The city has run into a minor problem with the public building commission — a group charged with creating a master plan of community projects that in the past have included improvements to athletic facilities in city parks and financing Sand Creek Station golf course.
Three of the five members of the PBC appointed by the city need to be renewed as members, or replaced.
“They are contacting people right now. The hope is to get the spots filled as soon as we can,” said Erin McDaniel, public information officer for the city of Newton.
Each of the five appointees on the PBC have been placed there by a specific member of the city commission. When that commissioner leaves the commission, their PBC appointee’s term expires as well.
Maurice Benniga was appointed by Barth Hague, who did not run for re-election last fall and is no longer on the commission. John Suderman was appointed by Glen Davis, who failed to retain his seat in the last election. Tom Adrian was appointed by former mayor David Nygaard, who died before his term was over.
According to city staff, Adrian has been contacted and has an interest in continuing. Commissioners are searching for the new members now.
Funding for the PBC comes from three sources — the city, school district and Newton Recreation Commission all provided for funding. The school district and NRC combined their levy, as the school district is the taxing entity for the recreation commission — sending levies to the NRC as a passthrough in the district budget.
Last year the contribution for USD 373 and NRC was $261,966.82. The city’s contribution was $96,508.52. This year USD 373 and NRC paid $271,604.44. Because the had budgeted to bring its contribution up to 1 mill, the City’s contribution was $125,176.31. The city paid an extra $25,021.
“This is an entity that most Newton residents do not even know exists, and it has been very successful,” McDaniel said.
Nearly 20 years ago the city commission, rec commission and board of education had been delivered a message from the public. A non-binding vote killed a proposed sports complex — called the Blue Sky Complex. Voters, and community members in public meetings, told the three entities to take care of what they already had.
That means renovations to Fischer Field and other athletic facilities around the community. Fischer Field was in rough shape, constructed during the depression as a Works Progress Administration project.
To find the funding for that renovation project, along with maintenance and other projects, the city, school district and Recreation Commission created a new entity — the Public Building Commission. Each governmental entity agreed to put .8 mils into the fund, and the PBC would begin advising the three governmental bodies what projects needed to be done.
Fischer Field was renovated and became the home of the Kansas High School Activities Association Eight Player Football Championships. An artificial surface was installed, and when it came time for that surface to be replaced, the PBC funded that project as well.
Other projects have included renovations to Kelsch Field, also in Athletic Park, renovations to Washington Park and renovations to Klein-Scott Field in Centennial Park. It has constructed new bathrooms and concession areas in multiple parks.
In 2018 the city commission began talking about renovation or replacement of the city pool, and the idea of the PBC being the funding mechanism for that work was floated. That caused a discussion in the future of the PBC, as the original agreement was set to expire in 2024 — when the bonds for Fischer Field are paid. All three entities chose to continue funding the PBC, and the city agreed to start contributing one mill. That agreement now needs to be taken to the PBC, and sent to the state attorney general for review. Once approved, the PBC will be extended for another 20 years.