The Newport City Council in its regular monthly meeting Tuesday voted to change its charter.
In years past the charter provided for two members of the Newport Utilities Board to come from the city council. Later the council voted to modify the charter to have all members of the board to come from the general public. Because of current issues with the utility, in which the state comptroller is conducting an internal investigation, the council agreed to again modify the charter to provide for the mayor of Newport to serve on the board.
When the next vacancy comes up in April, Mayor Roland “Trey” Dykes will fill the seat, and the seat will be filled in the future by the city mayor.
“It would give us a liaison between city council and the utilities board that would have knowledge of both places,” explained City Manager James Finchum. He said the utilities board is under a current gag order and is prohibited from releasing information regarding the investigation to Dykes.
The charter change now must be approved by the state legislature.
Finchum announced efforts are underway to push owners of blighted properties to implement a cleanup. He said some unsightly properties have been cleaned up, others have been cited into court and several have been given 30-day notices. According to Finchum the project by codes enforcement has been a huge undertaking.
The council approved the possible relocation of the street department, which is in cramped quarters on Locust Street. Finchum said a larger parcel is needed and he asked for authorization to look for an alternative site over the next few years. If the department is moved, Finchum said the Locust Street property may be appropriate for animal control and the animal shelter which is currently located downtown. The council authorized the city manager to look for an alternative site.
Alderman Louanna Ottinger reported Shedenna Dockery is organizing “A Day On instead of a Day Off” in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 20. The goal is to have 100 groups commit to 100 volunteer projects.
“Maybe look around in your community and see what you could do. You may be able to organize a food drive, a litter cleanup, or a coat drive,” she suggested. “There are tons of things that could be done, and everything you do to help someone else, helps your community. And it feels good.”
The council again considered a change of the name of River Street and River Road to Waters Edge. However, the body took no action.
The council set speed zones for areas around playgrounds at 20 miles per hour, but left the current speed in school zones at 15 miles per hour.
Finchum announced that the renovation of the police department will begin next week and so the temporary entrance will be from the rear of the building. The project is expected to take about 60 days.
The council was told Dean Ball has been reappointed to a three-year term on the police civil service board.
Kathy Holt brought the council up to date on the Rural Accelerator Initiative which is encouraging preschoolers to increase their literacy.
Seth Griffen was hired as a new city firefighter, replacing Assistant Chief Mark Ramsey who will retire in February after 40 years of service.