Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Book Celebrates a Kentucky Christmas

Jennifer Sierra will sign her book at The Blue Marble in Fort Thomas on December 17. 
By Robin Gee

Jennifer Sierra’s Merry Christmas, Y'all takes readers young and old on a holiday tour through beloved locales and some surprising finds across Kentucky. Readers ride along with Santa as he travels throughout the state collecting items made by Kentucky elves.

When she could not find a Kentucky-themed holiday book for her daughter, Sierra decided to create the book herself. As a fine artist and illustrator, she says she had a clear vision of how she wanted the book to look and feel from the start.

The most fun, she says, is sharing that vision and learning how much her idea has touched readers.

With Dr. Suess-like rhymes, Santa's journey features places and goods that make Kentucky special including the Newport Aquarium, Rebecca Ruth’s candy, Floyd County coal mines, the Corvette Museum and the home of Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Fort Thomas Police Officer, Zac Rohlfer, Goes Above Call of Duty

It's been a pretty soggy few days.

We're approaching winter and our weather isn't supposed to be good, but it's always tough for me to get used to the cold and dark winter days.

Today, through the rainy weather, I saw something that made me smile.

Fort Thomas Police officer, Zac Rohlfer, was caught in a random act of kindness.

Postmaster’s Lesson: Return to Sender, From Santa

Jeremy Donelan. Courtesy of Jeremy Donelan

Jeremy Donelan, the Postmaster in California, Kentucky, keeps the spirit of Christmas alive in his office.  He knows that Santa needs a little help so he offers a helping hand when he can. To be more specific, he lends his letter writing skills.

Jeremy began writing letters when he became the postmaster. This is his third year in the position and he is looking forward to another busy season answering letters to Santa.

Jeremy says, Two years ago we got some Santa letters. I asked one of our senior members about them. She said that there used to be a place in downtown where you could send them for responses. But I don’t know if they do much of that anymore. Anyway, we would put the letters in an envelope and send them downtown and maybe they would get to them. They were never sure if the children got a response. 

This person also said that we use to have these little red postcards that we would send. It was a nice little form letter saying ‘Dear (Child’s Name), Thank you for the letter, blah, blah, blah. Santa’s working really hard.’ You know, that whole spiel.  So I found these little postcards and they were faded and pretty gross. I thought that we needed something better than that.  No matter the sentiment, he thought it would be awful to send a faded and impersonal post card to a child.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Bourbon and Broad in Newport Closes Permanently

Birk's Bar, also on Monmouth St., closes 
Bourbon and Broad, Facebook. 
Bourbon and Broad, a restaurant and bar located at 828 Monmouth Street in Newport, has closed.

Described on their Facebook page as a "taste of Louisiana, a sip of Kentucky (and) sound of Tennessee," they shut their doors permanently on November 30.

Opening on New Year's Eve 2014 in the same space known as Little Nashville, the closure of Bourbon and Broad marks a number of high profile closures in Newport over the last two month.

Previously, Dick's Last Resort and Arnie's on the Levee both closed on October 30. 15 North Pizza also closed recently on November 30. 

Owner Michael Cefaratti, who had previously toured the U.S. under the name Cef Michael for three and a half years playing his own music, said that their summer business was down 60-80%. He said that there was a lack of foot traffic on Monmouth Street, which led to the decision to close.

"We had so many obstacles to overcome. Eventually we sadly realized it was too much," he said. "We built a beautiful patio, only to be told we couldn't have live music outside."

Cefaratti said that he also acquired 830 Monmouth Street in a lease-purchase agreement, formerly Shortneck's bar, which is now being used to store restaurant equipment.

"Our eventual goal was to try to combine the two buildings," he said. "I truly bought into the whole 'Bring Monmouth Back' slogan and that's why we acquired the building next door.  If we would have been able to do what we envisioned, Bourbon and Broad could have been an incredible anchor for the south end of the street."
Cefaratti said his goal was to combine 828 and 830 Monmouth St. to create a large footprint. The two buildings formerly housed Shortnecks and Bourbon and Broad. They are now both closed. Via Google.

Cefaratti addressed the closure of Bourbon and Broad on his Facebook page last week, in more detail. This was part of his message:

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Fort Thomas Residents, Schools Will Sit on Sullivan University Board

Highlands Principal, Brian Robinson. FTM file. 
Sullivan University Center for Learning-Northern Kentucky has formed a local advisory board that includes more than 30 of the region’s top business, education and government leaders.

The Sullivan University Northern Kentucky Advisory Board has a mission of providing input, insight and direction to administrators, faculty and staff as Sullivan University focuses on development education programs and initiatives that will reflect and respond to community and workforce needs.

"The Sullivan University Center for Learning-Northern Kentucky has assembled a team of local thought leaders who have tremendous knowledge of the region and who will be invaluable helping us pinpoint and fine-tune our education offerings to Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio students and employers," said Dr. Vicki Berling, director of the Center for Learning-Northern Kentucky.

The first meeting of the Advisory Board is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1, in Covington.
Many of the Advisory Board members are leaders in the industries and professions that Sullivan University is focusing on in Northern Kentucky: Logistics and Transportation Management; Business Administration; Healthcare Management; Hospitality Management; Conflict Management; as well as all of the outstanding online programs offered by Sullivan University.

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Sullivan University expertise and experience in Hospitality Management includes its renowned National Center for Hospitality Studies, which will provide an education, training and workforce boost to the region’s $400 million tourism and hospitality industry, said Eric Summe, President and CEO of meetNKY/Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“With a long and successful history in hospitality education and with a local emphasis on hospitality management sources, Sullivan University’s presence in Northern Kentucky will help ensure a pipeline of future employees and managers for the region’s booming hospitality industry,” Summe said.

Jerry Schmits of Fort Thomas, recently named President and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, said he wanted to be part of the Advisory Board to work with Sullivan and other Northern Kentucky leaders on a curriculum and programs that will truly met the needs of students and employers.

More Apartment Buildings Being Built in Fort Thomas

60 more units being built within the Fort Thomas School District 
Construction on the sixth of ten apartment buildings has started at the site off of Memorial Parkway in Fort Thomas. FTM file. 
More apartment buildings are on its way to Fort Thomas, which will be completed by April and will start leasing in January.

In 1973 the Planning and Zoning Commission in Fort Thomas signed off on a proposal that would allow for construction of multiple apartment buildings to be built off of Memorial Parkway. In 1984 construction got started. 

The original plan included eight, 12-unit buildings totaling 96-units. 

In March 2000, Wessels Construction restarted plans with a site plan approved for nine 12-unit buildings in addition to the existing structure built in 1984 for a total of 120 units. Things began to pickup in 2007 when, according to Bernie Wessels, owner of Wessels Construction, the economy became a sticking point.
Campbell County YMCA. This is an advertisement. 

"We want nothing more than to get started for the citizens of Fort Thomas. We have already committed a significant outlay of capital to the project." Wessels said in 2009. "It's on hold, but it's something that will get done." 

In 2015 market conditions were favorable and Wessels began construction of four more apartment units, consisting of one and two bedrooms.  A left hand turn lane, southbound, was constructed as well as a sidewalk along the frontage of Memorial Parkway that connects the previously constructed sidewalk on both sides leading to this property.

Memorial Village Apartments were rebranded as The Overlook and given a new street name: Oakwood Drive. 

Wessels told Fort Thomas Matters that the four new units are 100% occupied.

"They are doing very well. We have great tenants who filled the units quickly," he said.

The Overlook was given that name, according to Bernie Wessels, because of the view it has of downtown Cincinnati, which can be seen in the background of this picture. FTM file. 
He said that with the demand, they've made the decision to continue with the second phase of construction and build the remaining five apartment buildings, which would complete the original site plan developed over thirty years ago. 

Construction on unit number six is currently nearing completion. Rents for one-bedrooms go for $890, while two-bedrooms run around $990. 

But while this is all good news for Wessels Construction, Fort Thomas Independent Schools are monitoring the situation closely. 

Oakwood Drive is in the school district, with elementary school kids living within the confines of Johnson Elementary and middle and high school students matriculating to Highlands Middle and Highlands High School, respectively. 

Superintendent, Gene Kirchner, said that to date, the schools haven't had much impact. 

"We have been monitoring the progress of the apartments very closely since the development broke ground," he said. "Thus far, the school district has seen very little impact on student enrollment from the units which are finished and occupied."

School officials have said that the district can generally handle around 25 new students per school year, but have been receiving around 100 students over the last several years due to populations cycles. 

Moyer Elementary's population has exploded. The school, which was below Johnson Elementary in terms of need of new facilities, was granted money by the state of Kentucky to start construction on a new school because of that growth in student enrollment. 

School officials are hopeful that Johnson Elementary will receive funding as part of the 2018 Kentucky budget. 

Until then, 60 more one and two bedroom units are slated to be built on the site. 

"Things of course could change as additional units are completed," said Kirchner. "However, we don’t anticipate a significant increase in student enrollment as a result of this development." 

FTM file. 

Fort Thomas Residents Offer Program to Jumpstart Overall Wellness

Fort Thomas resident Diane Beach wants to help you jumpstart healthier living with Arbonne's 30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond program.

In addition to finding balance in her personal and professional life through Arbonne, Diane Walkenhorst Beach also has the joy of helping clients change their lives in positive ways.

For more than three decades Arbonne has offered vegan-certified beauty, healthy and wellness products via independent consultants. As an Arbonne independent consultant, Beach and the consultants on her team are considered the go-to people in Fort Thomas for Arbonne products.

While many clients regularly stock up on Energy Fizz Sticks and It's a Long Story Mascara, several Northern Kentucky residents have lost weight and improved their health immensely through Arbonne's highly successful 30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond program.

While many of us are indulging in holiday treats this month, we're also looking ahead to January, and the lifestyle changes we hope to make for overall better health. And while many programs exist, 30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond offers a comprehensive solution for those who want to cleanse, embrace clean eating, exercise and stay accountable.

"I have tried to live a healthy lifestyle for many years," says Fort Thomas resident Stephanie Rottman. "This includes a regular exercise regimen, along with trying to eat healthy. Just like everyone else, I have periods where I am really on a roll, and then something happens, and I fall off the wagon. I was really stuck in a rut last summer, even though I maintained a five- to six-day workout schedule. I just wasn't feeling like I was running on all parts of my engine."

Rottman attended a 30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond presentation at Fit Philsophie late last summer. "I felt that it was just the right timing for me to undertake the 30-day challenge," she says. "I was a bit skeptical that I could keep up the momentum, especially since we had a few events coming up, but Diane was very supportive with informative posts about Arbonne's nutrition and I decided to take the 30-day plunge." 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fifteenth Annual Fort Thomas Holiday Walk: ON AS SCHEDULED

City crews were readying the Christmas tree in preparation for the Holiday Walk this Sunday. FTM file. 


This Sunday December 4 marks the fifteenth annual Fort Thomas Holiday Walk.  This time-honored annual holiday tradition has grown from its humble roots into a community and business-wide celebration of the holiday season, beginning each year with the tree lighting at Inverness Square and flowing into a walk through the central business district where most of the storefronts and business owners have a holiday-themed display.  The tree lighting ceremony begins at 5:30 with story time, singers and dancers, and remarks by Mayor Haas.  Immediately following the lighting, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive by horse-drawn carriage and then head to the fire station for picture opportunities.

The theme of this year’s walk is “Snowflakes and Mistletoe.”

If you begin your day at the tree lighting, which, hopefully, you will, you can then either walk to the center of town or hop on one of the Executive Shuttles which will have pickup and drop-off points all along the route.  From there, be sure to check out the many decorated businesses, some of which have special plans for the event.

For example, Schone Kitchen Design is raffling off two free Ultimate Air Shuttle flight tickets to Chicago; to enter the raffle, simply bring a ham to be donated to the Hosea House this holiday season (minimum 3 lb ham).  The Fort Thomas Education Foundation is selling Highlands Tervis Tumblers for $20. And all the businesses are participating in the annual passport contest where holiday walkers can get the Holiday Walk flyer stamped by each business they visit and once the passport has twelve stamps, can turn it in for a chance to win a prize package full of gift cards to local businesses (raffle to be held at 8 p.m., flyers due by 7:45 at the City Building).

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Jeff Walz Dropping Knowledge Bombs

University of Louisville Women's Basketball dropped their second straight game, falling to #5 Maryland 78-72.

Afterwards, head coach and Highlands graduate, Jeff Walz, delivered one of the most compelling press conferences of the year.

Growing Up Gold Star

BJ David with his wife, Michelle and children Mack and Ella, the inspirations for his business' name, Mella. FTM file
When he was a kid, BJ David remembers going into Gold Star chili to get his favorite -  chili cheese sandwiches which he called chili pups. Unlike other kids just visiting the well-known chili parlor, BJ was home.

His grandfather, Basheer Daoud David was one of the four co-founders of Gold Star Chili. In 1965, the Daouds, four immigrant brothers from Jordan followed their "great American dream" of owning a successful business. Taking on odd jobs while going to college, the brothers were able to put together $1200 combined with cash advances on vending machines to buy their first restaurant, Hamburger Heaven in Mt. Washington. Included with the restaurant was a recipe for Cincinnati-style chili. After experimenting with and reformulating that recipe, the brothers ditched the hamburgers and other menu items and settled on what has become one of Cincinnati’s favorite tastes, Gold Star.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fort Thomas City Signs Are Designed

Renderings obtained by Fort Thomas Matters from a bid dated July, 20 2016 completed by Elsmere Ironworks shows the mock-up for what the new city signs will look like. FTM file. 

In June, Fort Thomas Matters reported that the city's Renaissance Board had asked council to approve a purchase of new city signage that would not only welcome people and residents to the city, but also inform them of what's happening in Fort Thomas.

Constructed out of black iron with a military script font, each permanent sign will have a place to hang thinner, stop-sign like material, easily changeable, advertising different events.

The board was hoping to have the signs in place by the end of the summer, but City Administrative Officer, Ron Dill said it'll likely be after the first of the new year.

RELATED: New Fort Thomas Signage Will Welcome and Inform 

"We are expecting the submittal of sample sign for review by city in next couple of weeks. If approved, they will complete remainder of order," he said.

Bids were requested because the expenditure was over $20,000 and Elsmere Ironworks won the bid at $26,883.92.

That will include four custom wrought iron signs, approximately 6x12' and four signs 5x6'. The larger signs were bid at $3,742.20 while the smaller signs cost $2,978.78.

If the sample sign is signed off on by the city, the remaining signs will be constructed. The total price of the bid would not include tax, installation or delivery.

The larger signs will stand 12 feet tall. FTM file. 

November Board of Education Meeting Roundup

Fort Thomas Independent Schools office. FTM file. 
The Fort Thomas Board of Education met on Monday, November 14th, with all members present.  The meeting was called to order at 6:32 pm.

The Student Showcase this month featured students from Woodfill who presented on the "Leader in Me," in which they shared their workbooks and and explained the components of the program.  The presenters were: Charity Class and Gabriel Talbot (third grade), and fifth grader Campbell Smith.  The board thanked the children for their presentation and gave each of them of a "Rich in Tradition" t-shirt.

Jerry Wissman gave the Board an update on the current status of the HHS renovation project.  The contractor is continuing to complete the outstanding items, but no pay application was submitted.

Mr. Wissman also shared photos of the progress at Moyer and gave an update on that, as well.  Approval of Pay Application #12 in the amount of $783,357.48 to Morel Construction for the Moyer Elementary Renovation project passed with a motion by Mrs. Lisa Duckworth and a second by Mr. Jeff Beach.

Each year, the SFCC extends a KETS offer of assistance to school districts. This offer must be matched with local funds. The Board of Education must act upon this offer of assistance.  Approval to accept and match the KETS first offer of assistance in the amount of $24,784.00 passed with a motion by Mr. Jeff Beach and a second by Mr. John Weyer.

The “Every Student Succeeds Act” requires that boards have procedures addressing transportation of children in foster care in place by December 10, 2016.  Tentative approval based on a First Reading of Policy 06.32 - Eligibility for Transportation and Policy 09.121 - Entrance Age passed with a motion by Mrs. Lisa Duckworth and a second by Mrs. Karen Allen.

Boards of Education must annually approve ADA contracts, which allow districts to release to and accept state dollars from other districts when students attend a school in a district other than their school of residence.  Fort Thomas Independent School District has ADA contracts with the following school districts for the 2016-17 school year and should continue these contracts for the 2017-18 school year: 

Barren County
Beechwood Independent
Boone County
Covington Independent
Erlanger-Elsmere Independent
Grant County
Kenton County
Ludlow Independent
Southgate Independent  (grades 9-12 only)
Walton-Verona Independent

Specific student names will be added in the fall prior to the end of the second month when the Growth Factor Report is due at KDE. While the Fort Thomas Independent School District releases the ADA to other districts, many districts in Northern Kentucky will not release the ADA funding to us unless a student is the child of a district employee.  Approval of the exchange of ADA contracts with other Northern Kentucky districts and the Barren County School District for the 2017-18 school year passed with a motion by Mr. Jeff Beach and a second by Mr. John Weyer

Jon Stratton reviewed the process and results of the Brigance kindergarten screening, noting that we have 21% who were not prepared for kindergarten.

Football Scheduling Nightmare

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Jared Wogan (10) makes a move in the playoff game at Louisville Doss a few weeks ago. Highlands is trying to find a 10th game for 2017.
At this point of the season, Brian Weinrich said the majority of football teams across the country have their schedules filled for 2017.

The Highlands Bluebirds were no different until a matter of days ago. Class 5A, District 5 opponent Grant County asked for and received permission from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to drop out of district play for the next two years also leaving Dixie Heights and Covington Catholic without 10th games for the next two seasons.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

N. Kentucky High School Students Earn College Credit for Culinary Classes


Via Sullivan University YouTube Channel. 
A growing number of Northern Kentucky high school students are earning college credits through their schools' articulation agreements with the renowned culinary program at Sullivan University's the National Center for Hospitality Studies.

Louisville-based Sullivan - which opened a Northern Kentucky campus in Fort Mitchell earlier this year - currently has articulation agreements with Highlands, Campbell County, Grant County and Williamstown high schools, and is working to forge similar agreements with other Northern Kentucky schools.

Sullivan is also promoting additional articulation agreements in business and information technology to Northern Kentucky high schools as well as its JumpStart program, which allows students to take up to four Sullivan classes for free while they are still in high school. Their only expense is the textbooks required for the classes.

"Sullivan University has great opportunities and programs for high school students to take college classes at only the cost of books," said Katelyn Phillips, Family and Consumer Science Teacher at Campbell County High School. "Our students love taking the culinary arts classes offered at the high school. They get to learn trendy cooking techniques as well as operating a student-ran catering business for our school and community.

"We do so much hands on cooking and learning, the students see how this real world skill is beneficial to them and how they can use these techniques in the future," Phillips said.

Sullivan University Provost Dr. Kenneth Miller said articulation agreements allow parents and students to save money on tuition costs while providing students with a chance to earn college credits while still in high school.

"At Sullivan University, we know that the cost of college weighs heavily on the minds of students and their parents," Dr. Miller said. "With this in mind, we crafted these agreements with the idea of bringing down the cost of college while letting a student finish a degree program faster.

"It's a win-win-win situation," he said. "Students win by getting to start their careers faster. Parents win by saving thousands of dollars off the cost of their children's education.  Sullivan University wins by attracting high quality students who decided to get jump starts on their college educations while still in high school."

Sullivan University's National Center for Hospitality Studies (NCHS) has long set the standard for hospitality education, earning a reputation over the past three decades as one of the top hospitality schools in the nation. The American Culinary Federation accredits Sullivan's Culinary Arts program and has designated it as "exemplary".

Sullivan's culinary articulation agreements covers selected high schools courses and includes students scores on competency-based exams offered through the university. Students can also take tuition-free Sullivan University courses for only the costs of textbooks.

Marlee Barton, the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, said she knew very little about Sullivan before touring the Lexington and Louisville campuses at the beginning of the school year.

Famous Local Artist Creates Paintings for Fort Thomas Dance Studio

Painting by Beverly Erschell

Paintings Seem to Dance Across the Room at BellaDance Fort Thomas Studio.

After moving to a large space at the Hiland Building on 18 North Fort Thomas Avenue, Julie Keller decided to commission nationally-famous and Fort Thomas resident, Beverly Erschell, to do a small painting for her business, BellaDance Fort Thomas Studio.

Julie knew Bev through family connections. Bev's granddaughter is married to her nephew. "My family is a huge fan of Bev's work, especially my sister, Diane.  I knew the new studio space would be perfect for it."

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Campbell County Unveils New $7.5 Jail Expansion

Rodney Ballard, Commissioner for Kentucky Department of Corrections, with Campbell County Jailer, Jim Daley. FTM file. 
Campbell County unveiled the expansion of its detention center last night, as elected officials, citizens and interested parties saw firsthand what the $7.53 million dollar expansion project looked like as a finished product.

A new wing of the jail includes 107 jail beds and 36 isolation beds. The former district court offices has been refit into jail space, which includes new administration offices and a public visitation area.

The big change, according to officials, is that the jail expansion has been laid out so that it can accommodate substance abuse disorder programming. Drug abuse, particularly opiates, have been a major factor in the increase in jail population in northern Kentucky.

In all, Jailer Jim Daley said the jail will have a 689 inmate capacity and at least 30 beds will be used to house inmates in that new substance abuse program. The substance abuse disorder program will initially treat females and is something Daley said he believes is needed to break the cycle of incarceration caused by drug addiction.

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"The expansion provides us additional security for the entire facility by providing us with additional bed space," said Daley. "We also hope to turn the newer big dorm into a female work program, which means we will have people in a lockdown facility to do all of our cooking and cleaning which we believe strongly will slow down the amount of drugs coming into this facility because we'll have more control of inmates coming in and out."

The county jail makes up about a third of the entire Campbell County budget at around $9 million dollars in 2015. Daley said he expects that to increase.

"It's going to go up another $3-4 million excluding payment on the new facility. With the increase in beds, I'm going to need another 25 more staff. Our medical, security and food costs are going to go up. The good news is that the new facility will allow me to hold a lot more female state inmates. So at least initially, we're going to be getting paid for the largest portion of these beds and that was our plan when we first started this process ten years ago. We'd like to pay our price down with paying customers so that at some point in time when it's filled up with just county inmates the facility will be mostly, if not completely, paid for."

The Campbell County Detention Center employs about 125 people currently.

Campbell County Judge-Executive, Steve Pendery, said that the increase in jail population has become the biggest drain to the county budget.

Campbell County Judge Executive, Steve Pendery, gives a tour of the new $7.5 million dollar jail expansion at the Campbell County jail. FTM file. 

"We had to expand because we have so many people," said Pendery. "We have nearly 700 inmates in a space that designed for far less than that. When I was first elected, we had 135 beds, so if we were going to have to do something, why not do it in a way that the design lends itself to a solution."

Pendery said that they believe that investing in the substance abuse disorder programming within the confines of the jail will pay off for individuals and the county coffers in the long run.

"We are offering the hope that we'll have fewer customers in the jail in the future. It's not going to happen overnight. Medical professionals will tell you that the brain chemistry in a heroin addict is changed for 18 month to two years. That's what's different about our program. We've arranged for that longer-term program are believe it'll pay off in the future." 

Daley also said the detention center expansion also added more isolation cells that he believes were desperately needed. Jail officials use these cells to separate disorderly inmates who are not complying with the set code of conduct. Previously, he had five such cells at his disposal, but he said in an ideal scenario he should have about 80 cells.

"The new isolation cells are a God-send. Most jailers would tell you they like at least 10% of their cells to be isolation cells," said Daley. "We won't have 80, but we will have 41 which is much better than 5."

Some of the isolation cells are negative-air enabled, which Daley said is useful if an inmate has a communicable disease, to protect staff and other inmates from contamination.

Inmates could begin using the new wing and isolation cells by early December.

9 more pictures below: