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NEWPORT—The Newport Utilities Board of Directors gathered last week for a short meeting before the holiday. During the meeting the board approved a rate adjustment for NUconnect TV packages effective February 1.

At their November 2020 board meeting, a request was made to adjust the retransmission pass-through rate in January 2021, 2022 and 2023. An additional $2.90 will be added for all video customers to cover the retransmission fee. Additionally, customers will see an increased fee for higher tier video packages.

Sharon Kyser, Communications & Customer Service Manager, told the board that no adjustment to packages had been made since 2019, but the price to carry specific programming increases year over year.

“Programming costs keep going up so we have to make this adjustment,” Kyser said.

“There will be a $2.90 increase to pay for the privilege of carrying local channels. Every video customer will pay that same retransmission fee. We haven’t made any adjustments to our packages since 2019, and the increased costs have led to this request for tier adjustments.”

The Basic (tier 1) package will only see a $2.90 increase to cover the retransmission fee, which will change the price from $44.79 to $47.60 per month. Standard (tiers 1-2) packages will see an overall increase of $6.65 come February, which includes the retransmission fee and $3.75 package adjustment. Customers with the Enhanced (tiers 1-3) package will see an overall increase of $7.65 for the same 102 channels they currently receive. The package itself will increase by $4.75 up to $94.70. The overall package cost with the retransmission fee will be $122.35.

Board members also approved a request from the purchasing department for several 900 amp air break switches at a price of $3,669.14 each. The purchase of 10 units will be made from Inertia Engineering for a total price of $36,691.40. Delivery time is expected to take eight to 10 weeks. The new parts will allow NU to make needed replacements while keeping others in their inventory.

Two special presentations were made during the meeting to local organizations. NU partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority to award $40,000 in Community Care Funds to Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority and Cosby Elementary School.

Amie Whitworth with Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority accepted the $20,000 donation for the organization. Douglas-Cherokee serves six counties in the area and provides a wealth of resources.

Whitworth said these funds will be used for the organization’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps with heating and cooling needs.

“Our neighborhood service center is available to help people with their past due payments. Maybe it was because they were ill or hospitalized, or they just need help because they’re not working right now,” Whitworth said.

“You don’t have to meet the poverty level to apply for these funds. Anyone in need of assistance can receive help. So many have benefitted from this program, especially during the pandemic.”

Christy Edmonds, Cosby Elementary Principal, accepted the donation on behalf of the school. NU chose Cosby to receive the funds to help them expand their use of technology.

Cosby, like many other schools in the county, transitioned to remote learning last year due to the pandemic. They were able to provide laptops to students to continue their education during closures. Edmonds said the Community Care Funds will be used to further update the school’s technology.

“We adopted curriculum and needed devices for students,” Edmonds said. “Grades three through eight were given Chromebooks, and Kindergarten through second grade received tablets. We found that the tablets were not on par with our needs, so these funds will go towards Chromebooks for those students. There are also 11 classrooms still using the old Promethean boards, which we hope to replace. This donation is huge, and we are thrilled to receive it.”

Michael Williford, NU General Manager, addressed the board briefly before the meeting’s end. He said there has been an uptick in COVID cases in recent weeks within the organization. Williford said schedules could be adjusted to help mitigate the spread.

The NU board will meet again on Tuesday, January 25 at 10:30 p.m.

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