NEWPORT—The City of Newport’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen met in regular session on Tuesday, Jan. 14 where they continued the discussion of potentially changing the name of River Road and River Street to Water’s Edge. During the meeting the council also voted to have a council member serve on Newport Utilities Board.
The council met for nearly 90 minutes and all members were present except aldermen Bobby Knight and Steve Smith.
For the sixth time, Kim Gregg appeared at a public meeting requesting the name change of River Road and River Street to Water’s Edge. However on Tuesday, two property owners on River Road along with a representative from Riverview Baptist Church were also in attendance with Gregg.
Gregg told the council last month that she has taken all of the necessary steps for the process of changing the road names.
The steps included notifying residents on River Road and River Street about the idea, obtaining a list of those who approve the request, hosting a public forum for anyone who opposed the name change and getting the approval from the Newport Planning Commission.
A public forum was held on November 14 during a Newport Planning Commission meeting for anyone who opposed the name change. Gregg said no one came to the meeting.
On Tuesday, Gregg expressed again that changing the name of the roads would be a positive impact for the community since the area has a negative reputation.
Gregg reassured the council that the mailing number of each residence would not change and that it is just the road’s name.
Mayor Roland “Trey” Dykes, III asked board members three different times for their opinion before Vice Mayor Mike Proffitt said he opposed the name change. Alderman Mike Hansel also expressed his concern of the name change.
“I appreciate what the Gregg’s are doing, but I can’t go along with it.” Proffitt stated. “We must be talking to different people. People say it’s the people who make the community and not the name of the street. I know there are two sides and I see both sides, but the people I have talked to didn’t want it changed.”
Paul Gregg then argued if anyone opposed the name change, he or she should have been present during the public forum.
“I support what you’re trying to do down there.” alderman Hansel stated. “But as a council, once we open that door, we open that door for everybody else who wants a name change.”
At the end of the discussion, Community Development Director Gary Carver offered to draft a resolution for the council to vote on next month.
Council alters charter
Starting in April, a member of the city council will again be an active member of the Newport Utilities Board.
Council members voted to amend the city’s charter after City Administrator James Finchum made the request.
Finchum stated after having council members approach him with a desire to have more insight into the operations of Newport Utilities, he recommended that the council amend the charter which would allow NU to still remain at five members, however, instead of re-appointing another member in April, the vacant seat will then serve as a permanent seat for the City of Newport Mayor.
“It would be an automatic position that the mayor will hold and will be a voting member.” Finchum stated. “It will give us a liaison between city council and Newport Utilities board that would have knowledge of what is happening in both places.”
With the mayor not getting to vote during council meetings, Finchum said that should eliminate any controversies.
“We do feel like the council needs to be abreast of developments at the utility company as they happen and not be subjected to rumors.” Finchum argued.
“The City, as the owner of the utility company, has a right to be privy to what is taking place.”
Council members voted unanimously to amend the charter.
In other news
Two engineers were hired to take on two projects within the City of Newport. According to Carver, Robert Campbell was hired as the lead engineer for the multimodal project.
The goal of this project is to construct sidewalks along Cosby Highway , West Broadway Street and Hedrick Drive.
Vaughn & Melton were also hired to continue the extension of the river walk.
Fire Chief Randy Regan announced the upcoming retirement of Assistant Chief Mark Ramsey in February, Chief Regan asked that Ramsey’s position to be turned into a firefighter position.
Regan said Seth Griffin is expected to join the department in the coming months after he completes training.
Council voted unanimously to hire Griffin.
The council also voted to hire a temporary employee at Newport Parks and Recreation.
Finchum advised council members that Newport Streets Department Manager Ben Hicks approached him about possibly re-locating the street garage in the near future.
According to Finchum, the street garage, located on Locust Avenue, is too small and has limited storage for all of the equipment that the Newport Street Department has.
Finchum said the street garage sits on a 1.68 acre track and he is hoping to start looking for property that has at least 3-5 acres.
The council voted to allow Finchum to begin searching for property and conduct studies on prices.
Finchum also noted once the street garage is relocated, he said the current property would be the new home of Newport Animal Control.
During the meeting Dean Ball was also reappointed to the Police Civil Service Board