Having taken a tour of the current Newton Police Department facility two weeks ago, the Community Council on Police Facilities (CCPF) met at noon Monday for a light lunch and a roundtable discussion.
The council agreed that the tour of the police facility was incredibly informative.
While the tour originally led the council to consider a public open house or tour of the police department, the CCPF has now shifted its focus to the creation of a virtual walking tour of the current facility, one that can be taken and shared with the public at different social venues.
The CCPF is also considering a public event to promote voting on the issue after the correct information is in the hands of citizens.
Regarding the timeframe for when a 5-minute virtual video tour with a voiceover could be produced, Director of Communications for the city, Erin McDaniel said she would be visiting Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy later Monday afternoon.
McDaniel said she would attempt to return to the CCPF with (at least) a concept for the video in two weeks. She also mentioned the finished video tour might be ready to show in mid-May.
Noting that the council's tour of the current facility was very informative, Property Investor and Manager, Retired International Banker and council member Jaime Ontiveros said he had conducted various visits with members of the community – many have asked him about the council's official recommendation.
Ontiveros and various members of the council agreed that the amount of information needing to be considered in the recommendation is overwhelming.
Ontiveros added that some citizens are unsure how much they will be expected to pay for a new facility or how they will directly benefit from it.
While a number of Newton citizens are expressing a desire for the new station, First Baptist Church Senior Pastor and council member Chip Bungard said not all of those people are those who will actually be voting for it.
Those in different voting areas need to be given the correct information about a new facility and see that it impacts them, Bungard explained.
Newton Director of Community Planning and Development Kelly Bergeron noted that there is a potential to draw more votes and reach more voters by sending mail-based ballots.
During the meeting, Bergeron also summarized the research history leading up to the CCPF's meetings, as well as various items and specifications needing to to be considered in the council's final recommendation.
One factor, according to citizen and council member Sue Meacham, is the current challenge of hiring officers, due to a difference in pay between Newton and other area police departments.
Meacham said a new building for officers to work in could make an impression on prospective Newton PD officers.
Newton City Commissioner Leroy Koehn, who also serves on the the CCPF, said previous plans for the facility had been a bit premature.
In recent conversations with elderly citizens, Koehn said many have told him they are concerned with their property taxes increasing. Others, Koehn said, have expressed a willingness for their taxes to increase, if only slightly.
According to Koehn, Harvey County has previously expressed it is not interested in combining efforts with the city for a new law enforcement center.
Aside from it being a large investment, Koehn said the county does not want to move the Sheriff's Office and jails away from its current location near the other county offices.