Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Newport wants river museum

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — A museum dedicated to the Ohio River and its history is in Newport's future, if the city can come up with the necessary money to buy the Newport library branch building.

        City commissioners Mon day approved the administration's plan to apply for $400,000 in federal TEA-21 (Transportation Enhancement Act) Renaissance funds to buy the building at Fourth and Monmouth streets. It would be converted from a library to a museum detailing the river's history in this area, as well as the history of the city. It would also serve as a welcome center.

        The building was constructed at the turn of the last century by the Carnegie Foundation, one of many Carnegie library buildings that went up around the country with the support of millionaire steel baron Andrew Carnegie.

        “We're asking for $400,000, and the city would match it with $100,000,” City Manager Phil Ciafardini explained at Monday night's city commission meeting. “To apply for these funds, we had to pick a project within the city's Renaissance area.”

        The Campbell County Public Library Board, which operates the Newport branch as well as branches in Fort Thomas and Cold Spring, is in the initial stages of building a Newport branch on Sixth Street across from Newport High School and near Interstate 471.

        “The board members have said they want the city to buy the building for a public use,” Mr. Ciafardini said. “In fact, it must be maintained for a public use under terms of the deed.”

        The property is just a block from Newport on the Levee and the Newport

        Aquarium, as well as the World Peace Bell and the Campbell County Courthouse.

        Mayor Tom Guidugli pointed out that the prime location of the Carnegie library building “presents a good opportunity to get some revenue there. It would naturally attract tourists who were also visiting the other attractions.”

        City Commissioner Ken Rechtin, while applauding the proposal, urged that the city “proceed carefully with this. It's well-known that it's difficult to make any profit with a museum, and many of them are black holes for money.”

        Commissioner Jan Knepshield said someone had already come forward and offered to donate a large collection of river-related artifacts and memorabilia to a museum in Newport.

        “I can't identify the person right now, but I can say it would be a substantial asset to a museum,” he said.

        TEA-21 applications must be filed by Feb. 6. Mr. Ciafardini said the city also is applying for $3 million in TEA-21 funds to develop a proposed Riverfront Park project on the site of the former Barleycorns restaurant below the aquarium.

        “We feel this is a strong application because the Riverfront Park plan calls for pedestrian access that would connect several walkways and both the Taylor Southgate and L&N bridges, as well as a walkway along the river itself,” he said.

        Mr. Rechtin said he felt the city should look at less expensive alternatives to a river park format.

        “We made a commitment as a commission to take care of our existing city parks and upgrade them,” he said. “I think we must consider that first.”

        Mr. Guidugli emphasized that “plans for the neighborhood parks will move forward, with money from the general fund. That hasn't changed. But this funding is available for a park on the riverfront that isn't available for neighborhood parks. I think we need to take bold steps and see if we get the money.”


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