development in Northern Kentucky’s river cities, including Silver Grove.

“Today is a testament on what can be accomplished when public officials get together and work together on a common project,” said Roger Peterman, a Southbank board member and chairman of the Riverfront Commons Committee. “This project stands for what Riverfront Commons is all about – making it easier for people to access and enjoy all that our great river cities have to offer.” 

Check out the interactive map for Riverfront Commons here.

In addition to Southbank Partners, the $1.2 million project – completed by Sunesis Construction of West Chester, Ohio – was also supported by The City of Newport, The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), The Kentucky Transportation Department and Newport on the Levee.

“This is an historic day in The City of Newport,” said Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso. “This is a project that was more than 20 years in the making. I applaud and thank Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland, the Southbank Board and the Southbank’s founders for having the vision to conceive Riverfront Commons and the tenacity to see it through.

“Riverfront Commons has already proven to be successful in attracting visitors, residents and economic development to our communities,” Mayor Peluso said. “It’s a great marketing tool, and these pedestrian bridges make it even better.”

The City of Newport provided $275,000 for the project, but the bulk of the funding – more than $1 million in federal funds – came through a grant from OKI.

“OKI has enjoyed a long partnership with Southbank Partners and the City of Newport, and we were honored to provide funding for this outstanding project,” said OKI CEO Mark Policinski. “The Riverfront Commons pedestrian bridges will improve connectivity, encourage walkability and enhance the tremendous riverfront development that is taking place throughout the river cities, including the tremendous rebirth of Newport on the Levee.”

Just moments after the Riverfront Commons project was dedicated, Newport on the Levee cut the ribbon on Bridgeview Box Park, a family-friendly attraction that includes eight local retailers, bars and eateries. The park is part of the major redevelopment of the Levee by its new owners, Cincinnati-based North American Properties.

“Connectivity will be a huge key to the success of the redevelopment of Newport on the Levee,” said Northern American Properties Managing Partner Tim Perry, who also serves on the Newport Southbank Bridge Board of Directors. “These new pedestrian bridges will make it easier for people to get to the Levee by walking, biking or running. We were honored to part of the effort that made this project a reality..” 

Peterman also thanked Bob Yeager, chief district engineer in the Northern Kentucky office of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and his predecessor, Rob Hans, for “supporting and believing” in Riverfront Commons.

The Newport City Commission also played a key role. In addition to providing funding, commissioners approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the state that allowed the project to move forward.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thomas More Names College of Business New Acting Dean

Robert Arnold, Ph.D., J.D., has been named acting dean of Thomas More University’s College of Business for the 2020-21 academic year. (Img: Headshot - Thomas More / Landscape - Google)

Robert Arnold, Ph.D., J.D., has been named acting dean of Thomas More University’s College of Business for the 2020-21 academic year.

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Arnold arrived at Thomas More in 1995 and has since served as department chair, division chair, and director of Thomas More’s Accelerated and Graduate Program. While teaching within the College of Business, he has helped establish two new academic programs - a Bachelor of Arts in sports and entertainment marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in law.

“Dr. Arnold’s professional experience and distinguished status as a faculty member at the University made him a prime candidate for this interim role,” said President Joe Chillo. “As acting dean, Dr. Arnold will be responsible for leading the College of Business and building upon the tradition of providing a quality and relevant educational experience for students in the areas of business, accounting, information systems, and marketing that produces graduates that are prepared to make meaningful contributions to the business community and companies all around the world.”

Robert Arnold, Ph.D., J.D.
In addition to his role as a full-time professor, Arnold is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association. He currently serves as a chair of the Brighton Center Properties board and as a member of the board for the Buenger Boys and Girls Club. In 2012, recognizing the need for athletic training facilities in the northern Kentucky community to support youth sports, Arnold built Next Level Academy in Wilder, Kentucky. He was also elected as mayor of Wilder in 2018 and is a graduate of Leadership Northern Kentucky.

"I am absolutely energized and appreciate the opportunity to join the accomplished leadership team that President Chillo has assembled to guide Thomas More University through these exciting and unprecedented times as we prepare for the University’s centennial celebration in 2021," said Arnold.

Arnold holds a doctorate with a concentration in sports marketing from Union Institute, a Juris Doctorate from Salmon P. Chase College of Law, a Master of Business Administration from Xavier University, and a bachelor’s degree in food technology from the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra Leaves Devou Park for Fort Thomas, First Performance July 11

A past KSO performance at Devou Park -- the KSO is now moving to the Fort Thomas Amphitheater in Tower Park.
(FTM file)

By Jessie Eden

The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra announced Wednesday night that the organization has decided to move performance venues from from Devou Park in Covington to Tower Park in Fort Thomas.

The KSO's first performance of its free, three-concert summer series in Fort Thomas is on July 11 at 7:30 p.m. The KSO has also released a full list of accommodations regarding Covid-19 safety practices for the event.

Some key points of the plan, outlined on the KSO website, include the following;

- KSO’s staff, musicians and volunteers will wear face masks and encourage the audience to do the same. In some instances, volunteers may also wear plastic face shields.

- Volunteers who handle cash, concessions and programs will be wearing gloves.
- Proper physical distancing measures will be in place. Those who do not live in the same household should maintain 6 feet distance, including but not limited to while awaiting entrance to the restrooms and food truck lines.
- Programs have been chosen to reduce the number of musicians allowing them to maintain physical distancing on stage.

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- KSO staff, musicians and volunteers whose temperature exceed 100.4F or have any other symptoms of the Coronavirus will not be permitted to remain on site, and must produce a negative test for the Coronavirus before returning.
- The KSO is providing hand sanitizer, at each feather flags, during shows in the Tower Park amphitheater.
- Increase the frequency of restroom cleaning per CDC recommendations.
- At risk audience members are invited to attend the dress rehearsal in the park at 10:30 a.m. on each scheduled performance date. We also plan to live-stream concerts.

Upcoming dates for concerts in Tower Park will be August 8 and September 5

To learn more about these events, please visit the KSO website here.

Jeff Earlywine Honored for Career Achievement in Public Service

Boone County Administrator Jeff Earlywine began his career in Fort Thomas and served as the city administrator for 24 years. He has been honored for his more than 30-year career in public service.

by Robin Gee

Boone County Administrator Jeff Earlywine has been honored with the 2020 Career Achievement Award from the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. He received the award for his more than 30 years of service to the Northern Kentucky community. More than half of those years were spent in Fort Thomas as the city’s administrator.

Earlywine began his career with Fort Thomas in 1982, as assistant to City Administrator David Noran. About three years later, he took over as city administrator and served Fort Thomas until 2006, when he took his current position with Boone County.

Boone County Judge Executive Gary W. Moore said the honor is well-deserved.

"I, along with our entire Boone County leadership team are very pleased that Jeff Earlywine has been chosen to receive this high and well-deserved honor. Jeff’s hard work and dedication for three decades has helped make Boone County, the city of Ft Thomas, and all of Northern Kentucky a much better place. We are truly blessed that he has chosen to give his talents to all of us," Moore said.

Not what he set out to do

Earlywine said he enjoyed science and math in high school, so when he went off to college at Northern Kentucky University, he chose civil engineering as his college major. Part of the program involved taking a co-op job, similar to an internship.

To fulfill the requirement, he took a job at the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission where he got his first exposure to careers in local government and public service.

"I enjoyed it so much. I finished my co-op quarter there and then stayed on, on a part-time basis, eventually changing my major. And, the rest is history," he said.

He switched majors and earned a bachelor’s in public administration and later went on to earn a master’s in public policy and administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati.

The rewards of working for the public

"I had a wonderful experience in Fort Thomas. I served there 24 years...I have been very fortunate to be blessed with the opportunity to work for two outstanding communities, two great organizations where elected officials are passionate about public service and making a difference. I got lucky twice," he said.

When he first started out, he said he knew very little about public administration careers. In fact, no one talked about it as an option when he was first thinking about college and career.

For those today who might be interested in a career in the field, he said, “It’s been so rewarding to me. You have an opportunity to be on a team and that team can make a real difference in the community, often in the community right where you live.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Highlands Alum Named Orioles Pitcher of Month in May of 2019 Season

Rom Focused on Control During Time Off Baseball

Patrick Cavey. Highlands 2018 alum Drew Rom winds up during a game with the Delmarva Shorebirds last season. Rom has a career 2.64 Earned Run Average in 31 games in the minor leagues. He earned the distinction of the Baltimore Orioles Pitcher of the Month in May, 2019.

By G. Michael Graham

Drew Rom admits he misses the game as much as any professional baseball players do.

The Major League Baseball recently announced the cancellation of the minor league seasons as a result of the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. Rom had made a huge contribution in two seasons in the minor leagues for the Baltimore Orioles franchise.

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Paul Whalen Appointed to Beshear Administration, Resigns from Campbell County Democratic Party Committee

Paul Whalen has been appointed to Governor Beshear's administration.
(Img: FTM File)

By Jessie Eden

The Campbell County Democratic Party announced on Tuesday that Paul Whalen, a member of its Executive Committee, has resigned after being appointed to Governor Beshear's administration.

Paul Whalen has been appointed by Governor Beshear as an Administrative Law Judge. Gov. Beshear's office announced this appointment on May 29. Click here to read the full press release from Governor Beshear's office.

Whalen also served on the State Democratic Central Committee.

The Campbell County Democratic Party released a statement on Whalen's resignation; "We congratulate him on a well deserved recognition of his talents. We will miss his leadership. unfailing commitment, and continuous hard work that was his hallmark as a member. In addition to his long-standing membership on the committee, he also has served as the chairman, using his innovative, determined efforts to make many positive advancements."

Owensby Wins Democratic Primary for US House, All Campbell County Votes Tallied

The results are in for the 2020 Kentucky primary election with a record turnout.

By Robin Gee

Fort Thomas resident and nurse practitioner Dr. Alexandra Owensby is the Democratic nominee for Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District set to face incumbent GOP candidate Thomas Massie in the Fall election.

While the count is still unofficial, votes are in for all Kentucky counties, and results show Owensby beat her opponent by more than 10,000 votes.

Owensby celebrated her win at Fort Thomas Pizza, and thanked her supporters, neighbors and friends. "Thank you to each and every one of you for your support! I’m so excited that Fort Thomas will soon have a congressional representative living in our district," she said.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Resident Running to Represent Kentucky's Fourth District in Congress

Bolstered by her win, she has already turned her attention toward November. "Getting a voice for the 4th won’t be easy, but we’ve proven countless times that we’re a viable candidate. I’m proud that our campaign won every single county for the primary, and in some cases, we got even more votes than our Republican opponents," she said.

The nominee noted the record turnout for the primary and praised state officials for efforts to keep the vote safe in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I’m happy to see that Kentucky had record turnout. It’s been estimated that over one million Kentuckians voted during the primary, shattering previous records...This is what happens when leaders come together to make a bipartisan plan. That’s the kind of representative I want to be, and I’m so proud of Kentucky for showing everyone how things should be done."

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Results are in for all primary races

Some races went as predicted with Donald Trump as the presidential nominee with nearly 87 percent of the GOP primary votes, and Joe Biden named his challenger with nearly 68 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Although other candidates had dropped out of the race, many names remained on the Kentucky Democratic ballot and garnered votes.

In a tight primary race to elect a Democratic nominee to go up against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell for U.S. Senate, former Marine fighter pilot and Georgetown resident Amy McGrath took a narrow victory over her closest opponent, Kentucky State Representative and Louisville resident Charles Booker. The final unofficial vote count is McGrath with close to 45 percent of the vote and Booker with just under 43 percent.

For more information on results, see the Kentucky Board of Elections Campbell County primary results.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

KDE Advisory Group Offers Feedback on Healthy at School Guidance

Additional feedback has been released on "Healthy at School" plan.

On June 29, the Education Continuation Task Force became the first of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) advisory groups to provide feedback on the Healthy at School guidance document released last week.

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“I know there is a lot of anxiety out there about starting school,” said KDE Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. “But I believe we are in a much better place now than we were last week just because a lot of this is coming to fruition and we’re able to see with a little bit better clarity what this is going to look like.”

The guidance recommends that students or staff should stay home or be sent home if they have a temperature of greater than 100.4.

State Rep. Tina Bojanowski (Louisville) raised concerns with 100.4 being the determination between “sick and not sick.”

“As a teacher, what I found often in the classroom is you’ll have a child who doesn’t feel well and you have to send them down to the office. The office takes their temperature and they may not quite have what the temperature requirement is and the child is sent back up to the classroom,” she said.

In addition to checking for temperature, Bojanowski asked if there are other measures in place for school nurses to determine if a student may need to be sent home as a possible COVID-19 case.

“With COVID, not only is temperature an indicator, but there’s really a whole list of symptoms that we want to be able to have folks assess,” said Kay Kennedy of KDE’s Division of District Support.

Within the Healthy at Schools guidance document, there is a list of symptoms to keep an eye out for, including temperature, cough, vomiting, diarrhea, new rash and exposure to a COVID-19 case.

The guidance recommends schools have a designated area for isolation of sick students with an ability to maintain adult supervision until the student is picked up by a parent, guardian or designee.

Since it has been reported that some individuals can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, Executive Director Jim Flynn of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents asked about the value of temperature checking every student before entering the school building due to the logistical and financial challenges for districts.

Twenty percent to 40% of those infected with COVID-19 show no symptoms, which means up to 80% of individuals are symptomatic, said Dr. Connie White, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH).

White added that fever is one of the most consistent symptoms that people have and, while temperature checking is not a panacea, it is still vital to consistently check the students before entering the school building.

“We think that catching that early, before symptoms of cough, shortness of breath and rash and all of the other things that we list … is important,” she said.

Another question raised by the task force was with an already limited number of school nurses statewide, would the school nurse be required to conduct COVID-19 tests?

Angela McDonald, a nurse consultant from KDE’s Division of District Support, said no. McDonald said the COVID-19 test is an invasive procedure and she would rather parents be with the child when and if they are tested. School nurses will assess the student and then refer them to their health care provider for testing.

To address the shortage of school nurses throughout the Commonwealth, McDonald encouraged superintendents to consider utilizing either their district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds or Medicaid funds to hire school nurses for their district.

Transportation Guidance
KDE also released new guidance on student transportation last week and both Kennedy and Elisa Hanley, manager of the Pupil Transportation Branch in KDE’s Division of District Support, walked through the guidance with the task force.

The first thing that districts should do, according to the guidance, is survey parents to gauge the number of students who will require pupil transportation. If more families are going to drive their children to school, districts will need to examine their staffing numbers to ensure they have a way to control the traffic flow in and out of the school, said Hanley.

The guidance also recommends that districts evaluate their current bell times to see if changes can be made that will allow fewer students to ride the bus at the same time. Ideally, Hanley said, districts would not have elementary, middle and high school students riding the bus together.

If schools must have multiple grade levels on the bus together, it is recommended to load the bus from the rear. Younger students should sit in the front because they will be easier to see and because kindergarteners will not be required to wear a mask to school.

“Students will need to have assigned seats and attendance will need to be taken before everyone leaves the bus and this is for contact tracing,” said Hanley.

The contact tracing program is an online tracking system that allows public health workers to record individual information of Kentuckians who have been exposed to COVID-19, conduct outreach and monitor wellness.

According to DPH, public health has used contact tracing for decades to identify individuals with a communicable illness, isolate them and quarantine others with high-risk exposure to the infected person to prevent disease spread.

If districts already have monitors on their buses, it is recommended that they perform temperature checks before a student enters the bus. However, not every district has monitors on the bus.

KDE is working with Infinite Campus to see if there is a way to set up a parent assurance online, according to Robin Kinney, associate commissioner of KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations. If a parent were to opt-in to this option, they would be assuring the district that they checked their child’s temperature before allowing them to board the bus. The school still will need to check the student's temperature before they would be allowed to enter the school building.

Food Service Guidance
On June 22, KDE released food service guidance to Kentucky’s 172 school districts.

The document, “COVID-19 Considerations for Reopening Schools: Food Service Operations – USDA School Meal Programs,” includes several considerations, including modifications to the layout of the cafeteria and kitchen to keep with public health recommendations while holding in-school dining.

The guidance states meals should be served in supervised, non-congregate settings that ensure social distancing guidelines are followed. Pre-planning and thoughtful consideration of the delivery and service of meals to individual groups of students is needed to enable contact tracing.

Food service staff will need to check temperatures and complete any employee health screening per district protocol upon arrival at the workplace. Staff who develop symptoms during the workday will follow district protocol for staff illness. Food service staff shall always wear face masks at the workplace unless the employee has been granted a medical exemption.

Lauren Moore, director of KDE’s Division of School and Community Nutrition, informed the task force that the deadline to apply for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program has been extended to July 10.

The P-EBT program provides households with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card with benefits equal to the value of breakfasts and lunches a student was not able to receive during the days schools were closed. Households can use these benefits for grocery items eligible under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

P-EBT benefits are entirely federally funded and were originally projected to provide up to $187 million in food assistance for up to 595,000 qualifying children. The plan will provide each eligible student with up to $313.50 for the time period of March through May to help with nutritional support during the time that schools have been closed during the pandemic.

If a family is approved for P-EBT in a month following March, they will receive benefits for the month in which they became eligible through May. The benefits will remain active for one year.

To apply for P-EBT, visit

Highland Heights Passes Budget, Reviews Past Year

Highland Heights earned the right to be called a "Tree City" in 2020. When plans for Arbor Day were canceled due to the virus, they distributed more than 50 trees to area residents.

By Robin Gee, city council beat editor

At the June 2 city council meeting, Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers provided an update on the "state of the city." In his message, he acknowledged the many challenges and uncertainty as a result of the pandemic, but also took the opportunity to thank city staff, officials and residents for their flexibility, support and willingness to adjust during this time.

"We were cruising along very well until February when this Corona virus hit. We are not the only ones in this boat; everybody is. I just want to thank our department heads. We worked through this, and Jeanne Pettit [city clerk/treasurer], Steve Lehman in our public works, Police Chief Bill Birkenhauer. We all have a full agenda of work all day. We’re keeping all our employees employed, and I think that’s great..."

He went on to thank a long list of city staff as well as city boards and commission members, professional consultants, as well as city council members for pulling together to keep things going throughout the crisis. He also outlined the health and safety measures staff and department personnel are taking to keep the public and employees safe.

Meyers noted a list of city accomplishments and ongoing projects. This year, the city earned the national designation of Tree City and formed a Tree Commission. Staff has been working on a project with the state to digitize and organize city documents and is working through city ordinances to identify those that need to be updated or removed.

The Police Department has continued with training throughout the year, especially in the area of drug enforcement. Public works staff have been busy with ongoing street repairs and handled a number of snow events last winter. They also planted 27 trees in the city, maintained parks and recreation, all the while adjusting to closures and other guidelines from the state.

The mayor outlined efforts to relax some city restrictions to allow area businesses to post advertising banners along the US 27 highway and to spill out into some parking areas to provide curbside services. He noted that some development projects planned for this year have been delayed, but that the new St. Elizabeth medical building is now open and fully operational, the Highland Heights Senior Village development is now 100 percent full and work continues on a town center projects.

He listed events that were canceled but expressed hope that upcoming fall events may be able to go ahead, but is adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

"In conclusion, I want to say Highland Heights is a nice place to live, work and raise your family," Meyers said. He added that it would be a difficult year coming up, but the city is prepared to work together as things unfold.

Budget amendments

The meeting marked the second reading for budget amendments. City council quickly passed an amendment to adjust the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget to reflect the year.

As with other cities across the commonwealth, the plan for the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget was conservative. In his address to the city, Meyers noted retirement system contributions, the rising cost of health care and maintaining the city’s competitive tax rate as features of the budget. The costs of dealing with COVID-19 has been a challenge, and it remains uncertain what the coming year may bring.

"This will be a really difficult year when it comes to proposing budgets," City Attorney Steven Franzen told council. "Don’t be surprised when we go to amend next year, there may be significant changes from where we thought we might be."

Franzen read the proposal for FY 2020-2021. Expected resources available are $2,351,687 with a total expected revenues of “3,883,800,” bringing the grand total of resources available to $6,235,487. Expected total expenditures are $4,170,344. City council voted to pass the budget.

City announcements

Council voted to cancel a planned June 16 meeting, as well as the July 7 meeting of council. The council will meet next at the end of July. Meyers noted the next meeting may be done in person depending on state guidelines.

The Tree Committee chose two Yard Beautification winners for June: Celeste Roberts of 531 North Miller, and Greg and Barbara Yeager of 17 Honeytree. They will be invited to the next in-person meeting to receive their awards. Both yards have signs indicating their honors.

Because Arbor Day activities were canceled, the city gave away between 50 and 60 trees to residents in a "Trunk-a-Tree" giveaway on June 13. Residents were invited to come to the city building to pick up either a dogwood or cherry tree.

In Other Words: It’s Through the Crack the Light Enters

Nick and Amanda. Courtesy: Nick Fite
By Chuck Keller

The family story goes like this. Grandpa had a drinking problem. He went out one day and never returned. Grandparents divorced. Life moved on. My father eventually found his father - living in a flop house near the slaughterhouse. It was hot, cheap, and smelly. Dad would periodically check on him.

Shortly after I was born, my father went to check on him only to discover his father dead in an alley gutter. He drank himself into a stupor, passed out in the gutter, and died. I can’t imagine how my father felt. He never spoke about it. I only know this from my mother and she didn’t reveal the story until many years after my father had died. The truth is that my grandfather died an addict.

The sad part is that I don’t recall my grandmother or my father ever speaking about him. Never. I’m not sure if it was grief, shame, or denial. But telling the story could have served as a cautionary tale and prevented some difficult family episodes. The story was left hanging, unfinished. And that strikes me as particularly sad. We don’t know if grandpa ever felt remorse or shame or sought forgiveness. That will remain a mystery. I am encouraged, though, when people talk openly about addiction in their lives.

Nick Fite reached out to me last week with his story of love, addiction, and death. I’ve known Nick almost twenty years now. He was a student of mine. On this day, though, he was grieving. His “forever partner” died a few days before from an opioid overdose.

Her name is Amanda and she died at age thirty-three. She and Nick share a child and they each had a child from previous relationships. She was vivacious, had a radiant smile, and loved her children and Nick.  He says she had an infectious laugh. “It could change the most dismal moment,” he says. She also struggled with addiction, as do tens of thousands of people.

She had been “clean” for at least six years, the length of their relationship. But one day, according to Nick, “She slipped and struggled and it just took her.” Within a month, she died. Nick found her.

Nick is open about his addiction to alcohol. He recalls that he began drinking when he was thirteen. “We were piddling about town. Went home and found the bottle. Everybody begins with social experimentation. When I took that first drink something changed inside me. I was an alcoholic from the first drink,” he says. And it created problems. But with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous he has remained clean for many years. As a father, he wants to be an inspiration to his children.

I asked him if he was tempted to drink to deal with the tragedy. He says, “The first few days it was on me. It comes in waves.” But he has managed to resist.

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I asked how he was dealing with the adversity. He replied, “I don’t know yet. God didn’t put this pain in me to go without answers. If you don’t deal with the fear now, it could be worse the next time you face that fear…. As strong as people tell me I am, I could not do this alone. And for anyone who has to go through that, my heart goes out to them.” He’s seeking support through his religion and family and AA. Every day is a struggle. I could hear the  pain and love in his voice.

Nick reached out to me to tell his story in order to help others. As tragic as his story is, there is hope. And he wants you to find hope in his story. He sees it in his children, in his work, in his spiritual pursuits, in honoring the life of Amanda.

Now this is just an observation but we seem to have lost our collective ability for compassion. We are angry about everything. We live in an Age of Rage. Instead of confronting a problem with love we rage against it and often the problem compounds.  Nick reminds us that there are other ways.

Nick suggests that we remember and try to act upon the following:
Everybody suffers from something.
Be forgiving.
Don’t be judgmental.
Love each other.
Accept people for who they are.
Your words reflect who you are.

These are great rules for life that we need to periodically revisit. I’m reminded of one of my favorite observations by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There’s a crack in everything God made.”  But it’s through that crack the light enters.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Rep. Roberts and Rep. Wheatley Send Request to Gov. Beshear for NKY Unemployment Office

Rep. Roberts and Rep. Wheatley send Gov. Beshear a request for an unemployment office in NKY.
(Img: Lisa Cooper, NKADD, Representative Buddy Wheatley, Erin Bates, Brighton Center, Representative Rachel Roberts, Tara Johnson Noem, NKADD)

Representative Rachel Roberts (D-Newport) and Representative Buddy Wheatley (D-Covington) have requested a temporary, or even possibly permanent unemployment office in Northern Kentucky to assist people still waiting for benefits due to job losses during COVID-19.

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The request, sent to Governor Beshear last week, is for an office that is staffed with unemployment adjudicators who can offer assistance to the self-employed and others finding themselves in difficult times due to the pandemic.

“During the past three months, I have heard from constituents who are having difficulty receiving unemployment insurance payments, despite the expanded coverage during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Rachel Roberts. “I have been contacted more on this issue than any others during this unprecedented time; people who work for small businesses who have never filed for unemployment before or work in both Cincinnati and Northern KY are having the most trouble and need personal assistance.”

Representatives Roberts and Wheatley met with NKADD staff and officials at the Kentucky Career Center in Covington on Wednesday to discuss the feasibility of offering in-person unemployment assistance. “The Career Center offers wonderful career counseling services to citizens, and has been a huge help to many people attempting to navigate Kentucky’s unemployment system. Navigating the unemployment for the non-traditional employee is especially difficult and can require one-on-one attention from adjudicators,” said Representative Roberts. “Our request to Governor Beshear is coming at a time when he has made major changes to the state Office of Unemployment Insurance. We look forward to discussing our needs in Northern Kentucky with him soon.”

“Our close proximity to Cincinnati presents its own set of challenges,” said Representative Buddy Wheatley. “Many people in Northern Kentucky are struggling with the system and need the help of a live person. Representative Roberts and I want ensure our constituents have all of the state's available resources for assistance.”

“Governor Beshear announced this week that there will be in-person unemployment help in three cities during the next three weeks,” said Rep. Roberts. “Past administration budget cuts reduced the number of trained unemployment staff in the Commonwealth, which has led to unprocessed unemployment claims during this extremely high usage period.

According to Governor Beshear when he spoke about during a press conference on Monday, Kentucky saw nearly 25,000 new claims for unemployment insurance during the week of June 20th, which is a decline from previous weeks but still very significant.”

Johnson Elementary School Names Assistant Principal

Johnson Elementary School has selected Kristina Sheehy to serve as assistant principal. Sheehy is currently the assistant principal at Southern Elementary School in Pendleton County, a position she has held for the past five years.

Sheehy’s educational experience includes teaching at Straub Elementary School in Maysville, and Grant’s Lick Elementary School for a combined eight years before advancing to an administrative role as director of curriculum and assessment in Pendleton County Schools.

Sheehy earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, her master’s degrees in School Counseling and Educational Leadership from Northern Kentucky University. Additionally, she earned National Board Certification in Early/Middle Childhood Literacy.

Principal Ashley Dikeos stated, “We are so excited to bring Mrs. Sheehy on board at Johnson Elementary. She is going to provide great knowledge and positivity to our culture, and I can’t wait to introduce her to our students and families!”

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“I am so honored and privileged to be the new assistant principal at Johnson Elementary School and be part of the Fort Thomas Independent School District team who has a tradition of success,” said Sheehy. “I can’t wait to join the Johnson family and support the outstanding principal, staff, students, and families!”

Sheehy lives in Alexandria, KY, with her husband Jeff and their two daughters Brinkleigh and Presleigh. She will begin serving as assistant principal July 1, 2020.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Weekend Grand Openings in Newport: Bridgeview Box Park and Riverfront Commons Bridge

The new Bridgeview Box Park has had a "soft opening" for a few weeks but the owners are ready to celebrate big time with a Grand Opening event Saturday, June 27.

 by Robin Gee

Need a reason to get out in the fresh air this weekend? Newport is celebrating two grand openings with two ribbon cuttings and plenty of festivities on Saturday, June 27, down near the river at Newport on the Levee.

The events mark the opening of a new pedestrian bridge that will connect Newport on the Levee and the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, and the Bridgeview Box Park, a new outdoor retail, restaurant and entertainment park located at the Levee.

Here’s a quick glance at the schedule:

At 11:15 a.m. — City of Newport officials, Southbank Partners and members of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Goverments (OKI) will gather to cut the ribbon on the new Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge.

At 11:45 a.m. — Officials from North American Properties (NAP), owners of Newport on the Levee, will be joined by Newport city officials to cut the ribbon for the Bridgeview Box Park.

All day, until 11 p.m. — Live music, great food and a chance to enjoy our region’s greatest asset – the Ohio River.

The Bridgeview Box Park

Completed this spring, the Bridgeview Box Park is located in the plaza next to Newport Aquarium. The space includes four shipping-like containers, an octagon-shaped structure and a food truck that houses restaurants and retail businesses as well as seating areas and a programmable entertainment space.

The Box Park has been open for a few weeks, allowing businesses time to set up and prepare for visitors. So far there are eight businesses. The facility is part of an overall development plan for Newport on the Levee by North American Properties.

"We are focused on redeveloping the Levee to better engage the riverfront and maximize the potential of its gathering spaces so that it becomes a true community destination," said Tim Perry, managing partner at NAP. "The opening of Bridgeview Box Park marks a major milestone in our efforts and is a great example of the types of experiences and programming we’re bringing to Newport."

The park is also a creative addition to the overall plan for developing the entire riverfront corridor known as “Riverfront Commons” and led by Southbank Partners along with city and state officials.

RELATED: Newport Levee Owners Get Creative with Bridgeview Box ParkThe Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge 

The Bridgeview Box Park overlooks the river and the Cincinnati skyline.

Outdoor fun for all ages at the Bridgeview Box Park

The Bridgeview Box Park and Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge add connectivity along the riverfront.


Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge

Kicking off events for the day on the Riverfront level of Newport on the Levee, will be the grand opening to celebrate the new Riverfront Commons Pedestrian Bridge connecting the area to the Taylor-Southgate Bridge. The goal of the Riverfront corridor is to create a walkable and bike friendly trail and recreation space connecting Northern Kentucky communities along the river.

The addition of the pedestrian bridge also opens up more pedestrian and bike access to all that downtown Cincinnati has to offer across the river.

Riverfront Commons is an 11.5 mile walking and biking path that runs along the Ohio River from the city of Ludlow on the west to the city of Ft. Thomas on the east. The project involves six riverfront cities and focuses on eco-system restoration and riverside stabilization, economic development and recreation.

What’s in store at the Bridgeview Box Park

The Box Park’s eight local restaurants and retailers are now fully open and operational. They include:

  • Kon Tiki, a laid-back tiki bar serving exotic tiki drinks in a comfortable and eclectic setting.
  • Ché on Wheels, a food truck version of the Argentinian restaurant located in Over the Rhine (OTR), offers handmade empanadas in multiple varieties and fresh beverages.
  • The Little Spoon Bakery and Café, a bakery by Courtney Augsback specializing in custom sugar cookies and baked goods, is located in the “Octagon” adjacent to the Newport Aquarium. Little Spoon serves Carabello coffee and a full-range of espresso drinks and beverages.
  • Bon Mi Street, an Asian street food eatery with a unique spin on the traditional banh mi sandwich and refreshing milk tea with a variety of toppings.
  • Leaf & Limb, an exotic boutique featuring indoor plants and curated goods from local and worldwide artisans.
  • Farmhouse Lemonade, a food truck specializing in hand-crafted, freshly squeezed lemonade in 10 to 15 flavors.
  • Wooden Cask Brewing, a craft beer purveyor founded by a husband and wife duo. Wooden Cask has a special focus on English, Scottish and Irish-style beers, as well as non-beer options.
  • Second Sight Spirits, a local distillery specializing in bourbon, rum and moonshine. Signature cocktails include the smoked cherry rum limeade, black and blueberry mixed mojitos and the “Levee Tea,” a bourbon mixed with blueberry iced tea.

For more on the Bridgeview Box Park and other plans for the development, see the Newport on the Levee website. For information on the Riverfront Commons Plan, see the Southbank Partners website.