Thursday, July 20, 2000

Library board zeroes in on site

Condemnation sought for proposed branch

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — The Campbell County Public Library District filed a petition Wednesday to begin condemnation on a former supermarket building on 6th Street, to make it the home of Newport's library branch.

        The library board had been seeking a new location for the branch for several years. In recent months, it has been unable to reach agreement with the owners of the building, at 901 East 6th St., on a price and so is seeking to use its power of eminent domain.

        The building, which is across from Newport High School, has been the home of the I-471 Antique Mall for several years and was originally built as an A&P supermarket. It is owned by Cincinnati lawyer Ralph B. Kohnen and several members of the Kohnen family.

        Mr. Kohnen said late Wednes day he was not aware of the petition but was not terribly surprised.

        “We'll just negotiate at a different level,” he said.

        Newport's branch now is in a historic building at 4th and Monmouth that was funded in 1902 by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. That edifice has become too small for the needs of the community, the library board has said.

        Some private developers and city officials have expressed interest in purchasing the old Carnegie building. The city is considering it for use as a regional history museum.

        “We probably have about two years before the library is able to move into the new location,” Newport City Manager Phil Ciafardini said Wednesday.

        “That gives the city time to work into a plan for the building and seek funding through grants and other sources. There aren't many communities blessed with a Carnegie library building.”

        If the city acquires it, it is unlikely to sell it, he added.

        “We know there have been pri vate individuals who have expressed interest in the building,” he said. “But it belongs in the public's hands and we feel we have an obligation to keep it there.”

        Attorney Michael Schulkens, who is also the Newport city attorney, filed the action on behalf of the library board. Next, a Campbell Circuit Court judge will appoint three Campbell County property owners, identified as “impartial housekeepers,” who will assess the value of the building and accompanying property.

        The housekeepers, generally people with a real estate background, will report to the court, which will authorize the assessed value. The lawsuit officially begins at that point, and the defendants are served.

        The filing also seeks a judgment confirming the condemnation and permitting the library district to assume immediate control.

        During this time, the library board and the owners can continue to negotiate a sale. If no agreement is reached, a jury will determine the property's value.


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