BY TERRY FLYNN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT -- The River Cities Downtown Plan needs a strong commitment from Cincinnati City Council to become a reality in Northern Kentucky, officials from Newport and Covington said.
The plan, a joint effort of three city managers -- Cincinnati's John Shirey, Newport's Jim Parsons and Covington's Greg Jarvis -- would promote growth and development in the downtown areas of all three cities.
But the city commissioners in Newport and Covington expressed reservations this week about immediately funding the plan, and Cincinnati council referred it to committees.
"I think they may have been a little bit premature in coming to us without a firm commitment from Cincinnati," Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli said Thursday. "We are willing to move in that direction when the time is right. But it could take months to work it out." Mr. Parsons emphasized that Newport city commissioners had in no way ruled out participation. "My board (of commissioners) just doesn't want to make a commitment until some questions are answered," he said.
Mr. Jarvis said Covington's city commission is taking "a wait-and-see attitude on what Cincinnati will do."
He said the original estimate to implement the study "was $750,000. But all three managers agreed that that was too high and would be a hard sell to the cities."
The plan calls for 50 percent of the study cost to be picked up by the private sector, with Cincinnati paying 25 percent and Newport and Covington providing 12.5 percent each.
The plan would be developed by a 20-member steering committee, 10 members appointed by Cincinnati and five each from the Northern Kentucky cities.
"The steering committee would develop the specifications we want, and then we would see a real cost figure," Mr. Parsons said. "They would have to develop a marketing plan, as well as some transportation elements."
Mr. Shirey could not be reached for comment Thursday.
"I think Cincinnati will take some time to deliberate this plan and another downtown plan proposed by (Cincinnati) Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilman Charlie Winburn," Mr. Jarvis said.
Both Mr. Parsons and Mr. Jarvis emphasized that, although Newport and Covington have accomplished some downtown development, the River Cities plan could provide a major benefit to the downtown areas through a coordinatored effort of all three cities.