City commissioners and staff circled a set of tables with County Commissioners and administration Tuesday at Newton Fire Station No. 3 to talk about the future of the law enforcement center on East Seventh street during a work session prior to the regular city commission meeting.
It is an ongoing discussion, and not the first joint meeting of the commissions, to discuss the future of the facility. At one time, Newton was looking at building a new police station — even purchasing property that was at one time a grocery store just south of the train station on Main Street.
However, the price tag of building a new police station has put the kibosh on plans to build a new building. A community task force was formed.
"I love the idea of a new police station and I love the location they have selected," said Chip Bungard, a member of the community group that looked at facility issues. "We can't do that right now. ... We need a long term plan. .... In the meantime and to get things done quickly and to save money, it make sense to make the upgrades."
That task force has recommended renovations to the current facility — one shared by the Harvey County Sheriff's Department with the Newton Police Department.
The next step in the process is to engage architects and start creating cost estimates for work. Those cost estimates will be critical to if the county moves forward, according to county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber.
"We are at a point now that we can see some good figures as to what this will cost so we cal look at our participation in this," Swartzendruber said.
City commissioner Leroy Koehn questioned of the county has set a budget number for the project — the answer was not yet, but there are limitations to be aware of. The county is limited to $300,000 in general obligation bonds under state regulations. Swartzendruber said the county does have some reserve funds that could be used.
"The question is how major this renovation is going to be," said Ron Krehbiel, county commissioner. "We talked about this a few years ago and it was (sizable at that time). We do not have that at this point, unless I have missed that. ... That is something we need to work out."
Current estimates are based off of square footage estimates. Those estimates show about $3.2 million of work that included an outdoor shooting range, changes to evidence labs, reconfiguring office space and changing reception areas.
"Before we really know, we need to have an architect to come in and work on this," said Suzanne Loomis of the City of Newton.
It was estimated that architect fees would be more than $125,000.
"I sense there is agreement around this table that we need some answers," said Barth Hague. "Is there support to get some answers."
No vote was taken or formal action taken, however, it was apparent that the commissions wanted to move forward with hiring an architect to start work and creating cost estimates — along withe having tests done on the shooting range for lead.
Administration for the city and the county will be charged with creating an agreement to move forward with hiring an architect and getting cost estimates and begin testing for lead and looking at lead abatement.
"The two commissions agreed in principle," Hague said.
In other business the city commission:
• Approved a cereal malt beverage application for Play-Mor Lanes, 1105 Washington Road.
• Approved a request to close Sixth Street from Main to Poplar on Aug. 30 for a community pep rally.
• Approved a request to close Sixth Street from Main to Poplar on Sept. 30 for a food truck rally to follow the annual United Way Chili Cook-off. The commission also approved a temporary alcohol permit for the food truck rally.
• Recognized members of the Newton Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken baseball teams who qualified for and participated in state tournaments this summer. The Babe Ruth team is the only team in Newton history to go to state three years in a row. The Cal Ripken team earned the state sportsmanship award.
• Recognized Payton Roberts, a 2016 Newton High School graduate, for earning All-American honors as a member of the Iowa Central Community College Track and Field team.
• Recognized Janae Voelker Inman, a 2006 graduate of Newton High School, who was named to the Newton High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.
• Approved an event policy that established a fee structure for events, along with a waiver structure for events.
• Approved the start condemnation proceedings for the construction of a potable ground level storage tank on property owned by the BNSF Railroad and Vae Nortrak to the east of Sand Creek. The current tank used was constructed in 1939 out of steel and is need of replacement. The plan is to construct two smaller tanks, rather than one large tank.
• Received an executive summary of an update the the water/sewer master plan.
• Reviewed a draft of a right-of-way ordinance.
• Met in executive session to discuss an economic development prospect.