Televised Board of Trustees Monthly Meeting Survey

Do you ever watch meetings of the Columbia Township Trustees online through cable access television or via the Internet?
Columbia Township is currently assessing resident use of its ICRC (Intercommunity Regulatory Commission of Southwest Ohio) contracted services.
The township pays ICRC to film and post township trustee meetings on public access cable television, ICRC’s website and the township’s website at a cost of approximately $24,000 a year ($2,000 per meeting)
Viewership of the meetings has ranged from a high of 35 views to a low of one person per meeting.

Columbia Twp. may put police levy on May ballot

 Columbia Township may put a 3.4-mill police levy on the May ballot. In the following Q&A, township Administrator Michael Lemon sheds light on the issue.

Did the Columbia Township Board of Trustees vote to put a police levy on the ballot?

 No, they voted to have the (Hamilton County) auditor certify the amount of revenue a 3.4-mill levy would generate, as required by the Ohio Revised Code.

What would a 3.4-mill levy cost homeowners annually and how much money would it produce annually for Columbia Township to provide police services?

The auditor’s certification will tell us both of these (figures).

Columbia Township currently contracts with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office to police the township 24 hours a day, seven days a week. About how long has the sheriff’s office been policing Columbia Township?

As far as I know, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has been policing Columbia Township forever.

What kind of police presence does the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office provide?

The number of deputies varies per shift and day.

The number can range from one to five per shift, depending on scheduling by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

What does the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office annually charge Columbia Township for this service?

The cost of the officers has averaged $860,991 per year over the past three years while total police service costs, which includes dispatch fees and equipment purchases, have averaged $935,886.

How does Columbia Township pay for these services now?

While costs increased and revenue declined as a result of state tax cuts, we managed to provide ongoing service without a (new) levy.

Costs are paid from the police fund (annual revenue and reserves from earlier levies) and the General Fund (if there are shortfalls, which has occurred the last two years).

In addition to the shortfalls, why is Columbia Township considering a police levy now?

We have not had a levy on the ballot for police services in 13 years.

We explored policing by other communities to reduce costs but found this alternative would cost more and reduce resources.

What’s fueling Ridge Road exit closure

, jhouck@communitypress.com1:28 p.m. EDT August 12, 2016

An Ohio Department of Transportation official says the state is closing the Ridge Road north exit ramp off Interstate 71 to make traveling safer and to ease traffic congestion.

State transportation officials will replace the exit that leads to Columbia Township’s Ridge Road/Highland Avenue business district with a new one that leads directly to Kennedy Avenue, said Brian Cunningham, communications manager with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s district office in Lebanon.

“This was primarily closed to eliminate weaving and merging movements from northbound 71 to Ridge and also from Kennedy to I-71 northbound,” Cunningham said.

“The decision to remove the Ridge Road ramp also was based on…ease of access from I-71 northbound to Ridge Road via state Route 562 – where one can go either left or right onto Ridge – and we will be making Ridge Road two lanes from state Route 562 north where it currently is only one lane.”

Columbia Township Administrator Mike Lemon said recently he was surprised to learn the state planned to close the Ridge Road north exit when he attended a public meeting in July hosted by the Ohio Department of Transportation that he thought was about state plans to add a lane to northbound I-71 and to add sound-barrier walls.

Lemon subsequently arranged a meeting to allow representatives of Columbia Township, Pleasant Ridge and businesses to ask state transportation officials why they plan to close the Ridge Road north exit and why they did not tell local people earlier that they were considering the move.

“ODOT apologized publicly several times for not involving the township earlier,” Lemon said.

“Three representatives were in attendance and were informative and helpful in explaining the project detail and how it will affect traffic flow.

“I think the meeting and sharing details of the project diminished the anxiety of some attendees, caused by lack of information,” Lemon said.

Bill Brinkmann, general manager of Mark Sweeney Buick GMC at 3365 Highland Ave., said he and Mark Sweeney attended the meeting and found it informative.

“We are in favor of the project and believe that it will help to support the revitalization of the Pleasant Ridge business district,” Brinkmann said.

Cunningham agreed that, “It is my understanding the meeting went well. We were asked to provide additional information such as traffic counts and analyze a few possible changes such as signing options.”

But Cunningham said the Ohio Department of Transportation is committed to the project; construction is to begin in spring 2018 and take a year.

“We are continuing to move along with the project,” Cunningham said.

Lemon said state transportation officials at the meeting he arranged agreed to review his proposal to reopen the link from Duck Creek Road to the north lanes of Ridge Road, which now dead ends.

“The ODOT officials listened to the concerns and recommendations of the participants and said they would include them in its environmental review in the process which will be completed in late fall,” Lemon said.

“I requested audience members to detail their concerns in a letter or email and send it to ODOT for inclusion in the public record as the project process proceeds.

“Several of the concerns mentioned were traffic impact on business district streets, Duck Creek reopening to Ridge Road, ability of large semi-trucks to navigate the exit ramp lanes, exit and wayfinding signage and more,” Lemon said.

Want to know more about what is happening in Columbia Township? Follow me on Twitter @jeannehouck.

What the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to do:

Widen northbound Interstate 71 to three continuous through lanes between the Norwood Lateral and Red Bank Expressway interchanges by eliminating the existing loop exit ramp to northbound Ridge Road. The proposed additional lane will continue north from the Ridge Road overpass to the exit ramp at Red Bank Expressway.

Construct a new straight exit ramp from northbound I-71 to Kennedy Avenue.

Modify the existing entrance ramp from Kennedy Avenue to northbound I-71 to allow it to pass between the pier and abutment of the Kennedy Avenue overpass.

Provide a new traffic signal on Kennedy Avenue for the new exit ramp and modified entrance ramp.

Modify Ridge Road between Duck Creek Road and the I-71 overpass to provide two northbound lanes.

Why the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to do it:

Safety: This section of northbound Interstate 71 is ranked ninth out of 77 Hamilton County segments that have a higher than predicted frequency of crashes for this road type, state transportation officials say.

A study concluded that 45 percent of all crashes in the area occurred on northbound I-71. Seventy percent of the northbound crashes occurred during the evening and likely were related to congestion created as two lanes drop at the state Route 562 and Ridge Road north interchange.

Traffic congestion – This section of northbound I-71 is among the top 25 (out of 179) most congested state and interstate highway segments in Ohio, state transportation officials say.

Currently, 67,540 to 71,810 vehicles travel this section daily. By 2036, that range is expected to increase to 70,880 to 76,310 vehicles a day.

I-71 exit to Columbia Twp. business district to close

Lemon was at a public meeting hosted by the Ohio Department of Transportation to provide input on its plans to add a lane to northbound I-71 and add sound-barrier walls when he found out that the state also plans to close the Ridge Road north exit ramp off I-71 and build a new exit directly to Kennedy Avenue.

Lemon fired off an email to Ohio Department of Transportation officials saying that he told a state transportation official at the meeting that, “I did not see how this project could be considered an economic-development project for Columbia Township when the proposal was eliminating the very exit that led traffic into the heart of the Columbia Township business district and redirected it away from the business district to a traffic light on Kennedy Avenue where any economic-development opportunity is limited.”

“In fact, I expressed concern that it could retard economic development,” Lemon wrote.

“I believe businesses impacted by this change should have been consulted long ago, along with township officials.”

Ohio Department of Transportation officials were not immediately available for comment.

Lemon said state transportation officials say they are changing the exits for safety reasons, have the funding and are moving ahead with the project, although construction is not scheduled to begin until 2018.

But Ohio Department of Transportation officials have agreed to discuss the issue with Columbia Township officials and businesses in the Ridge Road and Highland Avenue area at a meeting  Aug. 8.

Lemon intends to lobby the state at the meeting to reopen the link from Duck Creek Road to the north lanes of Ridge Road. It now dead ends.

“If you take the new Kennedy Avenue exit and you want to get back to, say, Burlington Coat Factory, or Jack in the Box or Wendy’s, you have to turn left onto Kennedy, and then left onto Highland and then left onto Ridge,” Lemon said.

“Having driven that many times, I think you know that’s a rather arduous way to get there.

“If they were to reopen Duck Creek, then you could turn right on Kennedy, go down to Duck Creek and turn right to Ridge and then right on up (to the business district),” Lemon said.


View The Crime Map – Raids Online

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 RAIDS Online helps the public get a better idea of the crime activity in their area so they can make more informed decisions about how to stay safe.

Reduce crime and improve public safety. BAIR Analytics’s public crime map, RAIDS Online, connects law enforcement with the community to reduce crime and improve public safety. Crime mapping helps the public get a better idea of the crime activity in their area so they can make more informed decisions about how to stay safe.

RAIDS Online goes beyond crime mapping by automatically alerting the public about recent crime activity and by improving communication between the public and law enforcement through anonymous tips. RAIDS Online empowers the public to make better decisions about crime by putting the same technology used by law enforcement to analyze and interpret crime activity into the hands of the public.

Sources of information

RAIDS Online compiles crime data and other information from law enforcement agencies to make it easier for the public to stay informed about crime. Data in RAIDS Online is provided directly from each law enforcement agency. Because RAIDS Online is just the public side of a much more robust crime data sharing and analysis system for law enforcement, we take every step to ensure that the data is of the highest quality and accuracy. To uphold these quality standards, BAIR works with each agency to set up an automated feed of the data from their crime database into the RAIDS database. Receiving the data directly from each law enforcement agency ensures that the data is always up to date, accurate and complete.

You can see the source of the crime data for any incident by clicking on the incident on the map. The information window lists the “Agency” that provided the information. The Metadata tab also lists the source and links to each source’s web page for the incidents that are currently in view.

How does it work?

Law enforcement agencies keep detailed records about each incident that occurs in their jurisdiction. When an incident happens, the officer that responded to the incident writes a detailed report with information about the event including the location, people involved, related vehicles and other useful information. This information is stored in large, secure databases within each law enforcement agency. Between departments, these databases can vary in structure and complexity, and even the data itself can follow different standards to describe the event. This can make it difficult for two neighboring cities to share crime data and benefit from being able to analyze events and offenders that cross city boundaries. BAIR’s regional data sharing products help centralize and standardize this information into a national database of crime to improve regional data sharing and analysis. RAIDS Online takes this data, cleans it to protect victim privacy, and displays it to the public so citizens can be aware of the events that occur in their area and take action to stay safe.

How can your city participate?

BAIR Analytics offers RAIDS Online as a way to give back to the community. As former (and current) analysts and officers, BAIR hopes to help law enforcement and defense use cutting edge analytics to protect and serve the community. Providing crime mapping and tips to the community helps law enforcement keep the public aware of crime, it builds trust with their citizens and it improves communication between the public and law enforcement. By allowing law enforcement to provide these services to the public at no cost through RAIDS Online, BAIR reduces any barriers for law enforcement to use public crime mapping as a crime reduction strategy.

Don’t see crime data in your city?

Contact the Public Information Officer in your city to request that they start sharing crime information with you through RAIDS Online. It’s absolutely free for your city to participate, so there’s no reason for them not to join RAIDS Online.

These Greater Cincinnati communities rank among best places to live

A new study ranks 18 Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods among the 25 best places to live in their respective states.

The new rankings are from the national website Niche, which collects data based on crime, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities and local amenities. Data comes from the U.S. Census, FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other sources.

Eleven Southwest Ohio communities rank in the top 25 places to live in the Buckeye State:

No. 3: Deerfield Township

No. 4: Wyoming

No. 8: Mariemont

No. 12: Blue Ash

No. 14: Mason

No. 18: Symmes Township

No. 19: Madeira

No. 21: Anderson Township

No. 22: Columbia Township

No. 23: Montgomery

No. 24: Landen

Seven Northern Kentucky communities rank among the top 25 in the Bluegrass State:

No. 3: Fort Mitchell

No. 11: Fort Thomas

No. 13: Southgate

No. 14: Oakbrook (Boone County)

No. 18: Park Hills

No. 20: Florence

No. 25: Union

Two Franklin County communities, Upper Arlington and Grandview Heights, were rated the top places to live in Ohio. Los Alamos, N.M., was rated the best place to live in the U.S. Devon, Pa., was rated the nation’s best place to raise a family.

Press Release – Ohio Treasurer’s Office on

NORWOOD – Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced today the launch of the Norwood City Schools and Columbia Township online checkbooks on  In December 2014, Treasurer Mandel launched, which sets a new national standard for government transparency and for the first time in Ohio history puts all state spending information on the internet. recently earned Ohio the number one government transparency ranking in the country for a second year in a row.

The Ohio Treasurer’s office was joined at today’s announcement by Norwood City Schools Superintendent Robert Amodio and Columbia Township Trustees Chris Kritikos and Susan Hughes.  Norwood City Schools is the sixth school district in Hamilton County to post their spending on, and Columbia Township is the third township in Hamilton County to post their spending on

The following is a breakdown of today’s local government sites:

  • Norwood City Schools’ online checkbook includes over 100,000 individual transactions that represent more than $178 million of total spending over the past four Fiscal Years.
  • Columbia Township’s online checkbook includes over 9,400 individual transactions that represent more than $9.4 million of total spending over the past four years.

“I believe the people of Hamilton County have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and I applaud local leaders here for partnering with my office to post the finances on,” said Treasurer Mandel.  “By posting local government spending online, we are empowering taxpayers across Ohio to hold public officials accountable.”

“We are very excited to implement the checkbook initiative,” said Norwood City Schools Superintendent Robert Amodio.  “We feel that it creates even further fiscal transparency that will allow our local resident taxpayers a further ability to view our fiscal conservancy with their tax money. As a district we believe that this initiative is in line with our commitment that we are true partners with our residents as we seek to enhance the fiscal trust that they have placed in us.”

“While some will say this is about transparency in local government, we believe users of will discover the determined efforts of officials and staff, year after year, to provide the best services possible to constituents at an effective cost,” said Columbia Township Administrator Michael Lemon.

On April 7, 2015 Treasurer Mandel sent a letter to 18,062 local government and school officials representing 3,962 local governments throughout the state calling on them to place their checkbook level data on and extending an invitation to partner with his office at no cost to local governments.  These local governments include cities, counties, townships, schools, library districts and other special districts.

A large coalition of statewide and local government organizations have expressed support for and local government transparency, including:

  • Ohio Municipal League
  • Ohio Township Association
  • Ohio Association of School Business Officials
  • Buckeye Association of School Administrators
  • County Commissioner Association of Ohio
  • County Auditor Association of Ohio
  • Ohio Newspaper Association
  • Ohio Society of CPAs
  • Buckeye Institute
  • Common Cause Ohio was launched on December 2, 2014, marking the first time in Ohio history when citizens could actually see every expenditure in state government.  Since its launch, has received overwhelming support from newspapers and groups across the state and, as of June 8, 2016 there have been more than 551,000 total searches on the site. displays more than $529 billion in spending over the past eight years, including more than 146 million transactions.  The website includes cutting-edge features such as:

  • “Google-style” contextual search capabilities, to allow users to sort by keyword, department, category or vendor;
  • Fully dynamic interactive charts to drill down on state spending;
  • Functionality to compare state spending year-over-year or among agencies; and,
  • Capability to share charts or checks with social media networks, and direct contact for agency fiscal offices.

In March 2015, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) released their annual “Following the Money 2015” report and Treasurer Mandel earned Ohio the number one transparency ranking in the country for providing online access to government spending data.  Ohio was prominently featured in the report after climbing from 46th to 1st in spending transparency as a result of Treasurer Mandel’s release of  Due to the launch of, Ohio received a perfect score of 100 points this year – the highest score in the history of the U.S. PIRG transparency rankings.

In April 2016, U.S. PIRG announced that Treasurer Mandel earned Ohio the number one government transparency ranking in the country for the second consecutive year in a row.  Due to the launch of, Ohio again received the highest perfect score of 100 points this year – marking the second time in two years Ohio received the highest possible score in the history of the U.S. PIRG transparency rankings.

The Treasurer’s office is partnering with OpenGov, a leading Silicon Valley government technology company, to provide residents of Ohio the ability to view and search local government expenditures in a user-friendly, digital format.  “Ohio is setting the standard for financial transparency on an unprecedented scale. We are excited to partner with the Treasurer’s office to bring world-class technology to communities large and small across the state,” said Zachary Bookman, CEO of OpenGov.

For more information or to view your local government website, visit the Local Government option on or click on:


Neighbors Opposing Pipeline Extension


What are they thinking?

Duke Energy is planning to build a huge gas transmission line right through our neighborhoods.  This is not like the distribution lines under our streets, or the lines that bring power to our homes.  This is an enormous high pressure, high capacity pipeline that would be built next to schools, daycare centers, places of worship, and even through people’s yards.

No one would even consider running a high speed expressway right down the middle of a residential street or right next to a school playground, and then allowing tanker trucks trucks carrying full loads of hazardous chemicals to drive up and down the street, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  That would be unthinkable.  Have you seen how fast truckers go on the expressway?  What if the driver lost control of his vehicle, or what if someone cut him off while switching lanes and he couldn’t stop?  Your kids could be out in the yard playing!  Can you imagine?

Well, for many us in the Cincinnati area, this has become a very real possibility.  Duke Energy is not building an expressway for trucks next to our schools and houses.  Duke Energy is building an expressway for natural gas.  This pipeline contains 720 psi’s in a single inch cube.  Multiply that by the area of the pipe and you get a 507,000 psi catastrophic accident waiting to happen.

Want to learn more about Duke’s Central Corridor Pipeline Extension project in Cincinnati, and what you can do to stop it? Here’s everything you need to know.

Concerned Neighbors – This is a quickly evolving situation, so please forgive us if information is incomplete.  We are madly scrambling to keep you informed.  Check back often and LIKE us on Facebook to stay connected.

This Greater Cincinnati Remke Store is Closing

Remke Markets is closing one of its Greater Cincinnati stores.Remke Markets won’t renew its lease at its Pleasant Ridge store location in order to focus its efforts on remodeling and upgrading more viable store locations, it announced Monday.

The Erlanger-based independent grocer won’t renew its lease at its Pleasant Ridge store location in order to focus its efforts on remodeling and upgrading more viable store locations, it announced Monday.

The store at 3240 Highland Ave. is expected to close on Saturday, June 25, following the liquidation of its inventory. That process is expected to begin on May 31.

“It’s always a difficult decision to close a store, as we are committed to our customers and associates across all of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky,” Remke president Matthew Remke said in a statement. “We will continue delivering on our promise of a local, neighborhood grocery with exceptional service in a convenient location. There is definitely customer demand for Remke’s neighborhood shopping experience in this very competitive grocery market. I’m genuinely excited about the good things on the horizon as we remain steadfast in our focus on our loyal customers and valued associates.”

The Pleasant Ridge store employs 54 associates. They will have the opportunity to explore available positions at other Remke Markets locations, and eligible employees who don’t take those positions will receive outplacement support and severance benefits.

Remke closed one of its stores on the West Side last summer while downsizing the other.

Remke, a family company that launched in 1897, still operates 10 markets in Greater Cincinnati and is investing $500,000 to $750,000 on enhancements at its Skytop and Taylor Mill locations while also investing in new e-commerce opportunities.

JEDZ performs well for Columbia Township

finding your wayA new economic-development tool in Columbia Township is performing well.

Township officials had projected a new business tax connected to its joint economic-development zone with Fairfax would produce about $706,000 annually for economic-development efforts, and it produced $760,000 in 2015.

“The JEDZ performance is critical to the delivery of services and economic development aid and assistance provided to current and new businesses considering Columbia Township,” township Administrator Michael Lemon said.

“It is generating new opportunities that will help assure the viability and sustainability of our community for the future.

“It played a significant role in bringing the new CBT headquarters to the township last year and we hope to use it to bring additional businesses through creative partnerships as we move forward,” Lemon said.

The CBT Co. is moving its headquarters from downtown Cincinnati to the former Kmart site at 5500 Ridge Ave. in Columbia Township – and bringing 120 employees with it.

Columbia Township agreed to issue up to $2.85 million in revenue bonds to help CBT build a 95,000-square-foot facility with 55,000 square feet of warehouse space and 40,000 square feet of office space.

CBT, which supplies automation, power transmission, electrical, belting and pneumatic products and services, will pay the township back over the next 30 years in lieu of paying property taxes.

Columbia Township expects to receive about $50,000 for each of the first 10 years from CBT and $100,000 a year after that, but the sums are dependent upon the number of jobs created and their salaries.

CBT President James Stahl Jr. has said the company was disappointed that Cincinnati didn’t do anything to help keep it in that city.

With the approval of Columbia Township voters in November 2013, the township and Fairfax forged one of the last joint economic-development zone partnerships before the state outlawed the zones.

In April 2014 the partners began assessing a 1 percent income tax on people who work and businesses that operate in Columbia Township commercial areas on Wooster Pike, on Plainville Road and at Ridge and Highland avenues.

Fairfax, which is a village, gets a cut of the proceeds for collecting the income tax, which Ohio law says townships cannot do.

Meanwhile, the Columbia Township Board of Trustees has given 3 percent raises to its five full-time employees and one part-time employee.

“The increase was based upon cost-of-living and a wage survey of Center for Local Government members for similar positions and merit,” Lemon said.

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