Newport City Councilors Monday night agreed to pursue the purchase of the since demolished Salvation Army Thrift Store and parking lot site, immediately south of City Hall. The price is for $1.1 million. In voting for the purchase the city council and City Manager Spencer Nebel made it clear that the opportunity to buy such a strategic, “close in” to City Hall, piece of property is an opportunity the city could not pass up. Nebel said the property, no matter what it’s used for, will be critically important as the city center government campus grows over time.
Nebel reported to the council that between lease payments by private companies leasing city properties, and prospective sales of other surplus city properties, that income should easily cover the $1.1 million loan to be paid off over the next three years.
A citizen complained to the council that the property should not be targeted for anything but a beautiful new city park, replete with attractive landscaping and provisions for special events including music concerts and other family oriented entertainment. One woman showed up at the podium with 100 signatures imploring the city council to not make it just a parking lot.
But city officials say the new nearby Newport Aquatic Center will need more parking than is now available behind City Hall, along with employee parking. They also said that the parking facility will be adorned with generous amounts of landscaping and will accommodate special events like the Farmers Market and other activities. They said although the city doesn’t know what the final configuration of the property will be, they pointed out that the property is right next door to City Hall- it’s for sale – probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy it – and so they had to strike when the iron was hot.
The council authorized the city manager to proceed with the purchase.
In other council business, City Manger Spencer Nebel said an effort has been launched to replace Police Chief Mark Miranda who is retiring at the end of the month. Nebel says he foresees a two step process. He says Chief Miranda has set up a procedure by which current Police Lieutenant Jason Malloy would be appointed to replace Miranda as Chief of Police. However Nebel pointed out that a community wide interview panel, including city officials, is being formed to meet and confer with Lt. Malloy to assess his skill set and experience as they might support his candidacy to become Newport’s top cop. If the decision is made to open up the job for other applicants in the region, or even nationwide, the city would wait to see what kind of candidates vie for the position.
And Newport City Councilor David Allen strongly indicated he would not be seeking re-election at the end of his term, which ends in 2018. He revealed his plans after deciding he would not agree to serve on another important civic board that required a three year commitment. Allen indicated he would be serving on the council only until the end of 2018 and would thus not fulfill his full term on the other government body.