Enhancing Newport’s tourism attraction, sale of city-owned Bayfront building moving ahead, hiring consultant to study utility rates and new pool won’t be open by Christmas Eve.
Harnessing the power of the internet to better promote Newport tourism –
Newport City Councilors received what appeared to be a glowing report from the Newport News-Times on their city-sponsored launch of a more internet savvy method of promoting Newport to the world. News-Times publisher James Rand reported to the city council that the main focus on using the “digital internet platform” is to promote a consistently detailed image of Newport to differentiate the town from other attractive tourist destinations mainly through Facebook, Instagram, Tumbler and Google Adworks, among others. He said creative video advertising has also proven to be very effective as part of the initial launch. He said the “brand” for Newport will embrace a “destination personality” of being friendly, humble and honest while promoting warm, quality friendships in an area that is rugged and truly alive. These qualities, Rand said, are key ingredients in Newport’s promotional messages across all advertising media.
Rand also said that while tourism activities usually taper off in August and September the launch of the new advertising program showed those two months being stronger than normal, which he said, shows the program is working. The council seemed pleased with the results but a couple of councilors, including Councilor David Allen said he wants to see the “end game” of more tourists with heads in beds rather than just a report on clicks on ads or wanting more information on a particular Newport area attraction. He said room tax revenue a verifiable indicator as to whether any advertising campaign is truly working. The city council signed a contract with the News-Times earlier this year to promote the Newport area with a “mixed-platform” approach to tourism advertising with more emphasis on internet marketing while still maintaining a promotional presence in print, radio and TV.
Moving ahead to sell 813 Bay Boulevard building to Bornstein Seafoods.
The city council moved effortlessly toward the sale of some city owned property along the Bayfront – namely what’s called the Bornstein Seafoods building at 813 Bay Boulevard. Bornstein currently leases the building but now they say they want to buy it. The city will hold a public hearing January 3rd on whether the city ought to sell the building to Bornstein The actual decision to sell it is scheduled for the January 17th city council meeting.
The city and Bornstein have apparently worked out a sales price that reflects the fact that Bornstein has invested over a million dollars of its own money into the property while leasing the facility from the city. So the company was given a credit, with respect to the asking price. Bornstein has tentatively agreed to buy the property for $1.67 million.
A city report on the issue indicates that the proceeds from the sale will pay off the loan the city has taken out to buy the former Salvation Army site just to the south of city hall for overflow parking for city employees and those using the new swimming pool now under construction. And there might even be enough left over to pay off the mortgage on the fire department’s new north end fire station.
Consultant hired to analyze and revamp city water, sewer and storm water rates.
The city council also decided Monday night to come up with a better way of setting water, storm water, and sewer rates. City Manager Spencer Nebel told the council that he sees inequities in the current rate schedule that clearly puts too much of a financial burden on those least able to shoulder it. City Councilor Ralph Busby suggested that in-house staff do the study and save the $50,000 being charged by the consultant. Other city councilors disagreed saying that an outside consultant can do a better job without the city council being subjected to charges of favoring one group of ratepayers over another. City Manager Nebel also chimed in saying that rate studies are complicated and very time consuming and he’d like to get a better rate structure before 2021.
The council agreed to hire the consultant which is a firm that was said to have a very high profile in this particular area of expertise and that they’re well respected in the industry. Mr. Nebel said he hopes the study and rate setting can be done in time to develop new utility rates which could then be made a part of the 2017-18 budget year which begins next Summer.
There won’t be any Christmas Eve pool party behind city hall.
And City Manager Spencer Nebel announced that although the new municipal pool, being built behind City Hall, will be effectively completed in December, it won’t be ready to open until sometime in January. The announcement triggered quiet moans of disappointment among councilors who had expected a big Christmas Eve inaugural pool party. Mr. Spencer said there is a difference between taking possession of a finished project and its actual commencement of operations.