The Newton City Commission voted to authorize the city to participate in a group of counties applying for a multi-million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Planning program.


The Newton City Commission voted to authorize the city to participate in a group of counties applying for a multi-million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Planning program.
The program will contribute about $100 million in funding nationwide to help regional groups and local governments boost economic growth through the integration of housing, transportation, economic development, water infrastructure and environmental planning efforts.
“This plan is very like the ReNewton plan for a much larger area,” Assistant City Manager Tim Johnson told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday night. “It’s a visionary plan for what the region would aspire to over time.”
Harvey County will be applying for the grant along with five other counties in the area, including Sedgwick County and Butler County.
The program will encourage the region to examine factors such as promoting economic prosperity through competitiveness and revitalization; supporting social equity, inclusion and access to opportunity; addressing energy use and climate change; providing more transportation choices and affordable housing; and examining public health and environmental impact.
The cost to implement the program in the region will be about $2.5 million, and the grant amount will be about $1 million. Applicants for the grant are asked to provide 20 percent of the requested funding amount in leveraged resources in the form of cash and/or in-kind contributions, Johnson said. For the city of Newton’s contribution, Johnson and Community Advancement Coordinator Barb Burns will be participating in the region’s planning process. He estimates the in-kind staff time and travel costs to and from Wichita over a three-year period will be about $44,055.
Vice Mayor Racquel Thiesen said approving the application was an important step in coming together as a region and working to benefit the group as a whole.
“This is just another piece of that regionalism that seems to make sense,” she said.
The Commission voted in favor of applying for the grant, 4-1. Commissioner Glen Davis voted against the grant.
“I don’t think we need to be spending $44,000 at this time, when the public wants us to cut back on expenses,” he said.

Other business

At the meeting, the city commission also:
n Recognized Tammy Bailey, Newton Wastewater Treatment Plant operator, for receiving a 5S award. Bailey was inducted into the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers at a Kansas Water Environment Association meeting on Sept. 1.
Suzanne Loomis, city engineer/director of public works, said Bailey has been working in the wastewater field for about 30 years, and she was selected for the award based on her contributions to the wastewater industry.
“The facilities she has operated have been top-notch,” Loomis said. “…
She does a very good job making sure things are maintained and kept in good order.”
n Approved a proclamation declaring Oct. 9 through 15 as Fire Prevention Week.
n Approved an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation for the construction of a new interchange at U.S. Highway 50 and Anderson.
Loomis said the city has been working on this project with KDOT since the closure of the Old Main and U.S. 50 intersection, and the new interchange at Anderson is designed to allow for improved, safer traffic flow from the south side of Newton to the north side of U.S. 50.
The project is scheduled to go out for bid in December, and construction likely will begin in February 2012.
The state will be paying for the road work, and there will be no local funding for the project, Loomis said.