Sunday, January 30, 2000

Ryland ready for city building

Goal: Community center

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        RYLAND HEIGHTS — After 28 years of meeting in firehouses, living rooms and a local country and western business, Ryland Heights officials say it's about time the little town had its own city building.

        “We need a place for the city to meet,” said Ryland Heights Mayor Bob Miller.

        “But more than that, I'd like to see us build a community center — something that will serve the whole community and be available for everyone.”

        Ryland Heights, a rural, southeastern Kenton County town with a population of 345, is one of several dozen small Kentucky cities that lack their own city building, according to the Kentucky League of Cities.

        On Monday, Ryland Heights will have hand-delivered an application for $40,000 in state grant money to acquire land for its community center. The document will be among 15 Northern Kentucky applications headed to the Department for Local Government in Frankfort, which administers federal funds for land and water projects.

        “Because there's just $500,000 available for the whole state, it's a highly competitive grant,” said Ken Palisin, a development planner for the Northern Kentucky Area Development District.

        “Without the $40,000 in matching funds, (Ryland Heights) doesn't have a lot of revenue, so it'd be really tough to build a community center.”

        As a backup, Mr. Palisin said, the area development district will help Ryland Heights officials explore other grant sources and loans.

        Ryland Heights officials have a contract to purchase 13 acres off Ky. 177 (DeCoursey Pike), just north of Pruett Road, contingent upon their arranging financing.

        “If all goes well, our town will finally have an identity,” said Mr. Miller.

        If a community center is built there, the mayor also would like to develop the surrounding acreage into a park-like setting, complete with walking trails, picnic tables and parking. The picturesque overlook offers a view of several lakes and the Licking River.

        “As far as I know, we're all behind it,” Ryland Heights Commissioner Joe Glaza said of the community center. “We need a building where we can store records and important paperwork, instead of moving it from one place to another.”

        Donna Houston, whose husband, Elwood, serves on Ryland Heights City Commission, said that she and her husband were among those who lobbied for incorporation of the rural community in 1972. As a former mayor, Mrs. Houston served Ryland Heights in the days when the city commission met at the firehouse.

        “There was no heat in the winter, and you burned up in the summer,” she recalled. “And when the (fire) tones went off, you just had to stop the meeting, until it quieted down.”

        Ryland Heights' six officials now meet at the Red Barn, a non-alcoholic country and western center. They say it's not always easy to collect and duplicate city records when they're needed quickly.

        “The other day, I had to get some papers to take with us to Frankfort on this (community center) grant,” Mr. Miller said. “I had to call (the city clerk) at home at 6:30 at night, then I had to go to SupeRx to copy the paperwork.”

        Carol Mitchell, coordinator of the Kenton County Family Resource Center, said a recent parent needs survey requested more low cost, recreational opportunities for children after school and on weekends.

        Mrs. Mitchell also envisions the community center housing classes on everything from parenting to tax preparation to first aid. The new center could offer GED (General Equivalency Diploma) classes, giving adult students an alternate location from Visalia Elementary.

        “A lot of times, people who haven't been to school in a long time are hesitant about coming to a school,” Mrs. Mitchell said.

        While Ryland Heights is seeking its own municipal building, officials in Kenton Vale, a Kenton County city of 200, say they're content to meet at Jackson Florist on Madison Avenue, as they have for decades.

        “We get teased all the time about our city being so small,” said Kenton Vale Commissioner Ron Flack. “But you have to say one thing about us: We have the prettiest city building you've ever seen.”


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