Sunday, September 19, 1999

Elsmere jail site was 'last one standing'

Kenton Co. ruled out 2 other leading options

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ELSMERE — After nine months of study and consideration of more than 40 potential jail sites, a 55-acre tract in the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park “chose itself,” Kenton County officials said.

        “I don't know that this site was so great, but it was the last one standing,” said Kenton County Commissioner Adam Koenig. “I guess you could say the site chose itself.”

        Commissioner Dan Humpert compared the process to that of a search committee looking for someone to fill a key position.

        “You have 100 applicants, then you narrow it down to 20, then five,” Mr. Humpert said. “At that point, the top two guys bail (out) on you.”

        In Kenton County's case, a leading jail site at the former Decoursey Yards in Taylor Mill was recently ruled out because of an unwilling seller and the high cost of developing it.

        Another promising site near Interstate 275 and Ky. 17 in Covington — a former auto parts junkyard from 1963 through 1973 — was eliminated, after an engineer's analysis found extensive environmental contamination.

        Through the excavation of 22 test pits, David E. Estes Engineering Inc. found evidence of petroleum, lead and a number of chemical compounds in concentrations up to nine times the allowable levels.

        In contrast, the Elsmere site lacked the environmental problems and the high development costs of the other two leading sites, county officials said.

        “It's true that the others were eliminated, but it just so happened that that particular site carried a number of advantages,” said Commissioner Barb Black. “It was the lowest cost to purchase, it offered the possibility of expansion, it had the infrastructure, it was a fairly flat piece of land, and it had a willing seller.”

        She added the Elsmere site also is closer to Kenton County's second largest city of Erlanger, as well as the rapidly growing city of Independence.

        Kenton Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd acknowledged the Elsmere site will increase Covington's travel time, as well as the jailer's cost of transporting prisoners back to Covington for trial.

        “However, the expanded use of video arraignment, and the plans to reconstruct Turkey Foot Road and Garvey Avenue will substantially improve the transportation concerns with this site,” he said.

        While disappointed with the county's choice of a jail site, Elsmere Mayor Billy Bradford said that he intends to make the best of it.

        “The (I-275, Ky. 17) site was so ideal, so centrally located,” he said. “But we intend on making a positive thing of it, if it's going to be here.”

        Mr. Bradford said that his next step will likely be to form a committee to work with county officials and ensure that Elsmere's concerns are addressed as the jail is developed.

        “Now that it's in our ballpark, we want to do whatever we can to make it work right,” he said.


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