Friday, May 04, 2001

Peaselburg jail backers collect comments

By E.K. Meister
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — About 200 people poured into First District School on Thursday night expecting a meeting to discuss a proposal by Southbank Partners for a new Kenton County Jail in Peaselburg.

        Instead, greeters from Southbank Partners, an economic development group, gave them comment sheets and directions to read information boards set up in the auditorium.

        Tuesday's session was the most recent step in a three-year process of locating space for more jail capacity in Kenton County. After Fiscal Court in December approved an expansion of the jail in downtown Covington, a “Stop the Jail” movement of business owners, residents and politicians protested. Southbank held Tuesday's meeting to offer a view of its alternate site in the Peaselburg neighborhood.

        The information placards stated what Southbank Partners believe to be the best two solutions — expanding the current jail at 303 Court St., or building a county government center and new jail on Hewson Street.

        Larry Huston, a Covington resident and founder of the “Stop the Jail” group, said two previous sites — in Taylor Mill and in Edgewood on 3-L Highway — weren't even mentioned. “Edgewood said no to 3-L Highway, and Taylor Mill said no, too. Now they're ramming it down our throats,” he said.

        Southbank president Wally Pagan said the group selected Thursday's format so members could present facts and get comments. Few residents seemed satisfied.

        Millie Wells of Covington, who lives half a block from the Peaselburg site, said she's concerned about safety. “There are seven babies living right around my block. We don't want it here. They started the jail down there (at 303 Court St.), and they should keep it down there,” Ms. Wells said.

        Don Kaiser, another Peaselburg resident, said he thinks the jail could compromise the neighborhood's economic growth. “I don't want to see another vital working-class neighborhood turned into a slum,” Mr. Kaiser said.

        Mr. Huston said he thinks the best solution is to join with Boone County's jail project and build a regional facility.

        No Kenton County Fiscal Court officials or Covington City Council members at the meeting would say what solution they prefer.

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