Sunday, October 24, 1999

City braces for cost of Elsmere jail

Police, roads among concerns

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ELSMERE — While many residents worry about their safety and property values if a new Kenton County Jail is built here, Elsmere officials want to make sure the city is financially prepared.

        City officials say Elsmere will have to explore everything from hiring more police to increasing its payroll tax and improving roads leading to the proposed jail.

        Last month, Kenton Fiscal Court chose a jail site near the Turkey Foot Acres subdivision, after considering dozens of other sites. County officials have said a new jail is needed to replace the crowded, inefficient facility near Covington's riverfront.

        “At a bare minimum, we're going to need two additional police officers when the jail is built,” said Elsmere Council Member Robert Northcutt. “When you consider their salaries, equipment, vehicles and insurance, we're looking at about $100,000 (in annual costs). Where are we going to make that up? We're not going to make that up in payroll taxes. And that's the only revenue we're going to be getting from the jail.”

        Elsmere Police Chief Timothy Greene said the jail also will require his department to offer more specialized training for officers, and possibly add police canines proficient in tracking jail escapees and sniffing out drugs.

        Mr. Northcutt said he also is concerned about losing potential industry to surrounding communities if a jail is built in the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park in Elsmere.

        “If you had to choose a site for a warehouse or light industry, would you put it in Independence, Erlanger, or Florence, or would you put it in Elsmere next to a jail?” Mr. Northcutt asked.

        “The jail's going to be using property that's set aside for industrial use, which I'm afraid might have some economic implications (for the city),” said Councilman Ralph Fields. “The surrounding property is zoned for commercial use, and it might scare some companies off from developing that area.”

        To recoup jail-related expenses and loss of revenue, Mr. Northcutt said that he may propose raising Elsmere's payroll tax. At 1 percent, he said, Elsmere's payroll tax is one of the lowest in Northern Kentucky.

        “We have to get the revenue from somewhere, and I can't see taxing (residents),” Mr. Northcutt said.

        “I don't know that raising the payroll tax is the answer,” said Councilman Donald Koop. “A jail's not going to raise that much (payroll tax revenue).”

        While Elsmere Mayor Billy Bradford said he would consider a possible payroll tax increase, he said Elsmere officials also need to seek financial help from the county or state to help cover any jail-related costs.

        “I do feel that we'll get some help one way or another,” Mr. Bradford said. He added that help could take the form of direct assistance or grants.

        Elsmere Fire Chief Paul LaFontaine, who is serving on a countywide jail commission with Mr. Bradford, said that he hasn't determined the jail's cost to the fire district.

        “I don't have any idea (on costs), until we find out the size of the jail, and the exact location,” Chief LaFontaine said. “Once we get those answers from the county, we should know what the jail will mean to the fire district.”

        Mr. Bradford said one of his chief concerns is coming up with the funds to improve the roads to the proposed jail.

        “Turkey Foot Road is about the only one going out there,” Mr. Bradford said. “The state says it's going to fix it up, but that's a long way off, to my knowledge.”


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