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Newport city manager touts jobs, community development

NEWPORT, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2017) — Newport continues to welcome new businesses, jobs, residents and housing while improving neighborhoods and infrastructure, Newport City Manager Tom Fromme reported Thursday during his annual State of the City Address.

Fromme credits the city’s success to businesses locating, growing and investing in Newport; the stability of the city’s elected leadership; the professionalism and dedication of the city’s 110 employees, 80 percent of whom work in public safety; and the city’s residents, who are active in their neighborhoods, rehabbing buildings and houses and are proud to call Newport home.

“Success is all about teamwork and strong partnerships,” Fromme said while delivering his State of the City address to a recent gathering of the Newport Business Association. “You can’t do it by yourself. The residents, the business community and the city all need to work together to move the city forward. With your support, outstanding improvements continue in Newport.”

During his presentation Fromme broadly focused on three categories: Economic development; community development; and sound fiscal management of the city.

Economic development

In the last year 26 new businesses opened in Newport, creating nearly 100 new jobs and $500,000 in payroll.

“We’ve worked on streamlining codes and regulations,” Fromme said. “Nobody likes bureaucracy, and we don’t like it in Newport, so we do what we can to make it easier for businesses to locate, operate and invest here.”

A major residential project is the conversion of the Fourth Street School building into apartments, following a trend that started with the Monmouth Row Apartments and continued with the development of the $80 million Aqua on the Levee project that includes apartments as well as the boutique Aloft Hotel.

“We are bringing excitement and that critical mass of residents that businesses need,” Fromme said. “We have brought hundreds of residential units to the downtown area over the last few years, all within a couple of blocks.”

Other economic development successes include:
• Newport Pavilion, which is fully leased with retail and service businesses.
• The continued planning for the Riverfront SkyWheel project at Newport on the Levee.
• The opening of a new Hampton Inn & Suites on the site of the former Travelodge motel.
• The opening of the Wooden Cask Brewery on York Street.
• New Riff Distilling’s Whiskey Campus, which is under construction along the Licking River in the west end.

Community development

Residential and commercial buildings continue to be brought back to life through investment by individuals, businesses and Neighborhood Foundations.

“Quality housing has been a focus of ours and is almost a daily topic of conversation within City Hall,” Fromme said, “Including improving and removing blighted structures, which contributes to crime and to the perception of crime.”

The completion of the Route 9 Corridor expansion, which will connect downtown Newport with the AA Highway and Interstate 275, provides tremendous potential for the city’s west end neighborhood.

“This long-awaited project is bringing more excitement and opportunity to Newport,” Fromme said. “If you would like to invest in a home, invest in and move to the west end. Without a doubt, this area is going to explode in the next few years.”

Fromme pointed out the new corridor, the final phase of which is scheduled to be completed next year, will also reduce traffic on the west end’s residential streets, which will improve safety and the quality of life in the neighborhood.

Other community development initiatives include:

• A recently-launched Monmouth Streetscape project that will feature new light poles, benches, trash cans and LED lighting as well as sidewalk and curb improvements.
• The start of a citywide curbside recycling program.
• The planting of more than 100 trees throughout the city.
• The expansion of the Red Bike bicycle rental program with new stations planned for the corner of 10th and Monmouth streets near City Hall; on Sixth Street at the Newport branch of the Campbell County Library; and at the Scholar House on Patterson Street.
• The grant-funded construction of a sidewalk along Dave Cowens Drive.
• The Riverwalk Bridge Connection at the Taylor-Southgate Bridge that is part of Southbank Partners Riverfront Commons.
• The development of a concept design for Festival Park on Newport’s riverfront.
• The enhancement and increased use of the Purple People Bridge, an effort spear-headed by Jack Moreland of Southbank Partners and the Southbank Purple People Bridge Co.
• The designation of the York Street Local Historic District and the continuation of the West Side Historic Inventory that is being completed for National Register District Nomination. Both districts are already attracting new residents, businesses, investment and interest in the area.
• The Smart City Initiative, a joint effort of the city and Newport-based Nexigen Inc. to launch one of the first Smart Cities in the nation.
• A wide-scale infrastructure improvement plan that focuses on street repairs and improvements throughout the city.

Fiscal management

Fromme said that about a decade ago, the city had a cash balance of near zero. Now, thanks to a thriving business environment, the growth of payroll taxes and solid management of the city’s finances, Newport now has a cash balance of more than $1.7 million.

Fromme said watching every dollar contributes to the city’s financial stability.

For instance, by converting to LED lighting on city-owned street lights, Newport is saving $84,000 a year. “For a city our size,” Fromme said, “that’s a lot of money.”

Residents can also now review city financial information by visiting Newport’s Open Gov website at https://newportky.opengov.com.

Other positive trends include:
• The growth of payroll tax revenue from about $5 million annually in 2011 to more than $6 million today.
• An increase in property taxes from under $2 million in 2011 an estimated $2.2 million today.
• A reduction in the city’s debt, including a Tax Anticipation Note that has been reduced from $2 million owed to a balance of $350,000.

Challenges facing the city including the maintenance and repair of aging infrastructure; maintain housing quality; a growing revenue stream; and managing the growing costs of delivering public services.

“There are challenges ahead,” Fromme said. “But we are trying to take the challenges head on and be pro-active.”

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