Wednesday, May 02, 2001

Jail flap

Present location is no crime

        Here's an idea: Let's stick the new jail on a barge and send it up and down the river all day. Who would complain then? The inmates would be out of sight and Kenton County officials could stop worrying about re-election.

        Seriously, this is getting silly. One proposal after another has been shot down, as if somewhere there exists the perfect location for a new jail, if only the Fiscal Court could slip it by the neighbors.

        The indecision has me yearning for that swashbuckler Rodney “Biz” Cain, who surely would have built the thing by now.

        Remember Biz? Appointed interim judge-executive in 1998, he made selecting a new jail site his primary goal. (County officials had only been talking about it for 15 years.)

Heming and hawing

        In nine months under Mr. Cain's leadership, the Fiscal Court reviewed 40 sites and recommended one — on 3L Highway in Covington — before leaving office.

        The 3L spot looked ideal. Easy to reach, surrounded by open land and industrial-type businesses. But a few Edgewood homeowners could have seen the new jail in the distance, and they squawked. The site's environmental complications gave the commissioners a convenient way out.

        Since then, the Fiscal Court has hemmed and hawed. A harebrained idea to stick the jail in the middle of an Elsmere neighborhood was wisely nixed. Then the court proposed keeping the jail where it was, only with a $27 million expansion.

        Here's where the dummies come in.

        To protest an expanded jail at Third and Court streets — a few blocks from the riverfront, convention center and hotels — businesspeople started propping stuffed criminals in their windows.

        This ought to be proof enough that a jail doesn't scare away customers. With their black-and-white stripes and floppy limbs, the dummies were a lot creepier than the real thing.

        Still, people hollered about the threat to development. Now the Fiscal Court is considering yet another alternative.

Downtown is logical

        I don't understand the problem with the downtown location. The jail is already there. It's one block from the courthouse, which is ideal. That's why most cities have their jails downtown.

        In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where I used to live, the Broward County Jail is across from the courthouse, along a picturesque river and about two blocks from a swanky boulevard that features exclusive shops and my favorite sushi place.

        Indianapolis' jail is across from the courthouse and catty-corner from the fieldhouse where the Pacers play basketball. A Days Inn is about one block away, a jail employee told me.

        And in Cleveland, both the county and city jails are within a half-mile of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center and the football stadium.

        Geographically, those tourist attractions are separated from the jail complex by a hill and a four-lane highway, says Kelly McGlumphy, a spokeswoman for the rock museum. But just a few blocks from the jail is the revitalized warehouse district, home to Cleveland's hottest nightspots, she says.

        The jail hasn't stopped development. “It just happens to be there,” Ms. McGlumphy says.

        Kenton County's Fiscal Court needs to get busy so that we can one day say the same.

       Karen Samples can be reached at (859) 578-5584 or


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