Newport Parks: Herbicides only as “last resort,” 75% of city labor talks settled and shutting down Eads Street on school days.
Newport parks maintenance employees will use herbicides only when manual or alternative methods of weed killing aren’t feasible or practical. And when they do use herbicides, they’ll put up warning signs before, during and after any spraying. They’ll also try to avoid using it where kids play. That’s the gist of the new policies that will be presented to the Newport City Council Monday for it’s consideration.
A list of federal and state approved herbicides include Roundup, Garland 4, Speed Zone, Weed and Feed and Dimension 270-G. Parks and Recreation Department Director Jim Protiva said any area to be sprayed will have warning signs put up well in advance of any spraying. The date of the spraying will be clearly indicated along with the herbicide to be used or has been used. He said all herbicide handling and application requirements will be met when herbicides applied to any city park lands or other city properties. The policy applies ONLY to city property.
The issue is being brought up at the council’s work session Monday which begins at 12 noon in the city hall conference room just north of the main entrance.
During the council’s regular meeting Monday night councilors will be given the opportunity to review a tentative labor agreement between city administration and city union workers in the police and public works departments. Employees of both departments have voted in the affirmative to accept the city’s offer for step increases but no cost of living hikes. Also in the tentative agreement is that the city pays 90% of the health insurance premiums on behalf of the workers. The same wage and package increase is also being offered to all city workers who don’t belong to a union. Step increases are 3.5% for public works employees, and range from 3.6% to 4.5% for police officers. A one time payment of $600 is to be issued to workers who are at the top of their pay range, effective January of next year. Again, the same is offered to non-union city workers who are at the top of their pay range.
A memo from City Finance Director David Marshall also contains a note that negotiations with the paid staff at the fire department have not yet settled with the city, although progress is being made, albeit, slowly. In the meantime, the firefighters have received a step increase of 3.5% effective last July 1st.
And the school district is asking the city to shut down vehicular traffic on Eads Street, between 3rd and 4th, which is the crosswalk area between Newport High and its Prep Academy. A trial closure period late during the final days of the last school year proved very popular with students. Community support far out weighed what few complaints were lodged. School officials say there are frequent near-misses during the school year as students try to cross Eads between the schools. Newport High Principal Jon Nagel says two students have been hit in the crosswalks, though neither was injured. But he adds, “Closing Eads Street greatly increases the safety of our students at Newport HIgh/Newport Prep Academy without serious consequences for the surrounding neighborhood. It’s just a matter of time before a student is seriously hurt cross the street.” If the council agrees to the closure, it would be for school days only, and from 7am to 5pm. The city will erect street signs stating the closure on school days 7am-5pm, and the school district will provide school district staff and the road barriers which they will erect and remove at the designated times.