The Newton City Commission had a busy night Tuesday, discussing bridge and street projects, approving a new facility in the industrial park and addressing several other agenda items.

Suzanne Loomis, director of public works, presented three projects as potential projects to be submitted to the Kansas Department of Transportation for inclusion in its Five-Year Plan.

The three projects Loomis suggested for submission are the Ash Street bridge over Sand Creek, West 12th Street from Boyd to Meridian, and Spencer Street reconstruction from Broadway to 12th Street.

Loomis said competition for the funds is very stiff, and putting projects on the list doesn’t mean the city will receive funding, nor does it mean the city is obligated to go forward with the projects.

“If you don’t get yourself on the list, you'll never get funding,” Loomis said.

Loomis said it likely will be at least six years before the West 12th Street project and Spencer Street reconstruction would be up for possible state funding.

The commission approved the list of projects.

After discussion, the commission approved a request for proposals for the new Newton Fire/EMS south side facility.

The city acquired the project site earlier this year. The approximately six-acre site is just west of Interstate 135 and south of South 24th Street.

Vice mayor Racquel Thiessen was appointed to serve on the consultant selection committee.

Proposals will be due to the city by Dec. 22. While there was some discussion as to whether the city should proceed with the project in the current economic climate, Fire Chief Gary Denny stressed that the emergency services have done a needs assessment, and that response times are already exceeding recommendations on the south side. He said response times were the factor driving the relocation.

“I understand economics, I understand the times that we’re in, but I reiterate the needs assessment has already been done,” Denny said.

Loomis said even with the economic climate, it would be wise to have a plan ready so when the city is ready and funding is available, the city would be ready to proceed.

“If contractors start to get hungry, we’re not going to be ready” if the city does not go ahead with the hiring of a design consultant, Loomis said.

Thiessen said she was concerned it would send the wrong message if the city delayed this project while moving forward with other projects.

“We’re not putting other projects on the back burner because of the economy,” she said.

A consultant selection committee will review the proposals and make a recommendation to the commission to contract with a particular consultant.

The estimated cost for the facility was estimated at $1.3 million.

The commission also approved a memorandum of agreement with Intrust Bank to construct a 6,500 square foot facility in the Newton Industrial Park to house a disaster recovery center. The facility will be granted one lot in the park. The city waived special assessments for extension of water and sewer utilities and approved a five-year waiver on street special assessments. The company is not eligible for tax abatement.

The facility will potentially house 40 to 50 employees during a disaster recovery operation but will be minimally staffed during day-to-day operations. The estimated construction cost for the facility is $2.5 million, with construction expected to start by the third quarter of 2009.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved a contribution to the Harvey County Economic Development Council to extend the contract with transportation consultant Troy Carlson for one month. The extension will cost $10,500, which the city and Harvey County will share equally.

• Extended City Attorney Bob Myers’ contract for one year with a 5 percent salary increase.

• Adopted an ordinance to approve an amendment for the loan agreement for the 12th Street water tower project, which increased the amount of the loan from the state. All of the original bids for the project were rejected because they were above the engineer’s estimate because the price of steel skyrocketed.

• Awarded a bid to Utility Contractors Inc. for the Autumn Glen third addition, phase one sewer project at the cost of $171,199.60, which was the engineer’s estimate.

The bid had previously been awarded to Rod’s Ditching of Peabody, but Loomis said the owner elected not to contract for the project because he did not believe it could build it for the price submitted. The bid would automatically then go to the second lowest bidder, which was UCI, but UCI’s original bid was above the engineer’s estimate.

But Loomis said after negotiations with UCI, the company agreed to do the project at the engineer’s estimate.

• Approved an agreement to update and formalize some existing relationships with the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce to manage and operate the Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau and to facilitate, staff and support the Central Business District Program. The city agreed to distribute to the Chamber $95,000 annually, of which $75,000 is for the Convention and Visitors Bureau and $20,000 for the Central Business District Program. The funds for the NCVB will come from the transient guest tax distributions, but if such receipts are insufficient to fully fund the NCVB, the city will make up the difference out of its general fund. The Central Business District Program funds will come from the city’s general fund.

The commission also approved for Virgil Penner, CEO of the Chamber, and Bob Myers, city attorney, to create an agreement in regard to funding for a program for the Greater Newton Business District.

• Approved a request by Douglas Croft, chairman and founder of Veterans Committee of Harvey County, for the organization to host and plan the fourth annual Veterans Day parade in November 2009 and approve dates for the next five years. The proposed parade route and dates will be subject to approval from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

• Adopted an ordinance granting a 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement on a building expansion for Mackey and Sons. The commission had previously approved a resolution of intent to grant the abatement in November 2007. Mackey and Sons put up a new 50 by 100 foot pre-engineered steel building addition.

• Recognized police corporals Jason Thompson and K-9 partner Aaron and Tony Hawpe and K-9 partner Carla for recent awards won from the Heart of America Police Dog Association and presented certificates of commendation to the officers for continued dedication to the K-9 program.

• Approved publication of the notice of the amendment to the 2008 budget. The city has an excess of sales tax revenue, and airport fuel sales have exceeded what was budgeted.

Ron Ahsmuhs, director of finance, said the budget amendment will allow the city to transfer half of the excess sales tax revenue into the economic development reserve. When the additional one-cent sales tax was approved, half of the money was to go into such a reserve.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Ahsmuhs said.

The airport has sold more fuel, and the price of the fuel has gone up.

The amendment will allow the city to have more fuel for resale, with the additional expenditure offset by the additional fuel sales. This will not increase any taxes or fees.

• Heard a presentation from Sandra Fruit, director of the Greater Newton Community Foundation, on the transfer of wealth and building community endowments.

• Conducted an executive session to meet with the developers of the new hotel to be located next to the city’s proposed conference center. The session was to discuss financial affairs or trade secrets. No action was taken.