Newport community forum addresses city issues, police station needs

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NEWPORT — On Monday, Senator Russ Ingalls and Mayor Sullivan held the second of their scheduled community forums, aiming to engage citizens in discussions about the city’s issues and gather their experiences, stories, and ideas for Newport’s advancement. The event featured several notable speakers and covered a range of topics crucial to the city’s development.

Vermont State Treasurer Mike Pieciak was the featured speaker, receiving a warm welcome from the attendees. Pieciak discussed financial matters and opportunities, highlighting initiatives like the “Ten Percent of Vermont” program, which allocates $65 million to offset development costs, and the “Vermont Saves” retirement program set to benefit approximately 88,000 Vermonters.

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He also emphasized the potential benefits of developing senior housing to free up larger homes for families, addressing the issue of unused bedrooms in the state.

Following Treasurer Pieciak’s presentation, Dave LaForce, Chair of the Newport City Downtown Development (NCDD) task force, and his team discussed Tax Increment Financing (TIF) projects. They explained how TIF can be utilized to support economic growth and answered questions from the citizens.

Representatives from the Northeast Kingdom International Airport Task Force delivered a compelling presentation on the airport’s influence on regional economic development, workforce, and housing. Representative Mike Marcotte attended this segment, underscoring the airport’s significance to the community.

Newport Police Chief Travis Bingham presented a strong case for a new police station, citing growing space constraints and safety concerns within the current municipal building. Bingham highlighted the challenges of operating a police department in a facility that also serves as a public space, including disturbances caused by irate individuals and the lack of separation between police operations and public areas. 

He also pointed out issues such as insufficient garage space, a crowded parking lot, reliance on the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department for storing seized vehicles, and difficulties conducting interviews due to noise from other activities in the building.

City council member and former Vermont State Police Sergeant Kevin Charboneau supported the need for relocating the police station, emphasizing that it is a matter of “when” rather than “if.” 

Both Senator Ingalls and Mayor Sullivan agreed with the concerns raised, noting that discussions are ongoing at the State level about potential sites to address these issues.

The entire community forum was recorded and is available for public viewing on the NEKTV website.

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