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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Newport contributes to the Friends animal shelter
Members of the Newport Board of Mayor and Aldermen, meeting Tuesday evening agreed to give the Friends of the Animal Shelter $2,000 monthly if the group agrees to take animals that the Newport shelter has no room for. The Friends group had asked the city and Cocke County for $100,000 each to operate this fiscal year taking in animals from both the city and county. The county recently agreed to pay the organization for the rest of the fiscal year. City Administrator James Finchum said he talked to each of the council members about a resolution to the funding issue, and found there were differing opinions. Eventually, Mayor Connie Ball proposed the resolution. "That we give $2,000 per month, and in return we would expect they would accept animals from city residents who want to drop off animals. Also in the event we have surplus animals, we would take the surplus out there," the city manager said. The city budget includes $181,000 for shelter and animal control operations. Mayor Ball said the current city shelter on Woodlawn Avenue "is working well and the $2,000 monthly contribution to the Friends group is like a donation to them." Finchum said council members stressed the fact that city taxpayers also are county taxpayers and so city taxpayers already are contributing to the shelter through their county taxes. The manager said the double taxation on the part of city property owners "gets lost in the mix." Alderman Mike Hansel pointed out that the council is hoping to drop the property tax rate next year, and he said the council has a responsibility to look out for city taxpayers. Alderman Jeff Fancher said he doesn't want the city shelter to stay downtown but currently it has 18 cats and dogs. "It has been operating very efficiently and to a T," he said. The council then approved the proposal, which will be presented to President Karen Helm of the Friends group, who was not in attendance because of a scheduling conflict. Anne Fontaine, vice president of the group did ask to speak before the vote was taken but was told she could address the council during the comment period at the end of the meeting. Instead she chose to leave and did not address the group. April Clevenger told the council that the Steele-Away Rescue group has been assisting the city shelter in it's rescue operations. In other action; the council granted Newport Utilities a franchise to offer a cable TV service in the city. LC Gregg was appointed to the Newport Beer Board. City Manager Finchum said the city-owned building at the corner of North and Blazer streets has been sold for $5,000. It is to be used as a child care center. Meka Henderson of Keep Cocke County Beautiful reported that the recent litter score of the county has increased from last year, meaning the amount of litter has increased, The Newport Index has remained consistent. Clay Blazer asked the council to consider making a contribution to the planned renovation of the Cocke County High School auditorium. He said the facility would be available for the use of a number of community organizations including the Newport Theater Guild which plans to sell it's East Broadway property. Mayor Ball indicated the council will consider an appropriation in next year's budget. And the body went on record supporting plans to construct a social services building on Cope Boulevard to house several non-profit agencies including a Senior Center.

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