Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Kenton approves jail, site unseen

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — Kenton County should replace its inefficient multistory jail in Covington with a 576-bed, low-rise facility somewhere in the county, Kenton Fiscal Court agreed Tuesday.

        But Commissioner Barb Black cautioned that “low-rise is the way to go, only if (coun ty officials) can find a site that isn't too costly.”

        By the April 6 fiscal court meeting, Kenton Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd asked county staff to examine all potential jail sites and determine which are suitable for a low-rise facility.

        Building a low-rise jail on 20 to 30 acres would provide room for future expansion, if needed, County Project Man ager Rob Thrun said.

        And while it would cost more to build a new jail than to renovate the existing one in the county building, operating costs would be lower, Mr. Thrun has said.

        “It's obviously the most affordable alternative and the most efficient,” Commissioner Adam Koenig said of the low-rise design. “We would have a facility that would last us for decades to come.”

        If the fiscal court members decide that none of the sites suitable for a low-rise facility is cost effective, because of infrastructure improvements or site development, they informally agreed to look into building a midrise, or a six- or seven-story jail.

        While county officials did not specify where the jail should be built, their choice of a low-rise design leaves a controversial site at Interstate 275 and Ky. 17 in the running.

        In December, the outgoing Kenton Fiscal Court endorsed the site, which is on the southeast side of Ky. 17, or the 3L Highway.

        While the present fiscal court members are not bound by their predecessors' vote, Edgewood residents say they have collected more than 2,000 signatures on petitions opposing the 3L site. The property is actually in Covington, but opponents of the site are concerned that it is near homes on Dudley Road in Edgewood.

        Opponents of the 3L site have scheduled a rally for 1 p.m. April 24 in Presidents Park in Edgewood.

        “It's basically to educate the public and to show support for our cause, which is to find another site for the jail,” said Edgewood resident Rob Schutzman.

        Many Edgewood residents oppose building a jail at the 3L site because of the cost of infrastructure improvements, concerns about the cost and security of transporting prisoners to and from the site to the Kenton County Justice Center near Covington's riverfront, and worries that it would discourage business development in the area.

        On Tuesday, Covington resident Craig Bohman asked the fiscal court to consider the loss of revenue to a community, if the chosen jail site takes any businesses.

        But several Edgewood residents also asked county officials to consider the effect on residential property values, if a jail is built near their city.

        Mr. Murgatroyd said that residents' input will be considered, when county officials ultimately decide where to build a jail. He has set a tentative date of May 1 for a public hearing.

        In a related matter, Mr. Thrun announced Tuesday that he is leaving his three-year county job on July 1 to work for Al Neyer Inc. contractors, as a vice president of architecture and engineering.

        From mid-May until July 1, Mr. Thrun said that he will work for Kenton County on a part-time basis to help with the jail project and oversee the court operations' move to the new Kenton County Justice Center.


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