Wednesday, February 17, 2016
As we enter into 2016, it is time to examine the condition of the city and the list the accomplishments of 2015, along with the goals for 2016. We have been fortunate to have stable leadership over a long period of time. This stability has allowed us to "keep our eye on the ball" and steadily work toward accomplishing a shared vision. This vision is to make Newport a great place to live, work, shop and play through enhanced quality of life.
During the past year a whirlwind of positive activity has occurred within Newport. In 2015, we saw the continuation of the annual street and sidewalk repair program, with more than $900,000 spent on these improvements. In addition to the street program, the Newport Pavilion was completed and fully occupied. The $80 million Aqua on the Levee project saw a considerable amount of development with a planned opening in late 2016. Groundbreakings for a new Hampton Suite, to replace the old Travel Lodge, and for the new Route 9 along the Licking River took place. We had considerable citizen involvement with the installation of four Red Bike stands, improvements to Buena Vista Park and an aggressive tree planting effort. Forty new businesses made Newport their home and more than 300 new jobs were created, which made this an extraordinary year for economic development. Since 2006, Newport has experienced more than $200 million in new developments, making this period one of the most successful in the 221-year year history of Newport. In the foreseeable future, we project several new developments to occur. Many of these potential developments are mixed-use, with both residential and commercial spaces. There are some developments such as an office building and the SkyWheel that we are diligently working toward. There are many other opportunities, as well. The Route 9 Corridor will spur new development - including residential. The departure of the Baptist Convalescent Center, while creating a short term loss of payroll, will allow us to redevelop that area in a way that will benefit the surrounding neighborhood. If economic conditions stay favorable, I project the total value of developments to exceed $1 billion dollars, over the next ten years!
While we have been successful in new developments, we will continue to face many challenges as we move into the future. We are still dealing with an aged infrastructure that requires a significant amount of maintenance and repair. During the next few years, we anticipate spending several million dollars on infrastructure-related projects. Some of the other maintenance issues that we deal with on an ongoing basis include street sweeping, snow removal, accessible sidewalk ramps, sidewalks, trees, floodwall and gates, street signs and markings, municipal complex and city-owned property and equipment. Other challenges will include the improvement of the quality of housing within some neighborhoods, increasing the city revenue stream and keeping up with ever-changing technology. Perhaps the biggest and most continuous challenge for Newport and surrounding cities is addressing the question of how to pay for the delivery of public services to our residents. The cost of service continues to grow, mainly due to increasing personnel costs. These costs make up a considerable amount of our annual budget. With many cities having their own police, fire and public works departments, consolidation of these services must be examined and potentially implemented.
For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, Newport ended with a General Fund Balance of $2,552,414. During the current fiscal year, we anticipate spending several hundred thousand dollars in street repairs. A list of streets scheduled for work will be posted on our website. Additionally, other capital improvements for the year include mast arm replacement at several intersections, rebuilding the intersection at Third and Washington, slippage repairs on Grandview Avenue and repairing the Barrel Vaults under the Purple People Bridge. We continue to operate with a very small staff and make every effort to provide a high quality of service at a reasonable cost. Our goals continue to be further redevelopment (both residential and commercial), working on quality-of-life issues (such as parks and recreation) and maintaining a safe, walkable community. From a fiscal perspective, we will continue to work on growing revenues, keeping our expenses reasonable, reducing and eliminating the use of Tax Anticipation Notes (TAN), reducing the amount of debt service and continuing improvement of the City credit rating of A- by Standard & Poor's.
Thanks for your interest and efforts to continue to make Newport a great place to live, work, shop and play. Great things are happening in Newport now!