Newport takes step to clean up historic building

10:41 PM, Oct 13, 2012   |    comments
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A historic East Tennessee building damaged by the April 27 storms of 2011 may be one step closer to re-opening.

The Tanner Building opened in Newport in 1924. The building, which was first a schoolhouse for the county's black children during the days of segregation, housed eight non-profit groups before it was closed two years ago.

A tornado from the April storms lifted a corner of the building, letting water in, and subsequently creating a mold problem.

Carlene Robinson, the executive director of the Cocke County Office on Aging and Senior Center, said the building means a lot to blacks living in Cocke County.

"Every black person up until 1960, or probably 1965, probably could trace their academic education back to this building," she said.

Following the storms, the city of Newport used $100,000 it had received from the American Recovery and Investment Act to fix the building's roof. However, there was still plenty of work to be done.

"We had industrial hygienists come in and they determined that there was lead paint and asbestos that needed to be removed also," said Newport city administrator Scott Collins.

Last week, the Newport Board of Mayor and Alderman took a step to fix that problem.

It voted to pay a company named, Home Construction, $61,067, to remove the building's environmental hazards. Collins told 10News that Newport hopes to acquire funds for the project from the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund by December.

The latest development has Robinson optimistic. She said she was hopeful the Senior Center, which is one of the non-profits that had to leave the Tanner Building, would be able to return soon.

"We need a home for our seniors," Robinson said.

Collins said Newport does not have an exact date as to when the building will reopen, but it hopes to discuss that with two local Tanner Building preservation groups in the near future.

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