NEWPORT CITY – The Newport City Council agreed after some hesitation to an in-kind effort request so the Newport City Renaissance Corporation (NCRC) can apply for a USDA Rural Development grant to help draw tourists to the city.
Trish Sears, executive director of NCRC, asked the council to commit to letting employees use work time to meet with subcommittees of the NCRC, specifically the Design Committee, Economic Restructuring Committee and Promotion Committee, to work on marketing.
Council members were primarily concerned with the amount of time city employees would be taking from their regular duties.
“This is an opportunity,” said Sears. “You have to look at your return on investment - how much time the city would want to invest to get whatever returns.”
The project would be more informative and accurate if city employees were involved, said Sears, who added, it's not additional time per se. If the city wouldn't be able to provide the time, the project would shift to working with business people.
Andy Cappello, director of Parks and Recreation, said he realizes much of the project is aimed at bringing people into the area but he doesn't want the locals to be forgotten. He also said his staff is already stretched thin.
City Manager John Ward said Newport should be able to apply for the grant because the city will support it when and where it can.
“It's a dart board guess of the cost,” he said. “It's not something we're contractually obligated to do.”
Sears also talked about a USDA Rural Development for the Fresh by Nature Campaign.
The campaign, Sears, explained, would link local farms with the city's downtown restaurants. The result would be that area farms would be able to grow and sell more food to local restaurants and will make Newport a culinary designation.
Also included in the grant is the Farm Trail Map that will connect the Derby Line Port of Entry with the North Troy Port of Entry and all the farms linked to the program. The farms on the map could be as far south as Craftsbury.
The Newport City Council also approved the 2012-2013 municipal budget of $2.923,988.39 with a rate of $1.1243 per assessed value with a .38 cent decrease from the current rate.
“Actually I expect it to be less than that, because I think there will be some growth in the grand list,” said City Manager John Ward, Jr.
Voters will have the ultimate say on the budget on Town Meeting Day in March.
The council also gave Ward permission to negotiate the city's contract with AT&T wireless. AT&T has a cellular tower at the reservoir. AT&T, for the the second time, is seeking a lowered lease amount. The first time the city ignored the request. Now Ward feels the city needs to respond and negotiate the contract. “Or we could say no and see if they take it out or not,” said Ward. “I guess I probably wouldn't suggest that. I suggest negotiating.”
AT&T's current lease payment is $1,725 a month and the company wants to lower it to $1,400 a month. The city gets no other benefits, such as in kind services, from having the tower on city property.
Ward and Alderman Richard Baraw both agreed the tower provides a valuable service. Ward said the company is trying to lower its costs and get more towers.