Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Jail deal prompts emergency meeting



By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

BOND HILL - Vice Mayor Alicia Reece has scheduled an emergency town hall meeting for 7 tonight to get public input on a city-county land deal that would end a 10-year fight over a proposed juvenile jail in Bond Hill.

The meeting will be held at the Avon Woods Nature Center, 4235 Paddock Road. Reece said the meeting was called in response to numerous phone calls she's received from citizens concerned about the agreement.

"If we don't move forward, we go back to court," Reece said. "I'm afraid if we go back to court ... we have a big risk of losing."

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials have been locked in a court battle since 1998 over a proposed 60-bed jail for youth at the former Mill Creek Psychiatric Center for Children. The governments seemed to be at an impasse until a proposal for a city-county land swap was put on the table.

Under the deal, Cincinnati would take ownership of the Mill Creek site - which the county owns - in exchange for three parcels of city-owned land and $300,000. Those parcels are Drake Hospital, the Hillcrest School site in Springfield Township and the B&B Parking Lot at Eggleston Avenue and Reading Road.

Hamilton County commissioners approved the deal this month. Reece said she thought the proposal would breeze through the proper city channels. Instead it is being held up by the city's planning commission.

Councilman Jim Tarbell, who sits on the planning commission, has said trading away the B&B Parking Lot should be a non-starter. The parking lot, which sits next to the Hamilton County Justice Center, is key piece of property for future downtown development, Tarbell said.

Some council members also expressed concern that the county might use the parking lot to expand the downtown jail. Council has said it does not want more jail space inside the city limits.

The planning commission will review the deal again when it meets Friday.

"This is a deal that has to get made," said Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

County Administrator David Krings and City Manager Valerie Lemmie exchanged letters this week discussing the land deal. Krings said no formal decision has been made about how the parking lot would be used.

Reece said she would push for a council vote on the deal Oct. 6 regardless of what the planning commission does.

"The deal is very important for the future of city-county relations," Heimlich said.

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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