Wednesday, July 26, 2000

N.Ky. feeling growing pains

Address examines risks, challenges of rapid growth

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CRESTVIEW HILLS — At least for the next year or so, Northern Kentuckians will continue feeling the pangs of growth — higher taxes for new jails, sewers and wastewater plants; dwindling public green space for parks and recreation, and growing traffic snarls from road construction.

        Questions about how to manage these growth pains, and the public's increasing weariness of it all, dominated the 10th Annual State of Northern Kentucky Address on Tuesday.

        Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore, Kenton County Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd, and Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery spoke to a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce gathering of about 275 at Four Seasons Country Club in Crestview Hills.

        The county leaders acknowledged the challenges and risks of rapid growth.

        “One thing we continue to work on is managing growth in our county,” said Mr. Moore, of Boone County. “It's something we are going to continue to strive for.”

        Among the issues are :

        • Jails. Kenton County has been trying to find a location for a new county jail, but resistance by residents in Edgewood and Elsmere to sites in those areas has left the county without a place for the badly needed jail.

        In addition, though the Kenton County Fiscal Court has approved paying for the $35 million jail with a county payroll tax increase, it's still unclear how much that could raise. There are legal questions about whether the tax can be collected in cities that have an existing payroll tax, so the county has suspended looking for a new jail site until those questions are answered, Mr. Murgatroyd said Tuesday.

        Boone County is also exploring where to build a new jail.

        • Sewage. Residents and some city officials are opposing a plan by the Sanitation District of Northern Kentucky to raise sewage treatment rates. The increase must be approved by the judge executives, which is expected to happen at a meeting Monday.

        Mr. Pendery said sewer rates have not been increased in 21 years.

        Meanwhile, residents of Boone County are fighting plans for a large sewage treatment plant along the Ohio River in the western edge of the county. And Sanitation District officials are now looking for a location to build another treatment plant in Campbell County.

        • Traffic. Even without construction, Northern Kentucky's major roads are growing more crowded every year.

        One solution the federal government is studying is construction of a light rail system that could cost as much as $1 billion. It would move passengers north from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport through Covington and on to Cincinnati.

        But, Mr. Murgatroyd said, it will be difficult convincing local residents that county and city tax dollars should help pay for such a large-scale transit system.

        Despite the problems that growth brings, the counties' fortunes continue to rise on new economic development.

        Boone County's budget of $70 million, fueled largely by new businesses and residents, is enabling the county to build new parks in Hebron and Union while planning for a swimming pool and aquatic center in Florence.

        “And we're doing these things while at the same time rolling back property taxes,” Mr. Moore said.

        Meanwhile, in Campbell County, which has roughly the same population as Boone County, the annual budget is just $20 million, Mr. Pendery said.

        “The business community is under-developed compared to Kenton and Boone counties,” he said. “We don't have as much money to spend on our residents as they do in Boone and Kenton counties.”

        Even though Campbell County lags behind, Mr. Pendery said, the county fiscal court is struggling to control encroaching development in the mostly rural south end of the county.


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