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Ft. Wright Councilman to Step Down, City Seeks Applications

A new council member is needed in Ft. Wright.

Councilman Joe Averdick is moving out of town and will present his resignation on June 7. 

A new member of council will be appointed by the city council, which is seeking applications from interested parties. Those who wish to apply should direct their correspondence to City Administrator Ed Butler via email, U.S. Mail (409 Kyles Lane, Ft. Wright, Ky. 41011), or at the city building in person, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The deadline is set for the end of the business day on Friday, May 19.  That will give council the time to look over the applicants, and set up interviews for the first full week of June. By law, the city has 30 days to fill the position after the resignation has been submitted or the governor can step in and pick someone to fill the position.

Council voted to amend the Ft Wright zoning ordinance to change the 6.21 acre area located on the northeast corner of the intersection of 3L Highway and Howard Litzler Drive to allow for the development of an industrial warehouse. The vote was unanimous, although Councilman Bernie Wessels again abstained since his son is involved in the project. The project was protested at last month's meeting by residents of neighboring Latonia, and the Kenton County Planning Commission had voted against the zone change, but the final decision belonged to city council.

The annual budget was discussed and read for the first time. Butler said that everything looks pretty good, and that the budget estimates high costs on health care, but the revenues are good and the expenditures are under control, he said.

The budget also includes an estimated cost of the new digital radios, which all Northern Kentucky cities and counties will soon be paying for as emergency responders and dispatch centers adapt to new technology. The city is estimating a $225,000 price tag for its share.

Mayor Dave Hatter questioned the state's requirement that cities have their budgets approved by June 30, arguing that two important components of the budget, health care and  property values, could not be estimated until later in the year.

"The timing doesn't make sense," Hatter said. "But no one in Frankfort listens to me."

Council voted to extend the Rumpke waste collection contract for two years, the final extension of the current contract. Residents paying about $150 a year now will only pay $4.30 more a year, Butler said.

Bids for the 2017 road program were opened and the low bidder was Len Riegler Blacktop at $527,190. 

Dennis Gordon, Executive Director at Planning & Development Services of Kenton County (PDS), came to talk to council about the new system of one stop shopping at the agency. Gordon explained that when the organization started the one stop shop program, it had four buckets that it put the cities into which specified the fee structure for that city. Now PDS has revamped the program, calling it one stop shop 2.0. This is more of an a la carte plan, where cities pick the services they want and are only charged for those rather than a one size fits all plan.

Gordon explained that back in 1960 a cap was imposed on the fees charged, at 5 cents per $100, and he said that the agency was currently charging 2.9 cents per $100 netting the agency about $3 million a year. Application fees and fines bring in $1 million a year, and PDS has a $5 million budget. Gordon said the goal of the restructuring was to keep the billing to the cities constant. He told council that some of the cities will find their fees going up, and some will find their fees going down. Ft. Wright is one that will have its fees go up $3,000.

Councilman Averdick spoke up.

"Our residents pay about $150,000 a year for these services," he said. "That gives me heartburn. Why don't you live within the tax dollars that are given to you?"

Gordon said because the services can't be provided for that amount.

Council's main question seemed to be would they be paying for any services twice. Mayor Hatter said he would like for council to look into the matter and see what the services cost them, although he did say $3,000 did not seem like a huge amount in the grand scheme. 

Mayor Hatter told council that cameras have been installed on the side of the city building by the parking lot, so that the city can provide a safe meeting place for people who buy things on the internet and want to meet the person to complete the transaction. The city follows Newport in making such a decision.

"It is a trend to establish a safe place for internet transactions," said Hatter. "For years people have been meeting in not-so-safe places, so now they have a well-lit place with a video recording. Now, you can't drop off a trailer with a for-sale sign, but little transactions should be safer if people know they are being recorded. It will be a 24-hour surveillance, and it is up and running, so it should be a deterrent for crime."

The City of Ft Wright is officially designated as a Certified City of Ethics. Mayor Hatter said the program was initiated by the Kentucky League of Cities, and to be a city of ethics, one must pay $500 and a team of people come up with recommendations and training. They explain the pros and cons, examine the city's records, and designate the city a city of ethics. Ft. Wright will be up for recertification in four years.

"Out of 425 cities in the state, we are the sixteenth city to do this," said Hatter. "I am proud of our certification, and I consider the time and effort well spent."

Council passed an executive order promoting Jeff Bethell to the position of senior maintenance worker with the Public Works Department. Director Tim Maloney said Bethel has been at the city for 12 years and since it is such a small department, all of the people have to wear many hats and do jobs that they never thought they were qualified to do.

"I always said if it's not stolen or burning, it lands in our department," Maloney joked.

Bethell has recently learned to weld, and has been a help to fix things that break all around the city. Bethell will get a pay raise to $24 an hour.

One resident spoke up to say she liked the idea of beautifying the corner at Dixie Highway and Kyles Lane that council had been discussing, but she was concerned with the panhandling that was going on at Walgreens and the gas station. She told council she is always accosted in those two places, and she did not like that panhandling was going on in the city she grew up in.  Councilman Wessels said they might have a talk with the managers of the two businesses to see what they could do, and Police Chief Dan Kreinest said he would try to get his officers to patrol more to see if they can stop the problem.

Chief Kreinest told council his department received a grant to buy new duty weapons and vests.

Tim Maloney said that the road work on the streets would begin after July 1, and would consist of milling and resurfacing the streets on the list, but they would also do any spot repairs on sidewalks that needed attention.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor