Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Kenton library selects Nicholson for new branch


Board rejects offer from Independence Town Center

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A $6 million branch of the Kenton County Library will be built in the small southern Kenton County community of Nicholson.

The Kenton County Public Library Board of Trustees announced the site of the new branch Tuesday after its monthly meeting. It will be built south of Independence on Walton-Nicholson Road near the intersection of Madison Pike (Ky. 17) and Taylor Mill Road (Ky. 16).

The library board will pay $700,000 for the land, said Trustee Milton Mains, who headed a site-selection committee that scouted nearly 100 locations.

"We have taken great care in selecting this site so it will meet the needs of residents now and for years to come," said board President John Toelke. "We are going to build a state-of-the-art library to meet the informational, recreational and educational needs of all Kenton Countians."

The board did some hear criticism from people who want the library built in Independence, the population center of southern Kenton County.

The Deters family suggested the library be built in the Independence Town Center shopping center. It has not only retail stores and restaurants but is also close to a park, senior citizens center, schools and city government center.

In a letter to the board, Deters said the library could purchase two lots in the center for $675,000.

"I would discount each (of the lots) $100,000 as a contribution to the public use of the site for a library," Deters said in his letter. "From a financial point of view, it makes no difference to me if the library locates on this site or not.

"The town center will continue to develop and someone will purchase the lots for the full price," Deters said. "My interest is in the appropriate planning process."

Mains said that, while Deters' site was attractive, it did not serve the library's needs.

The library needs more room for future expansions and a basement for storage. Mains said the basement was not available at the Town Center and the potential for growth could be limited by the future development of the shopping center.

Deters' son, Eric, a lawyer, attended Tuesday's meeting. He addressed the board, he said, not as Charlie Deters' son but as a private citizen and taxpayer concerned with library's decision.

He also said the trustees made their decision without appropriate public input, and he is likely to file a lawsuit that challenges the site-selection process.

"I'm shocked you didn't have public comment before spending $700,000," Deters told the trustees.

"It's a travesty. It's not right."

Deters said the board erred when building the original Independence branch by making it too small and too far away from the center of the city. The existing branch is on Taylor Mill Road.

"This is another mistake," he said.

Toelke said the board has been discussing the new branch for more than two years in open meetings.

"This was an open process," Toelke said. "There was no subterfuge."

Independence resident Joanne Cobble said she had hoped the library could have been built in what she described as the historic center of Independence, a stretch of Madison Pike where the Kenton County Courthouse is located.

But Toelke said land was not available in that area.

Planning for branch is expected to take about nine months with completion set for late 2006. The board through June 14 will accept suggestions from the public on what the new library should include.

Suggestion cards will be available in other Kenton County Library locations and through the library's Web site, www.kenton.lib.ky.us.

"This is a wonderful way for the community to become involved in planning their new library," said Library Director Wayne Onkst.

In a statement the library board said the new branch will "have a larger children's area with a separate area for programs, more space for computers, a larger meeting room that can be used by community groups, more space for materials and more comfortable seating for visitors."

The new branch will replace the Independence Branch Library in Taylor Mill, which trustees said is too small to meet the community's needs.

Since 1996 the Independence branch has grown from 97,000 visitors to 170,233 visitors, a 75 percent increase.

E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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