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Is Anti-Toll Position the Reason Ft. Wright Project Isn't Complete?

Many state-funded road initiatives in the Northern Kentucky region have been completed or are moving on to a second phase while within the same time frame, Fort Wright’s project at Kyles Lane and Dixie Highway to relieve morning and afternoon rush hour traffic congestion sits idle – even though the city has been waiting longer than others, having originally applied for state funds in 2005.

“Once again, they are saying next year, which they’ve been saying for the last 8-10 years,” Mayor Dave Hatter said of the state departments’ committal on the project. Hatter added that he believes the delay is due in part to Fort Wright’s political  views on the proposed Brent Spence Bridge project. Councilman Bernie Wessels said Rob Hans of the Transportation Department stated in front of council two years ago that the project would reach completion before the school year had begun – in 2013.

“There is something that is politically motivated inside that administration and I don’t know if it’s because of our resolution against tolls,” Wessels added, though Hatter said the city’s views on the subject are not unique. Many Northern Kentucky city governments have passed anti-toll resolutions against the estimated $2.7 billion bridge project that would add a second span between Covington and Cincinnati on I-75 over the Ohio River.

Other notes:

City employee salary adjustment was discussed Monday and though a resolution was not passed – that will likely take place at the July 1 meeting – employees could see a bump in pay on the horizon. Though two years since raises have been handed out mainly due to rising healthcare costs, as many as 35 of 38 employees could see a three percent increase. The mayor was in favor of the pay increase, but within reason: "I’d like to see us pay our employees at a 75% level (in comparison to surrounding areas), 
because we’d still receive and retain decent workers. “We need to not make it suck to work here, frankly,” Hatter said.

Retaining employees like police officer Jeff Hoppenjans is important to the city, which rewarded him with a promotion to Specialist. On the department since 2010, Hoppenjans joins fellow Specialists’ George Kreutzjans and Andrew Vonderhaar.

Additionally, Fort Wright Police Chief Dan Kreinest presented Patrolman Brian Machal with an Official Commendation for his bravery in saving a suicidal man’s life. Saying he wanted to die by way of suicide-by-cop, the man planned to enter into a Covington Police station, stab an officer in the neck, and subsequently die by an officer’s bullet. Perhaps taken aback by his care, the man thanked Machal for saving his life as the Patrolman rode him to the hospital. “Thank you all, for the opportunity to serve,” Machal said to council members.

Showing its age, the Fort Wright City Building sign is in the midst of council discussion of possibly being replaced with an updated digital one. Hatter favors a digital switch but prefers that only city-related matters appear on it. Councilman Scott Wall is against any signage change, saying a bright digital one is too “Vegasy” given its surroundings. Its cost will be discussed at next month’s meeting.

Written by Jason Finnell, RCN contributor