Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Newport City Council approves new budget
The Newport City Council meeting Thursday accepted the low bid for the renovation of the former Tanner School. Most of the money for the upgrade project will come from a state grant. Preen of Knoxville will do the upgrades for a bid of $1,294,527. When the project is completed the building will house the Cocke County Partnership, including Economic Development, Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as other social agencies. The council also approved a new budget on first reading. City Administrator James Finchum talked to the NewsSource about the budget. "We've maintained the tax rate at it's current level of $2.64 per $100 of appraisal, and it's our goal to maintain that rate for the foreseeable future if we don't have any bad luck," Finchum said. But to hold the tax rate steady, the budget draws down the ending fund balance by $570,000 from this year's ending, to $5,886,000. "We have a number of capital projects we've been planning the last couple of years, and we have budgeted for them; the storm drain system in downtown, renovation of the police station, and the Tanner Building renovation. So we have budgeted to complete them in the next year." Finchum announced that the city has received a $58,000 grant to provide wi-fi service to all of downtown, "and to encourage growth in the area." Because the budget has no employee raises, the council agreed to add New Years Eve as a paid holiday. The members agreed to a contract with Humana to provide health insurance, with a $2,500 deductible. United Healthcare which had the contract previously, does not have Tennova as an in-plan provider. And so the Newport Medical Center was not included as a provider, however the Center is a part of Humana's coverage. Mayor Roland "Trey" Dykes was given authorization to negotiate a new contract with City Administrator Finchum, whose current contract ends in June. Alderman Mike Hansel said Finchum is responsible for the improved financial condition of the city. And Finchum said, "thanks for your confidence in me, in asking me to stay." The council recognized National Police Week and also recognized Scotty Thornton for his dedication to community service.

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