Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Counties cope with growth

State of N.Ky. Address has population as its theme

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

Northern Kentucky's growth is good, but managing that growth would make the region better.

That was the message top county officials delivered Tuesday during the annual State of Northern Kentucky Address. Planning, officials said, can help maintain a desirable quality of life as populations grow.

• In Boone County, the long-term comprehensive plan is being updated to prepare for another big influx of new residents.

• In Kenton County, plans are under way to attract industrial development to the southern end of the county.

• In Campbell County, officials are preparing for a boom in home construction that will be triggered by a new sewage treatment plant.

"We're hopeful that (the sewer plant) is going to result in additional growth, but at the same time we're a little fearful about the pressure that's going to create," said Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery.

Sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the State of Northern Kentucky address is delivered each year by the region's three judge-executives.

The breakfast meeting drew a crowd of more than 250 to the Receptions Banquet Hall on Donaldson Road.

Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore announced the county is in negotiations to sell a Florence community center to a foundation operated by NFL star and Boone County High School graduate Shaun Alexander, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks.

The only bidder on the project was the Shaun Alexander Family Foundation, which is managed by his brother, Durran.

"We want it to remain as a community center and (the Alexanders) have committed to do that," Moore said. "Shaun and Durran grew up just a couple of blocks from the center. They are very concerned about youth being off the street, about after-school programs, some things that we probably would not have been able to do as a county."

Alexander's foundation has offered $1.8 million for the center, which is what the county paid for the property.

Moore said the potential sale of the community center follows a move toward the privatization of some county operations.

Boone County recently contracted with the Children's Home of Northern Kentucky to operate Maplewood Children's Home. Moore said the county still owns Maplewood, but is saving $450,000 a year in operating costs.

Pendery said construction of a new sewage treatment plant in Alexandria would end a state-imposed moratorium on home construction in the southern end of Campbell County. To help handle the additional traffic, U.S. 27 is going to be upgraded over the next two years.

The Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky is set to begin construction on the project this fall.

In Boone County, where the population has grown from 57,000 to 102,000 since 1990, the planning commission is updating the comprehensive plan that will help manage growth.

"We are looking at the land-use patterns and making decisions and where those new 50,000 to 75,000 people that are going to be entering our county over the next 25 years are going to live, work and play," Moore said.

"We want to make sure we look at density and compact that growth as much as possible so that we lessen the pressure for extending" roads, water and sewer lines, he said.

Kenton County Deputy Judge-executive Scott Kimmich said an "effort is under way" to make about 900 acres of land in southern Kenton County near Interstate 75 available for industrial development.

"The (Kenton County) Planning Commission is initiating their own evaluation of that land, and the (fiscal) court has been supportive of keeping that land aside for commercial and business development," said Kimmich.

Kimmich filled in for Kenton County Judge-executive Ralph Drees, who is out of the country on vacation.

Pendery, taking advantage of the bully pulpit the event offers, chided state lawmakers for not reaching a compromise and passing a state budget. For the second time in three years, lawmakers adjourned the General Assembly without passing a budget.

Pendery earlier lamented that counties, cities and schools miss out on funding and have difficulty planning future projects and spending in the absence of a two-year state pending plan.

"If futility were a sport," Pendery said, "you'd see Frankfort political figures in Athens in a medal ceremony.

"They would have a great shot at another gold (medal) if we could get synchronized political posturing accepted as an Olympic sport," Pendery said to sustained applause.

Pendery also discussed development of the Technology Triangle, a joint effort between Campbell County, Northern Kentucky University and area cities to develop a technology research park in and around NKU. A sales and development office to attract potential tenants is being readied in Fort Thomas just north of NKU.

Kimmich said counties continue to struggle with paying to maintain jails. Local officials have unsuccessfully looked to Frankfort for more money to house prisoners, but the subsidies paid by county governments continues to grow, he said.

Pendery said Campbell County is in a similar situation, and has a inmate population growing so large that a new jail is needed.



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