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Possible Move of Chase Law to Covington, Library Board Appointment Stir Debate in Campbell Co.

A familiar topic was brought up again in the Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting on Wednesday in Alexandria as Commissioner Charlie Coleman brought light to some new information concerning the potential move of Chase Law School from its current home on the Northern Kentucky University to the Court Street in Covington. 

Coleman said that Highland Heights Mayor Greg Meyers and NKU Regent & former state representative Terry Mann met with NKU President Geoffrey Mearns about the move. Mann received a Question/Answer sheet concerning the move and gave that document to Coleman. Commissioner Coleman then read some excerpts from the Q&A. He said that it appeared that the document was prepared by Kenton County and the first question Coleman read asked what NKU would do if it occupied the space at the current Kenton County Building in downtown Covington. 

“It goes on to say, after preliminary evaluation Kenton County administration approached NKU with the concept. University leadership is interested in the idea and has agreed for further exploration,” Coleman read. 

He then asked the question of why would NKU be interested in moving to Covington. 

“An urban presence is beneficial for multiple academic programs. From informatics to health professionals to social work,” he read. “These programs and others will have the opportunity to connect with potential clients, pro bono sites and agencies. Overall, a Northern Kentucky University presence will help to elevate economic and regional development within the urban core.”

This is substantial because it shows a desire from NKU’s standpoint to relocate programs other than just Chase Law School, he said.   

“We need to be proactive and fight to keep Chase Law School and all the other programs at the University here in Campbell County. It would be a tremendous loss of revenue, especially for Highland Heights,” Coleman said.

He then went on to point out that Kenton County is already home to many of the important regional landmarks that serve the region such as the CVG Airport Board, the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, TANK, Sanitation District 1, and the Northern Kentucky Water District. He called NKU the county’s crown jewel and emphasized again the importance of keeping all academic programs there. 

“They won’t get it unless they throw a whole lot of money at them; that’s just my prediction,” said Campbell County Judge/Executive Steve Pendery about the potential move. “We don’t have the fully developed facts on that yet, but the things listed there are a possible explanation for why some folks might like to do that.”

Other notes:

Coleman also raised some objections to the appointment of Carla Landon to the Campbell County Library Board of Trustees, though he emphasized that it was nothing personal toward Landon. Coleman said that he had spoken with Landon previously that day and that he sensed that her heart was in the right place to be appointed to the board, but that he had very strong feelings against the Library Board, going as far as say that it tramples on the citizens’ liberty. 

“They refuse to answer the tax payers' questions, they refuse to let the cable board come in as we do here to record the meetings and put them on cable, among other things,” he said.

Coleman asked Landon to stand up for those things on behalf of the taxpayers, but that she was apprehensive to make any sweeping changes at first, being unfamiliar with the post.

“She was honest and said that she didn’t know about these things,” Coleman said of his conversation with Landon.  “I would like to see someone on that board that will stand up for the taxpayers.”

Commissioner Coleman was the only vote against the appointment of Landon to the Library Board and she officially became its newest member after the yes vote of the other two Commissioners Tom Lampe and Brian Painter, along with Judge Pendery. 

The fifth and final step was taken to accept a general contract bid in order to renovate the Campbell County Detention Center in order to add 32 isolation cells to the jail and will cost $6,700,000 to complete. That money will also go toward renovating the former District Court building that is now vacated. Plans to make upgrades to the jail were initiated years prior to the final resolution to begin the construction on the project, but Pendery explained how the cost of the construction to make it a reality became so high.

“Fact of the matter is that this became a lot more expensive than what we would have anticipated at the time and you can lay that at the foot of the heroin epidemic as the major reason why. All along we intended to remodel the District Court building and use it for jail purposes. That’s been in the plan for over 10 years, but the coarsening of the behavior at the jail has led to the need for the isolation beds. You have to have a jail within a jail. You have to have progressive discipline available and the ultimate penalty within the jail, the best we can do to serve the safety of the other people in the jail and employees is to isolate a prisoner,” he said.

Currently there are only five isolation cells. Pendery said that half the jail population is incarcerated on heroin charges and that these inmates are either addicts or dealers. The isolation units allow for addicted prisoners to safely detox as well. 

There were two related resolutions read and one that was passed that were put in place in order to pay for improvements for Upper Tug Fork Road that has been regularly flooded from a nearby creek that runs under the road.  The culverts in place there to protect the road from the creek are no longer the proper size to carry the water there.  County Administrator Matt Elberfeld explained that the water backs up when the region receives heavy rain which has especially frequent this spring and summer. 

The cost of the work to install new culverts to the creek under the road will cost $153,000, however, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will pay for 80 percent of that cost as part of the Emergency Road Aid Program. The first resolution was passed to authorize County staff to authorize bids for the work needed to replace the culverts and the second was a first reading to adjust the budget to reflect the changes in payments for the work.   

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor