The Newton city commission approved moving forward with a plan to enlarge a sewer line in hopes of wiping away a problem for infill development in the area of S. Main and SW 14th street.

“I would offer a suggestion to move forward with the plans and then come up with some funding alternatives for us, whether that be bonding or other resources available to us later this year,” said Leroy Koehn, vice mayor.

The commission approved moving forward with an engineering agreement and the creation of construction drawings to enlarge a sewer main that runs along Old Main Street into sewer basin B-6.

The project, according to city engineer Suzanne Loomis, would address three needs. The current line is operating at capacity, and enlarging the line on Old Main would address that issue. It would also open up some properties for development by adding 275 units and connections. It would also reduce maintenance needs.

Cost of the project to improve the sewer basin in question with larger sewer lines is estimated at $425,000. At a work session the possibility of bonding the project was discussed.

There are four empty properties that developers have their eyes on.

“We have turned some people down,” said Stan Broadhagen, who represents the property owners. “... Someone wants to put a motel near the hospital. I would like to do that, and we have some apartment projects coming up. I would like to do that. Around the lake property, some duplexes.”

The four lots total about 35 acres.

“It is not that we don't have sewer, we have sewer — the same thing that runs by your house,” Broadhagen said. “We just can not hook up to it even though we have paid taxes all these years and paid street specials. At this point, we can not do anything with the land. It is an infill project. It is the last of what can be developed (in the area).”

“I personally think we should help get this developed,” said commissioner Glen Davis.

The sewer project could be bonded — though commissioners have asked to see what other resources may be available to pay for the project.

“I would like to see what bond items will come off later this year and what the net effect of this will be,” said commissioner Leroy Koehn.

Commissioner Barth Hague asked if moving forward with this project would put other needed sewer improvements that are part of an improvement plan on hold.

“Is moving ahead with this, laying something else aside … or are we keeping up with what we need to be doing,” Hague asked.

The answer was no. According to Loomis, the two “biggies” in the master plan are moving forward.

The commission also approved moving forward with the extension of a water main along Washington Road to facilitate water access to the Washington Park PUD — located just south of Pizza Hut. Currently, there is a liquor store and a dialysis center in the PUD. A retailer is wanting to purchase the currently open property to build a new building in the remaining empty property.

City staff could not reveal who the retailer was, only that if water was extended to the site that it could be sold. The addition of a water and sewer mains to the property is estimated at about $104,000.

“They have a contract for the sale of that property and new owners to go in there,” said city manager Bob Myers.

Representatives of the owner told the commission that the current property owner may pay a portion – up to half — of that cost.

“I am willing to move on this under those terms,” said Barth Hague.

In other business the commission:

• Received a report from the Domestic Violence Response Team, which has served more than 1,000 victims in the last four years.

• Discussed extending deadlines for the Harvey County Economic Development Council to allow the EDC to work with other groups in the region and create a plan aligned with a consultant's report.

• Appointed Kathy Valentine as mayor for the remainder of the year.

• Appointed Leroy Koehn as vice mayor for the remainder of the year.

• Recognized Newton High School basketball players Aubry Nichols, Kyndal Bacon and Taylor Antonowich who were named to the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Academic All-State teams.

• Approved closure of Athletic Park Circle for the Cookie Daze 5K June 16.

• Passed a proclamation noting May 7 to 14 is National Music Week.

• Approved mayoral appointments. Deborah Kinsley and Geraldine Hendrix were appointed to the Newton Housing Authority. Carl Harris was appointed to the Harvey County Economic Development Council. James Wiens was appointed to the aviation commission. Andrew Hermann was appointed to the Convention and Tourism Bureau. Carl Harris was appointed to the planning commission. Todd Wedel was appointed to the wholesale water supply district.

• Approved sending letters to the Kansas congressional delegates opposing legislation to allow for larger semi trucks.

• Approved a process for replacing commissioner David Nygaard who passed away earlier this month. The city will collect letters of interest from the public with the intention of voting for, and appoint, a new commissioner May 22.

• Received a letter of interest from Ron Eggert, who ran for a commission seat in the 2017 election.

• Awarded a bid of more than $52,000 to Dondlinger Construction for sewer improvements to Autumn Glen Fourth Addition.