The Rundown – City to pursue voluntary recycling program
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. Dec. 10, 2019, Newton City Commission meeting
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the City Commission directed staff to bring back program details and cost estimates for a voluntary curbside recycling program. Recycling has been mandatory in Newton since 1999.
The majority of Commissioners favored keeping recycling in a voluntary program but will continue to discuss possible rate structures for the program. Until a decision is made, mandatory recycling will continue for Newton residents.
The City has been discussing possible recycling changes since Harvey County’s contractor, Waste Connections, this summer reported an unacceptable amount of non-recyclables being dumped in the recycling. Waste Connections has now stated that beginning Jan. 1, if a truckload of recyclables is delivered to the Recycling Center with more than 10% non-recyclables in it, the entire load will be rejected and that truck/driver may be rejected for up to 30 days after. If it happens again after the 30 days passes, that truck may be fined $350 and again be rejected for another 30 days. When a load is rejected, the contents will be taken to the Transfer Station with regular trash.
Recycling has been a benefit for the City, not only because of keeping more waste out of the landfill, but also because dumping recyclables costs less. In 2020, the City will pay $19 a ton to dump recyclables vs. $35 a ton to dump trash. But these new requirements from Waste Connections could significantly change the cost balance.
Whether the City keeps recycling or discontinues it, there will be an increase in costs because of the increase in trash going to the landfill. Keeping recycling will also require additional costs for public education and for a staff person to visually inspect carts to ensure that non-recyclables are not mixed in. Commissioners will continue to consider whether those who choose to recycle should pay more, less or the same as those who choose not to recycle.
Library site selection
The Commission also approved Military Park as the site for a proposed new public library. The park, which is the current location of the library, was the top choice of attendees at two community meetings last month and was also the recommended location of the architects leading the project. The site was considered ideal because of its convenience/ease of access, proximity to downtown and adequate space for parking.
The project will now move into phase 2, which is the development of design concepts for the new library, and phase 3, a public education and fundraising campaign. The Commission authorized the City Manager to execute an agreement with the Newton Public Library Board for the library to be responsible for financing those two phases.
The Commission approved a staff proposal for continuation of the City’s historic preservation functions by using a contract employee. In August, the Commission eliminated the planner/historic preservation position from the 2020 budget in a cost-cutting measure. After feedback from members of the Historic Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office, the City Commission asked staff to explore possible ways to retain the Preservation Commission and the City’s Certified Local Government status.
The City intends to contract with a historic preservation planner in 2020 with a budget not to exceed $50,000. This will be funded with money saved in 2019 because of a number of positions in the Police Department that the City has been unable to fill. This is a one-year, temporary fix, and the City Commission will have to decide in the 2021 budget process how to proceed in future years. The contract will require the approval of the State Historic Preservation Office, and a new Certified Local Government agreement will be negotiated.
The Commission followed its traditional reorganization, selecting Leroy Koehn as mayor and Rich Stinnett as vice mayor for the ensuing year. Outgoing commissioners Barth Hague and Glen Davis expressed their appreciation to Newton citizens for putting their trust in them as elected officials, and the Commission thanked them for their service.
The Commission honored the Newton Railer Junior Football team and Newton Railer Junior Cheerleaders for their outstanding season.
In other action, the City Commission:
- Appointed Assistant City Manager/Development Director Kelly McElroy to serve as Interim City Manager beginning Jan. 1.
- Approved plans and specs for a water line extension to serve Occidental Management’s commercial development on South Kansas Avenue and authorized staff to set a bid date.
- Approved an agreement for dissolution of the Newton Community Channel Cooperative and termination of Cox Channel 7.
- Amended the City’s zoning code for Wireless Telecommunications Facilities to address small cell facilities and distributed antenna systems, the components necessary for deployment of 5G technology.
- Approved closure of the public parking lot behind 518 and 522 N. Main on Dec. 22 for The Gathering Church’s live Nativity.
- Approved a change in official City holidays to observe a half-day holiday on Christmas Eve rather than on Good Friday.
- Appointed Leroy Koehn to the Aviation Commission.
- Approved a lease agreement with Ballard Aviation for Hangar N at Newton City/County Airport.
- Approved applications for 2020 renewals of cereal malt beverage licenses for retailers.
- Approved cancellations of 2018 bad debts for accounting purposes.
- Approved a resolution outlining the City’s corporate boundaries to include annexations from 2019.
- Appropriated funds for 2020 and ratified 2019 claims for payment.
- Approved an amendment to the development agreement with Park Aerospace.
- Approved an amendment to the development agreement for the Community Improvement District for Holiday Inn Express.
- Approved an amendment to the loan agreement for the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade project.