A public meeting was held on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 for the new Practicum Team from the Clinton School of Public Service.
The Clinton School Team is working on a report on the pros and cons of the City of Newport accepting the Blue Bridge from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and possible adaptive reuses of the bridge should the City decide to accept the bridge. NEDC Director Jon Chadwell says, "The meeting was basically for them (Clinton School) to visit with the people and get an understanding of whether people wanted to preserved the Blue Bridge or not, and how important it is to the community." He continues, "If they (the community) did (want to keep it) what kind of things would they like to see it preserved for and if they didn't, what were their concerns." In Chadwell's opinion the community was about "50/50" but most were just concerned about future maintenance cost if the bridge were to be preserved. "What they (the Clinton School) will do now is they will go to several communities that have kept bridges and they'll ask them, 'you've have this bridge for 10 years. Can you tell us how much it cost you to maintain it?'" Chadwell's hope is that the bridge will be fairly inexpensive to maintain. "We have been told by several folks, and that's why I want them (the Clinton School) to do the research to find out, that once you take vehicles off of (the bridge) there's virtually no maintenance. All the stress is gone," Chadwell explains. "You can have a ton of people on there before it equal the weight of one 18-wheeler. We've been told that but we need to find out for sure." The Clinton School will look into best practices of other communities as well as the issues relating specifically to Newport. The end result will be a report to the Newport City Council April 15 about their research and findings. "The findings will be what the local people think, what percentage of the local people want to keep it (the bridge), what percentage doesn't, if we keep it what are two or three of what they consider the best uses based on what the public wants and what they've seen in other places and if we decide to keep it what is our maintenance cost going to be," explained Chadwell.