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Newport's "black eye" may soon get a makeover, removing the stench from the community and making passers-by look twice as they drive by the water treatment facility.
During the regularly scheduled Newport City Council meeting Monday night, Mayor David Stewart shared with the council the decision of a specially formed committee.
The committee, made up of Michael Allen, Jr., Eddie Johnson, John Pennington, Dean Young and the mayor, were given the go-ahead to research a renovation project of the Wastewater Treatment Plant located off of Hwy. 14, a $2.1 million project.
The city is now challenged with the task of obtaining funds for such a project. The mayor informed the council that he would like to approach several committees and organizations and ask them to consider helping fund the project.
Stewart asked for the approval of the council to attempt obtaining $200,000 from the Newport Economic Development Commission and $100,000 combined from the Bond Board, the Pickens Group, and the Jackson County Industrial Development Commission.
Alderman Sheridan Cole suggested that the Moving Jackson County Forward Committee be approached as well.
"These agencies may be willing to provide funds since there is a strong possibility that this project would increase sewer capacity for further development opportunities in the city," the committee meeting report noted.
The city agreed that they would have to seek out a loan for the remaining $1.8 million of the project, to be paid off in 15 years.
"The importance of getting the loan paid off in 15 years is due to the fact that the plant will only have about a 20 year life expectancy with the complete renovations according to Martin Steward," the committee report read.
Alderman Neal Pankey asked the mayor if the funds allocated for the treatment plant sludge cleaning, in the amount of $200,000 a year, could be put toward the renovation, making the loan a little less.
Mayor Stewart and Superintendent Steward agreed that the allocation of the funds would be feasible. The mayor added that the project would not cost the customers in the form of a sewer rate increase.
In regards to loan acquisitions, the mayor has done some research locally and has obtained quotes as small as five percent. After having some amortization figures done by the local Merchants and Planters Bank, the city found a loan program through ANRC. The Environmental Construction long term, low interest loan beat the local quotes at 3.25% interest.
A pamphlet sent by the company presents a time frame for the project and the type of assistance the company will provide, including reviewing of plans and specs by outside companies. According to the mayor and superintendent, the time frame is pretty accurate, at two years for the project's completion.