The city of Newton is moving forward with land acquisition to construct a new water tower on E. First Street, replacing the oldest water storage tank owned by the city.

This week, the city commission approved filing condemnation papers for tracts of land owned by BNSF and NorTrack — an attempt to cut through bureaucratic red tape as the city attempts to negotiate the purchase of property and create access easements. 

“BNSF has layers of bureaucracy to go through and we just were not getting anywhere, even though some at the lower end had no problem with this,” said Bob Myers, city manager a legal counsel.

Myers said in the past, railroad representatives have actually asked municipalities to file eminent domain proceedings to work around the railroad’s real estate department.

City of Newton attorney Chris Towle said the city will file those papers after approval by the city commission Tuesday night.

After the petition is filed, district court will be asked to rule on if the city has the power of eminent domain, and if the taking of the property is lawful. If the court finds in the city's favor, three appraisers will be assigned who will then determine the amount of money to be given to the current landowners as a result of the city taking the property. At that point, the city has the option to pay that amount. The city will also be responsible for court costs, appraisers fees and defense costs if the city walks away. 

“Eminent domain proceedings move along fairly quickly, and their counsel will be aware of that. … I would anticipate that we will conclude this with some kind of dollar amount,” Myers said. “ We have a water tank that is at the end of its useful life and we have to get this dealt with.”

The tank in question is a 3.8 million gallon water storage tank constructed in 1939. The inside of the tank was last painted in 1997. In 2012, a structural inspection revealed that roof-framing members are “severely deteriorated” and there was water seepage from the base of the tank.

City staff, and a water system consultant, is recommending building one smaller tank — a 1.9 million gallon tank — at a new location, replacing the 1939 tank with a second 1.9 million gallon tank.

With the location of feeder lines from the Mission Water Station to the city of Newton, it was determined the best place for the new tank would be southwest of the current tank — on property owned by BNSF.

In other business the commission:

• Approved a request to close the Athletic Park Circle from 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 28 for the “5K Monster Dash/Fun Run.

• Approved a request to close the band shell area and west parking lot on Oct. 7 for “Blues, Brews & BBQ,” along with a request for snow fencing, picnic tables, and trash receptacles.

• Recognized Mike Estep of the Newton Fire/EMS department for his deployment and work in the area of disaster recovery in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.

• Received, read and approved a proclamation declaring Sept. 17 to 23 as Constitution Week. The proclamation was drafted and offered by the Newton Daughters of the Revolution.

• Appointed Dan Harder to fill an unexpired term on the Building Board of Examiners and Appeals

• Reviewed an agreement with Harvey County for architectural work on the Law Enforcement Center. The city will pay 2/3 of the cost, the county 1/3. The costs of that work are not yet known. The commission took no action on the item.