Newport City Council discusses first blighted property razing

The Newport City Council meeting Tuesday was told there have been no new COVID-19 cases this month among city employees. However, Little League football was suspended this week because of a pandemic concern.

City Manager James Finchum was given approval to close city hall to city business on Election Day, Nov. 3. The facility is used as an election precinct and Finchum expressed concern regarding the large number of voters who will be in and out of the building that day.

The city manager also reported Chad Burchette was given the contract to demolish a dilapidated house on Clifton Heights which has been an eyesore for years. Burchette submitted the low bid of $4,600. A lien has been placed on the property, and the demolition cost will be recouped when the property is sold.

Finchum said the move was the first time the city has demolished a home because the owners refused to clean up the property.

Vice-Mayor Mike Proffitt applauded city employees for making the move saying the property has been an issue for a long time, "but nobody has been willing to do something about it. They just went on and on."

Responded Finchum, "It took us some time and this is the first one we have done. It's been a learning experience for us but we don’t intend it to be the last one. This is a last resort you do to someone's property but we hope it will send a message to folks that we aren't going to tolerate it anymore, and if they are not going to maintain their property, we will come in and maintain it for them."

He added that enhanced enforcement has had the effect of "people getting the message that we are serious".

Community Development Director Gary Carver said the Tanner Building rehabilitation project is nearly complete. Walters State has moved some furniture in for classrooms and the Partnership also has moved some items into the facility. Mayor Roland Dykes III said he is impressed with the progress that has been made on the building.

The council also approved a recommendation from Carver that parking on McSween and Mims avenues be made parallel. Currently, the parking is at an angle. He said the streets sometimes are blocked by trucks, creating a safety issue. The move will mean a loss of several parking spaces. Currently the county has a lease with Commercial Bank to use a parking lot adjacent to the bank, but there is plenty of additional parking. The council will explore the possibility of joining in the lease to open the area to city parking as well.

The council also approved a recommendation from the Newport Planning Commission that electronic signage be prohibited in the downtown historic district.