Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Newport OKs sale of water works

$8M profit expected

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — City commissioners Monday night unanimously agreed to negotiate the sale of the Newport water system to the Northern Kentucky Water District for $17.1 million.

        If the sale is finalized, as the city expects, Newport will realize more than $8 million when the water system's debts are paid.

        “This gives the city the opportunity to do things we would not otherwise be able to do,” said Mayor Tom Guidugli. “This will give us the money to accomplish things for the citizens of Newport we've never had in the coffers before.”

        The city sought to sell the water system two years ago, but when the issue was placed on the ballot in November 1999 it was voted down by residents. Since then, state law has changed and the city government can negotiate the sale without voter approval.

        City Commissioner Jerry Peluso said he thinks it's imperative that the city “set aside a portion of the money from the sale, maybe $1.5 million, as a rainy day type of fund that would earn interest and only be used for something specifically for the citizens of the city. I think we need to be very careful how we use this money.”

        There appeared to be a consensus of the commission members that a portion of the money realized from the sale would be set aside. “I think it's pretty clear the board is in favor of that,” the mayor said.

        Three public meetings were held to get citizen input on the proposed sale, but only 32 people total turned out last Thursday, Saturday and at a meeting prior to Monday's commission session.

        “I wanted to make sure the citizens had the opportunity to know what was happening and comment, but the turnout for the meetings answered that for me,” Commissioner Jan Knepshield said.

        City Manager Phil Ciafardini now will meet with

        officials of the Northern Kentucky Water District to work out final details of the sale. He expects the contract to be ready in two weeks.

        If the commission had not approved the sale of the water system, Newport residents and other water system customers were facing a 55 percent increase in rates beginning in October, to cover needed upgrades in the system.

No parking on Park Ave.

               The commissioners were divided on another issue Monday night, but a plan to eliminate parking on Park Avenue from Third Street to Dave Cowens Drive where traffic feeds in from I-471 was approved.

        Ms. Fennell and Mr. Peluso were opposed to the proposal, which eliminates on-street parking in that segment of Park Avenue but creates 10-12 resident parking spaces on Alering Way, an alley that runs off Park Avenue just below the I-471 off-ramp.

        “I have just tonight seen this new proposal, and I want more time to study it,” Ms. Fennell said in voting no. Mr. Knepshield and Commissioner Ken Rechtin voted with Mr. Guidugli to approve the project.

        The proposal calls for two 11-foot traffic lanes north on Park from the exit ramp, with three-foot-wide areas out from the curb marked off on each side of the street to keep traffic to the middle.

        Mr. Ciafardini explained that the elimination of parking on Park Avenue was primarily a safety measure. Increased traffic flow off I-471 to Dave Cowens Drive is expected with the opening of Newport on the Levee Oct. 4. One of the main entrances to the Levee parking garage is at Cowens Drive and Washington Street, two blocks from Cowens and Park.


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