City Council Roundup: Legislator report, VA homes, police news and a special proclamation

Zoning changes for the VA homes project, dispatch center upgrade funding, visioning plans and street assessments were among projects addressed at the May 15 Fort Thomas City Council meeting.

Kentucky State Senator Wil Schroder also addressed council with a brief report on the last legislative session, and council honored a special local couple who have contributed much to the community over the years.

Legislator’s report
Senator Schroder addressed council with a brief report on the most recent state legislative session.

He noted that 793 bills were filed and 202 bills were passed by both chambers this session and highlighted a few he felt would have the strongest impact on the community.

Repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law led his list. The law had required that wages and benefits paid for construction of state and locally funded public projects reflect an average hourly wage set by the state for a specific area. By repealing the law, state-funded projects would no longer be subject to prevailing wage.

Schroder, who was in favor of the repeal, said the move can result in significant cost savings for municipalities. He cited a recent highway project in Fort Mitchell that came in $75,000 under the initial estimate due to the reduction in wage costs.

Senate Bill 104 also passed the legislature. The bill makes adjustments to an existing pension reform bill passed in 2013 aimed at cracking down on a practice known as “spiking” of state pensions. Because pension amounts are based on the highest earning years, some employees work overtime to boost earnings and their pensions in the last years. To combat the practice, caps are set on earnings that can be counted in the final pension formula.

Two bills that address the heroin and opioid epidemic may have strong local impact, said Schroder. House Bill 333 puts limits on prescription pain killers. He noted that there are many exceptions to the limits for patients dealing with cancer or other painful conditions as well as an option for doctors to prescribe more with proper explanation. The bill also increases drug trafficking penalties.

Senate Bill 42 gives police officers the ability to make arrests for a misdemeanor assault on hospital property even if the officer did not see the incident. This law protects health care workers who come in contact with drug users who may become violent while under their care.

Some legislators are calling for a split between the county retirement system (CERS) and the state retirement system (KRS) due to differences in the level of funding. A special session called for next fall will address more on pension and tax reform, said the senator.

VA homes update
The VA homes development agreement is still under discussion, according to City Administrator Ron Dill.

Council did not make any new moves on the VA homes agreement. Some of the items presented at a special meeting of council on May 1 are still under discussion said Dill.

“There is still an independent agreement with the schools pending. There’s an obligation by the city that we were not able to define completely because we’re still working with utility companies and we’d like to be as specific as we can. And then there was an issue of timing with transferring the property from the VA to the city and the developer having their financing in place to be able to make the transfer at the same time, so we’re still working toward that.”

He added that the VA is continuing to speak positively about the process and the proposed deadline of the end of May. The agency has shared details with its environmental attorneys and engineers and is working on details of the clean up effort on their end.

Dill says plans for the project are still on track and council should see a finished document at its meeting on June 5.

Also at the meeting, council voted to approve a change in zoning at the VA homes site to a Residential 1C and Residential cluster with overlay.