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Future of Walnut Hills Academy in Cold Spring uncertain as city offers alternative plan

Owner: 'It's our second home'
Posted at 1:47 PM, Mar 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-15 19:29:02-04

COLD SPRING, Ky. — After 25 years in business, a northern Kentucky daycare and learning center may close its doors by June if it cannot reach a new agreement with the city of Cold Spring.

The current Cold Spring Police Department is located on East Alexandria Pike, less than half-mile away from Walnut Hills Academy on the same stretch of road -- but the department is expanding and needs more space.

On Tuesday, city officials announced it would be terminating its lease agreement with Walnut Hills Academy, effective June 30. The city's plan is to consolidate all of its services to the central campus at 5694 East Alexandria Pike, where the daycare is located.

Walnut Hills Academy owner Beth Sparks said she has been fighting to keep the learning center in the same building.

"We are hoping that the city would reconsider, and if not hoping to find an alternate location that will serve our families," Sparks told WCPO this week.

Walnut Hills Academy is a learning center for children ages 18 months to 12 years old. The city notified Sparks about the lease termination in January, 2018, according to documents released by Mayor Angelo Penque.

"This effort was made in order to give Walnut Hills Academy 18 months to relocate the business," Penque wrote in a news release.

City officials say alternative sites were suggested but "did not meet the business requirements of Walnut Hills Academy," while also acknowledging the daycare's 25 years of service to the city.

The city cites safety, efficiency and financial responsibility for wanting to relocate the police department. City attorney Brandon Voelker said increasing the daycare's rent to market rate would introduce another viable option: constructing a police station on campus. He said the learning center's owner is currently paying half the market rate.

"What we've negotiated is to get that building at market rate which will allow income for the city to build the police -- and make it a win-win," Voelker said. "In fact the families I’ve spoken to are excited to have the police on the same site as kids would be in daycare."

Sparks did not discuss the potential for a new lease agreement with WCPO.

Sparks appears to have support with more than 600 signatures on an online petition to save Walnut Hills Academy.

In a post on the city's Facebook page, Penque invited concerned residents to a special meeting of city council to consider a long term lease with Walnut Hills Academy "that provides both market rent and also insures long term use as a child care development center," the mayor wrote on Facebook.

Read the mayor's full statement below:

The city council meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 18 at the City Building at 5694 East Alexandria Pike.

"While there has certainly been significant public comment," the mayor wrote, "this is also an example of being willing to examine alternatives and try to come up with a solution that solves issues for the City and residents who have grown to love the exceptional care their children receive from Walnut Hills."

"We love the location and it’s ideal for our families. In many ways it’s the place to be -- it’s our second home," Sparks said.