City three: A water project, land bank and sewer debt payment

Chad Frey
The Kansan
City of Newton, Kansas.

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The city commission met Oct. 12, below are three highlights from the meeting:

1. Moved a water project forward

The commission approved plans and specification for the replacement of a water tank on First Street.

Staff have obtained a loan from the state for $5.2 million, with an interest rate of about 1.2 percent.

The project is to replace a water tank on First Street, putting two water storage tanks in its place.

City staff, and a water system consultant, is recommending building one smaller tank — a 1.9 million gallon tank — at a new location while 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. The city filed for condemnation in 2017 to acquire land from Nortrack, a rail manufacturing company, and BNSF in the area.

2. Created a land bank

The city commission approved the creation of a "Land Bank" as part of the consent agenda.

A land bank is designed to acquire title to vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties, eliminate the tax liabilities, and transfer the properties to new owners. When a property is not desirable on the private market because of back taxes, title issues, or other financial and legal barriers, a land bank can step in before it becomes a major liability to the neighborhood.

The Community Development Commission will serve as the land bank board. Mayor Rich Stinnett requested that the proposed ordinance be revised to include language specifying that board members will not be compensated. The revised ordinance will be considered at a future meeting.

3. Made a debt payment

The commission authorized making an extra payment on a loan from KDHE for the upgrade of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Principal Payment.

The commission approved a payment of $1 million, to be applied to the principal of the loan. The funds come from a 38 percent surcharge on the city utility bill.

In 2016 the commission chose to keep the 38 percent charge in place in an attempt to pay the loan off 10 years early, and avoid possible sewer rate increases if possible.

The city has now made five extra principal payments, totaling $4.4 million. Sewer increases that were planned for 2017 and 2018 have also been paid by this fee, keeping the rate stable for users.