A tower placed in Devou Park on the campus of the Children's Home of Northern Kentucky is supposed to result in annual lease payments to the home from the county, but no money has been paid since 2006.
The tower is used to transmit emergency dispatch signals and while there have been other partners in the past, the current partner is the Kenton County Fiscal Court which operates an emergency dispatch center that now includes Covington after the city ended its dispatch center in 2012.
"The Children's Home doesn't receive any lease payments in multiple years for that tower," said the home's CEO Rick Wurth. He spoke before the Fiscal Court during its meeting in Independence on Tuesday.
The tower is an older model with an expansive guidewire system and takes up "a huge portion of our campus", Wurth said. "There have been some missed opportunities for regular maintenance and repairs. Folks have said the tower has not been maintained and that the lighting is not functional as required by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)." Wurth also said the tower has suffered from wind damage.
The annual lease payment to be paid to the Children's Home is in the original amount of $1,250, and a now increased amount of $1,500. If Wurth's numbers are correct, the Home is owed roughly $10,000.
"Our home provides care to the abused population as well as to five Northern Kentucky school districts," he said. "The challenge for our home is that we do really good work. It's trying to find people who are willing to pay for it and that becomes a very big issue.
"Children's Home of Northern Kentucky is always interested in ancillary funding to fund care for these children."
Wurth asked the county on Tuesday to consider issuing a new request for proposals (RFP) to construct a new tower. "We would specifically like to know about the new state of the art towers that do not have such an expansive guidewire system," he said.
County Administrator Joe Shriver said Tuesday that there may be a way not only to build a new tower but also to generate more revenue for the Children's Home. The tower at the Kenton County Police station near Independence was replaced in 1999/2000 through an RFP process by a vendor that funded the installation completely because the vendor is now allowed to sub-lease the tower to entities such as mobile phone providers. "They're gaining access and control of the tower but once the lease is over it would revert back to the county," Shriver said.
A similar situation could be possible for the Devou Park site. "It is a very vital broadcast point," Shriver said. "Investigating a new tower is the best way to go."
The Fiscal Court voted 4-0 to initiate a new RFP process with the intent of building a new tower there.
At the police station site, the county receives $4,190.61 for the rental of the tower and $9,531.36 annually for the lease of the land, according to figures provided to The River City News on Wednesday by county treasurer Roy Cox.
The county receives no revenue from the tower at Devou Park, Shriver said. "That tower is essential to broadcasting emergency dispatch for our dispatch center and from the county's perspective, that is our main priority over revenue," Shriver said.
The county now hopes to generate similar dollar figures in Devou Park for the tower site as it does at the police station. Shriver said the lease with the Children's Home would then be renegotiated "to give them the lion's share of that new revenue".
Shriver said the ultimate goals of a new tower would be to maintain the dispatch ability from the site, replace the old guided tower with an unguided tower to free up land for the Children's Home, and to generate more revenue for the Home.
"Hopefully a rare win-win scenario for all," Shriver said.
"One of the things that happened on our side," Wurth said, "is the Children's Home's previous administrations have been sleeping on this issue. Gone are the days when our administration could be sleeping if we want to provide excellent care for some of the most vulnerable citizens of this community."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Dispatch tower in Devou Park near the Children's Home of Northern Kentucky