Monday, July 5, 2010

Newport budget cuts eliminate Main Street, preservation positions

Budget cuts largely caused by declining tax revenues and pension obligations for retired city employees have caused the City of Newport to eliminate several positions, including those of Main Street Coordinator Robert Yoder and Historic Preservation Specialist Emily Jarzen.

Both served their last days on June 30.

"It was an honor and privilege to work with the business owners, city staff, citizens and organizations to make Newport a better place," Yoder says.

Yoder believes that the Newport Renaissance District is the strongest it's ever been, having seen over $25 million in public and private investment over the past four years.

Ryan Wyrick, business development officer for the city, will take over the Main Street duties.

"He's very capable, and I'm confident the Renaissance District will continue moving forward," Yoder says.

In the meantime, Yoder says he'll continue to assist Newport – and other cities as well.

"Without a doubt, I was a big supporter of Newport's revitalization long before being hired as Main Street coordinator," he says. "I also am excited by the possibility of working with other communities in working with them to revitalize their commercial districts."

Preservation 'still a priortity'

The news of Jarzen's loss was news to many, and both the East Row Historic District listserv and the organization's Facebook page have been buzzing with activity since the announcement.

"Newport needs and deserves a Historic Preservation Officer," says East Row Historic Preservation Committee Chair Beverly Simon. "We were disappointed with our elected officials for making this decision. I am very sad to see Emily go. We brought issues to her and she made the presentations to the City Commissioners and City Manager and we have accomplished so much during her tenure."

"It was difficult and sad to make any of the cuts," says Newport City Commissioner Beth Fennell. "Other options were discussed, but there was not enough support to pursue."

Margo Warminski, preservation director with the Cincinnati Preservation Association and an East Row resident, calls the decision "unfortunate" and "badly timed".

She notes that, despite tough economic times, both Covington and Bellevue have kept their historic preservation programs intact, and Dayton recently hired a full-time Main Street coordinator.

"Newport is becoming known across the region for its success in using preservation as a revitalization tool, and the proposed two-way conversion of Monmouth Street should bring new vitality to the street," Warminski says. "The City needs a full-time preservation officer and a Main Street manager to keep these programs going and build on the success with new initiatives."

"Historic Preservation is still a priority for the city and myself," Fennell says. "We are looking at other ways to accomplish the goals. It may be a difficult period now, but we will all get through it. The East Row will continue to thrive, in large part to the involvement and expertise of the residents."