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NEWPORT—Newport Utilities General Manager Glenn Ray has retired.

NU Board Chair Craig Wild read Ray’s letter announcing his retirement to fellow board members during their meeting on Thursday, Jan. 23. The brief statement stated Ray’s “career path has found a new opportunity for me and will benefit my continued professional life.”

Ray’s retirement added yet another chapter to the company’s sometimes tumultuous history since 2013 when he was first named to the general manager’s position.

The following April he resigned the post but three months later filed a lawsuit against the company. Before that issue was settled, the company hired Mike Parker for the job.

Parker’s time in the position was also brief, lasting only until January 2015 when he was fired and Ray reinstated in the position. Parker then filed a lawsuit against the utility.

Since then both Ray and Parker’s lawsuits have been settled.

But this past fall, the board received notification that the company is being investigated by the State Comptroller’s office for unspecified “alleged irregularities.” As a result, Ray was placed on paid administrative leave pending the findings of the Comptroller’s office, and Michael Williford, NU Finance and Accounting Manager, was named interim General Manager.

In a related matter, NU Water Works Manager Clint Hammonds was named to the Cocke County EDC/Partnership Boards of Directors to replace Ray.

Wild read Ray’s letter at the beginning of the meeting. After adjournment, he said Williford will continue in his position as Interim Manager for the time being. Wild also said the board has received no word from the Comptroller’s Office regarding its investigation.

The board also received an update on the Newport Bypass, a major highway project that has been underway for many years. According to Hammonds, the Tennessee Department of Transportation recently informed NU work on the project from St. Tide Hollow Road in Parrottsville on Hwy. 321 to Thinwood Drive, west of Newport on Hwy. 25/70 will be ready for bids in June, 2020.

Hammonds explained this is a “reimbursable project,” meaning TDOT will “pay the cost of both the engineering and construction of those facilities to be re-located.” At Hammonds’ request, the board approved a contract with Barge-Waggoner of Knoxville for the engineering at a cost of $113,500.

Board members also received an update from Chris Calhoun, NU Broadband Manager, who said the company met a milestone recently when the 3,000th customer signed up for the service. “As of last week,” said Calhoun, “we have 3,060 Broadband customers.”

NU Human Resources Manager Connie Frisbee received the board’s approval to fill the positions of a Senior Account Analyst in Billing Operations and an Accounts Payable Analyst.

At the close of the meeting, the board, on a motion by Diane Stokely, seconded by Claude Gatlin, voted unanimously to re-elect Wild as board chairman.

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