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The Rundown – City approves plan for downtown planters

Post Date:02/16/2017 9:47 AM

The Rundown is prepared by the City of Newton Public Information Office to summarize the City Commission meeting and does not represent official Commission minutes. 

7 p.m. February 14, 2017, Newton City Commission meeting

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the City Commission approved a new plan for downtown planters. During budget sessions last summer, the Commission did not fund the $20,000 annual contract for spring and fall plantings downtown and instructed staff to bring back other more affordable options.

Stutzman’s Greenhouse has agreed to donate plants and will do all the planting in late March. The City will contract with local businessman Justin Keazer to water the plants every day throughout the growing season for $40/day, or a total of $8,520 for six months.

Then, beginning in November, the plantings will be replaced by metal art snowflakes crafted by Newton High School and Hutchinson Community College welding students. City staff have arranged to purchase the snowflakes from the School District and will be seeking donations from the community to cover the costs. It is $35 to “Fund a Flake” for each of 68 planters along Main Street and along the Railroad Park just north of the Old Mill.

The Commission also expressed interest in installing some additional planters on Main Street south of the BNSF tracks and possibly on side streets downtown. City staff will bring back more information at a future meeting.

Law enforcement facility

Mayor Barth Hague presented a proposal to create a small advisory committee to evaluate plans for a new law enforcement center. The Police Department has outgrown its current facility, which it shares with the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office, and that site does not offer the possibility of adequate expansion. In 2015 the City purchased property at 320 N. Main, the former South Dillons location.

Since then, though, the State-imposed limit on the City’s taxing authority requires that a major project like a law enforcement center be approved by the voters. And some residents have voiced concerns over the current plans and the Main Street location.

The mayor’s advisory committee will take a fresh look at the key issues, consult with stakeholders and bring back recommendations to the City Commission. Hague hopes to have the committee formed by March 1, with its work completed by the end of August.

Community recognition

The Commission honored Newton High School music students Elizabeth Groote for her selection to the All State Choir, Ben Peyton for his selection to the All State Jazz Band, and Jason Wong for his selection to the All State Orchestra.

In other action, the City Commission:

  1. Approved revisions to the Public Building Commission’s Capital Improvements Master Plan, which includes new restroom/concession facilities at Kelsch Field and at Centennial Park.
  2. Received a report from the ReNewton Bicycle Initiative on its 2016 activities.
  3. Conducted an initial six-month evaluation of City Attorney Chris Towle and voted to increase his salary to a Grade 21, Step 5.

For more information, please contact Director of Communications Erin McDaniel at 284-6055 or