Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Kenton Co. OKs $71.1M budget



By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Improvements to county roads, new mobile data terminal units for police cruisers, and consolidation of city and county animal control operations are called for in Kenton County's new budget.

Kenton Fiscal Court gave initial approval to the proposed $71.1 million budget Tuesday. Kenton County Judge-Executive Dick Murgatroyd said the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is a $5.8 million increase over the current one. It includes $32.4 million in general fund dollars.

The new budget also includes $800,000 for renovation of the crowded county jail near Covington's Ohio Riverfront.

That project includes improvements to the security system, modifications to the booking area and remodeling of an under-used dorm now housing the state's non-violent Class D prisoners.

The remodeling will allow the jail to move 60 misdemeanor prisoners now held in the jail's crowded, more secure upper floors.

"These improvements are short term improvements, and they, in no way, eliminate the need for a new detention facility," Murgatroyd said.

County officials have said they want to build a new jail. However, they are awaiting a ruling from the Kentucky Supreme Court on the legality of a disputed payroll tax increase that would pay for it.

Final approval of the budget is expected at the fiscal court's June 10 meeting at the county courthouse in Independence.

Besides the jail improvements, an $8.5 million bond issue that would be repaid over the next decade will finance a number of projects including:

$5 million in road repairs and improvements: Of that, the county will spend $3 million to repair roads that are slipping off hillsides, instead of doing temporary patching.

The county also will split the cost of the $1.1 million reconstruction of a one-mile stretch of Garvey Road with the city of Elsmere. That project is designed to remove dangerous curves and open about 350 acres for industrial and commercial development, Murgatroyd said.

The soon-to-be-finished Kenton County Master Transportation Plan, which addresses traffic needs for the next 30 years, also calls for $145,000 for the Dixie Highway corridor study.

The purchase of 170 to 185 mobile data terminals for county police departments with $2.5 million in bonds and a $1 million federal grant. The terminals will let officers do vehicle and license checks from cars instantly and enter information electronically.

The cities that use Kenton County's dispatching system will help retire the bonds, based on the number of mobile data terminals serving their communities.

"These will save officers time and increase efficiency,'' said Scott Kimmich, Kenton County deputy judge-executive.

The county also is reorganizing animal control operations.

All Kenton County cities except Covington now pay $1.35 per resident for two officers in the Kenton County Dog Authority, a city-operated group that handles animal control, Kimmich said.

That program will be consolidated into the county police department and its animal control officers will increase from two full-time and one part-time person to four full-time officers.

The reorganization will improve service at no cost to cities, Kimmich said.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com




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