Wednesday, June 20, 2001

One of two Covington sites favored for jail

But consultants don't make overall choice

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        INDEPENDENCE — The Southbank Partners report at Tuesday's Kenton County Fiscal Court meeting made no recommendations for a site for the new Kenton County Jail, but one of two Covington sites nevertheless got a boost.

        Southbank president Wally Pagan spent nearly an hour outlining the results of his agency's study. The verdict: a 550- to 570-bed jail could work on Hewson Street near 12th Street and Interstate 75; as well as the county's choice to renovate the current site at the county Courthouse.

        Mr. Pagan cited further evidence in favor of Hewson Street: a May 3 meeting with various county and regional leaders.

        “All those departments agreed this could be used for a facility,” Mr. Pagan said.

        Mr. Pagan cited several reasons to consider Hewson Street: just $3 million to acquire land; closeness to the downtown justice center; potential for future expansion; good access to major roads; and little inconvenience to the public during construction.

Drawbacks remain

        But there were negatives, too: the city of Covington favors a site on 3L Highway on the southern edge of town and is opposed to both Hewson Street and the Courthouse site; opposition by neighbors; and just one main entrance, possibly on 12th Street, though Mr. Pagan said an emergency exit would also be in place.

        The Courthouse had good and bad points as well.

        The county already owns the building and the jail is a block from the county justice center.

        The negatives: traffic congestion during renovation; difficulty in expansion; and public perception that a jail should not be the first thing visitors should see when entering Covington from the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

        County Jailer Terry Carl said the facility now holds 363 inmates, 31 more than its 332 capacity. He said an other 25 state prisoners were sent Friday to facilities in Hart and Marion counties.

        Neither Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd nor commissioners Dan Humpert, Barb Black and Adam Koenig were ready to act on the Southbank report, but they agreed on one thing - the new jail would house primarily inmates waiting for their trials and not state prisoners already convicted. “We're not building a long-term facility,” Mr. Murgatroyd said.

        Mr. Humpert said he is frustrated with Covington officials' continuing to favor the 3L site, even though he claims Mayor Butch Callery and Assistant City Manager Tom Steidel have known about the disadvantages since January.

Callery likes 3L site

        Mr. Callery said the only reason the county doesn't like the 3L site is because residents in neighboring Edgewood complained. He said the city could have cleaned up the 3L for $65,000 and the county could build an extra courtroom to relieve transportation problems.

        “(The 3L is) the best site of all the ones I've looked at,” Mr. Callery said. “It's central to all the police departments in Kenton County.”


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