It looked — and felt — a lot like a school field trip.
A group boarded a school bus, visited city facilities and took plenty of notes.
However, it wasn't a group of students from a local elementary school. City staff offered members of the public a chance to tour two city facilities — the wastewater treatment plant and the city/county airport — and learn more about what those facilities mean to the community.
The Thursday afternoon trip was spearheaded by the city's Community Advancement Coordinator Barb Burns and Commissioner Glen Davis, and Newton Fire/EMS Chief Mark Willis drove the bus.
The first stop on the tour was the wastewater treatment plant, where all the water that goes down the drains in Newton homes — from showers, sinks, washing machines, etc. — ends up.
Water is treated at the plant and then discharged. The wastewater treatment plant currently is permitted to run 3 million gallons a day.
Suzanne Loomis, city engineer/director of public works, reported the city is working on a $26 million upgrade project at the plant. Some of the old structures used to treat wastewater will be demolished, and some new structures will be built. After the upgrades, the plant will be permitted to run 4.4 million gallons a day.
The project will help the city to meet stricter contaminant requirements from the state and federal governments. The plant also is aging, with some of the structures dating back to the late 1940s. The plans for the upgrades must be reviewed by the state before the city can proceed.
The next stop on the tour was the Newton City/County Airport.
Airport Manager Kevin Timmermeyer said the airport currently is at 100 percent occupancy. About 155 aircraft are based at the airport, and about 450 people are employed at the various businesses at the airport.