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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Newport City Council
The Newport City Council spent more time again Tuesday evening, discussing the status of the Newport Animal Shelter. Newport, Cocke County and the Friends of the Animal Shelter, which owns the shelter, have been in negotiations regarding funding for several months. Recently after the city opted out of the lease of the shelter, the Friends group announced it would close the facility on June 30, unless a new lease can be negotiated. The Friends want the city and the county to pledge $100,000 each annually or the facility will be closed. The new city budget provides $60,000 and county officials have been silent on their willingness to increase funding from last year's level of $60,000. In the past the city has provided lots of funding, and Cocke County has provided little, despite the fact that most animals come from outside the city. Alderman Jeff Fancher told the council last evening that in May, 18 animals came to the shelter from the city and 89 from the county. He asked City Attorney Terry Hurst to meet with County Attorney Carter Moore to develop parameters for funding consideration. Fancher said he recently met with MTAS(Municipal Technical Advisory Service) and was told animal shelters are an issue across the state. "They issued us a formula, that is based on population. It's a good formula but then we have to have a willing participant across the railroad tracks to make this thing work," Fancher said. He said the city now is waiting to hear from county officials, but he pledged that the animals in the shelter will not be euthanized on June 30, as had been rumored. Anne Fontaine, spokesperson for the Friends group said the city is not being evicted, but if there is no agreement the shelter cannot operate because of liability concerns. "It was not that we were evicting you from the shelter, it was that we are requiring another lease for our safety. We never got an answer about that," Fontaine told the council. She also denied reports that $75,000 is missing from the Rolling Rescue budget. City Manager James Finchum said he hadn't alleged that the Rescue funds were stolen, only that they were not turned into the city coffers. Alderman Roger Gribble questioned recent work in the former Freddy's Lounge on Main Street downtown. The city owned building may be used as a city animal shelter in the short term if a new lease on the current shelter cannot be negotiated. Finchum said about $5,800 has been spent on modifying that building. In other action; the council will meet in special session at 11 am June 20 to approve a plan by Newport Utilities to offer county-wide Internet and video service, and at 11 am on June 30 to open bids on the upgrade of the Tanner Building. A motorcycle/car ride also is planned for June 24, to raise money for the Tanner project. A speed monitor is to be installed next week on the Cosby Road in Bryanttown to inform motorists of their speed. The new city budget was approved on second reading. It holds the property tax rate at $2.88. A new police and court record system was approved, and a new $10.50 fee per citation, will be used to fund the system. Because of continuing problems at the intersection of McMahan Avenue and Broadway, tractor trailer rigs will use Main Street. New signage for trucks also is planned for later this year on North Street. The council agreed to have the Planning Commission serve as a new Design Review Board. That board, according to City Planner Gary Carver, will review plans for new construction downtown and determine if it is a design that is compatible for the area. Parks and Recreation Director Tim Dockery reported that a free movie will be shown at the Newport City Park on Thursday evening and the Moonshine Rod Run is set for this weekend at the park. In re-appointments to boards; Planning Commission-Mansfield McMahan,Library Board and Economic Development Commission-Jeff Fancher, and Pat Mason was appointed to the Library Board replacing Alvin Watts who's term has expired.


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