City 3: Tree pruning and sidewalks

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The Newton City Commission met via Zoom on Dec. 8. They took up three main issues.

1. Dealing with blight through tree trimming, sidewalk repair

One year ago, the county commission agreed during budget discussions to begin a tree-trimming program.

“There are multiple reasons that this is needed,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works. “One, there are large trucks traveling along all of our streets locally and when limbs are hanging down, they are hitting those delivery trucks, they are hitting large trucks, whatever is coming through.”

In 2019, 24% of complaints to the city environmental inspector were related to tree trimming/pruning

On Dec. 8, the commission took the next step to create the program — moving forward with a bid process to find a contractor to trim trees.

For year one, the area between Elm Street on the east and Walnut on the west, and First Street on the south and 12th Street on the north. The city is split into six street maintenance areas, and the targeted area for tree trimming will be the area the city will be performing street maintenance next year.

The program will hire an independent contractor to do trimming in the contracted area.

“Any funds that we have left over from what we have budgeted we would use to go in where we get complaints — and we will — we would use the contractor to go to those areas,” Loomis said.

Limbs will be chipped, added to a pile at Centennial Park that is available for use to the public and a pile at the wastewater sewage plant used to mix with sludge.

The commission also discussed creating a sidewalk replacement assistance program for those who are cited for sidewalk safety violations. The commission will take up action on that issue at a future meeting.

The city had a program in 2005 that was suspended later. As a result, there is about $145,000 set aside for creating a new program.

“These things help stomp down blight and help with community esteem and pride,” said Richard Stinnett, city commissioner.

2.Elected a new mayor, vice mayor

In a commission form of city government, the mayor is appointed by and from the commission instead of elected by the general population of the city. In Newton, the mayor and vice mayor serve one-year terms.

Dec. 8 was the final meeting with Leroy Koehn as mayor. The commission appointed Richard Stinnett as the next mayor to serve one year. The commission appointed Clint McBroom as vice mayor.

3. Approved a new plat

Approved a new plat for a commercial development for Claassen’s Second Addition, Block 31, which is north of S.E. 14th near Washington Avenue. The plat divided a lot into a pair of lots for commercial development.