After a long discussion, the Newton City Commission tabled a proposal until the May 12 meeting concerning annexing three adjoining parcels of land in the vicinity of Hillside Road and S.E. 12th Street.
A tract of 4.74 acres is owned by Robert Weber, which contains a house and three outbuildings. A tract of 2.03 acres is owned by Dwight and Stanley Claassen and contains a grain storage facility.
A tract of 1.35 acres is owned by the city of Newton and contains no buildings. It is used as a utility easement and right of way.
The tracts are about a mile south and a mile west of the Newton City-County Airport. They are also near the Newton Industrial Park and Newton Logistics Park.
The two landowners both opposed the annexation. Two other members of the public spoke in opposition to the annexation. No one spoke in favor of the annexation during the public comment time.
Dwight Claassen said his land has been in his family since 1877. He cited the noise, equipment use and smell, lights, dust, pest control burning and the increase of property taxes as why he opposed annexation of his land.
"Agriculture is not only important in my life and my family, it’s vitally important to Newton and Harvey County," Claassen said. "Historically, agricultural real estate has always been taxed at a different rate than commercial. That’s the history of Kansas and the history of the whole United States. There are several reasons for that — it just does not develop income margin.
"I never perceive I should ever move on city water or sewer. … We still use a well out there and it’s fine. It’s not perfect, but it provides the water we need out there."
"I have been in the community ever since I was a kid," Manuel Weber said. "My dad started a business at the airport where we worked on airplanes. We worked on airplanes for 20 years. He purchased this land probably 20 or 25 years ago. We put my brother’s house on that land. In 2007, when the logistics park was put in, the land was annexed and we had to move his house. We had to move it north of First Street. So I have been part of this development of this master plan before.
"My biggest thing is taxes. Since I have almost 5 acres, it will be more than $1,000 a year in taxes for the increases. I’m perfectly happy with the rural water there. It seems like this whole thing is about the water issue to serve the city airport with a water main."
Weber said he would be subject to city ordinances concerning discharging firearms inside the city limits when he uses weapons to kill pests such as opossums and raccoons. Newton city attorney Chris Towle said the ordinance does have exemptions for protection of property, which would apply in that situation.
Weber also was concerned about having to register his pets and allowing his cats to roam the property and the ability to burn brush.
The taxes on both parcels would rise about 30% (from $2,101.46 to 3,014.99 for the Weber tract and from $651.58 to $914.80 for the Claassen tract.
"Raising taxes by 30% may not seem like much to you, but I’m doing this for my son, the next generation and the generations to come," Claassen said. "It will add up to several thousands of dollars throughout the years."
The Weber tract would be switched from the Rural Water District to the city water service and can be connected to city sewer service. The Claassen tract is served by a well. Both have sewage lagoons.
Advantages for the city would include the ability to run a water line to the Newton City-County Airport. There is a possibility of paving Hillside.
The city has an agreement made in January 2019 for the rural water district to abandon its water line to the Weber tract and allow it to be connected to the city line if the land is annexed. The cost of the water line changes would be borne by the city. Residential trash services would be provided by the city.
"Our water main is coming down the east side of Hillside to tie into the existing water line," Newton city engineer Suzanne Loomis said. "In order for us to build that line, the rural water district line is going to get torn out. We met with the rural water district about this. They said (they) could abandon that line because there is only one customer on it at the time. Once the road is paved, and I don’t know when that will be, the rural water district line on the east side in the ditch line … is too high and will need to be tore out when we do the paving."
Loomis said the permits with the state agencies for the changes have already been approved and if the city water line route to the airport is changed, that approval process would have to start from scratch.
"We’re not looking at our water lines for just today, but into the future with fully developed properties," she said.
The area around the proposed annexation area that is currently in the city limits is zoned as I-2 General Industrial District.
In other business, the commission approved a proposal to sell taxable general obligation refunding bonds to refinance industrial revenue bonds issued in 2014 for the amount of $6.835 million for a project by Aviation Business International, doing business as ABI Chemicals LLC.
ABI built a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing building and a 5,000-square-foot hangar, but the project was not successful. A new agreement was reached with Kansas Chemical Coatings LLL in 2018, but that business failed as well.
The new bonds are structured in a way that if the land is rented or sold in the future, that money can be put towards the principal of the debt. The new bonds also cut the interest rate from 6.25% to 3%, an interest savings of about $1.5 million. Annual debt service payments will decrease by about $100,000 to $150,000 a year.
The bonds will be paid off in 2036, the same year the old bonds would have been paid off.
The commission also approved street improvements on six stretches of road.
Three are major arterial roads and are covered under the city’s Capital Improvement Plan — W. First Street from Meridian to West Road, W. First Street from Main Street to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Tracks, and S. Kansas from 24th Street to 35th Street.
The CIP projects are paid for "by state federal fund exchange dollars and a bond issue to cover the difference."
Four projects to be covered for bids under the Annual Overlay project are Second Street from Manchester to Spencer, Eastgate from First Street to Second Street, 11th Street from Madison to Spencer and Manchester from 11th to 12th Street.
The commission accepted a bid from Pearson Construction LLC of Wichita for $317,325.25 and Flint Hills Materials LLC of Wichita for $255,520.
The commission also appointed Denise Goodnite, Arlan Newell and Brian Scott to the Planning Commission for terms ending April 30, 2023; and Jay Sommerfeld to a term ending April 30, 2021.
Mark Jenkins, Libby Albers and Suzanne Loomis were appointed to the Warkentin House Board with a term ending April 30, 2023.
The commission approved a Cereal Malt Beverage license to Nusser Fuels of Jetmore, which intends to operate a gas station and convenience store at 3524 S. Duncan, the location of the former Lone Star station, which closed at the end of 2018.
The city proclaimed May 10-16 as National Police Week and May 15 Peace Officers' Memorial Day.