Pool project slowed

Chad Frey
It is quite likely that the Newton USD 373 Board of Education slowed a project to construct a city pool and have it open for the summer of 2021 -- at least temporarily.

It is quite likely that the Newton USD 373 Board of Education slowed a project to construct a city pool and have it open for the summer of 2021 — at least temporarily.

“This will delay things,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the city of Newton. “... But we cannot reopen the pool with the condition it is in.”

On Monday, several members of the board of education expressed an unwillingness to raise the mill levy for the public building commission by 0.2 mills to 1.0 mills — and singled out the pool project during that conversation.

“I remember having this discussion two years ago in 2018, and I am positive there was not board majority in favor of moving forward paying for a pool,” said board member Jennifer Budde.

On a split vote of 3-3, the board did not pass a resolution to increase the mill levy from 0.8 to 1.0 mills. Though the board did reach a consensus for extending the Public Building Commission agreement for 20 years at the current mill levy levels.

City staff said Tuesday that the split vote meant the action was neither approved nor denied and that the city can meet with the board of education again to discuss the issue.

“It sounds like we need to have some discussions and repair some trust,“ said Kathy Valentine said. ”By biggest concern is can we move forward with this.“

Since 2004 the school district portion of tax levies to support the public building commission have been paid by the Newton Recreation Commission — the NRC has levied 1.6 mills, rather than 0.8 mills, in order for the school district to not dedicate a portion of its own mill levy to the PBC.

The move by the Board of Education mirrored a move made in 2018 — agreeing to extend the interlocal agreement through 2044. That agreement, however, was not approved by the Public Building Commission nor submitted or approved by the Kansas Attorney General’s office that would have made the agreement official. That agreement also contained a paragraph that allowed for negotiations for a public pool and additional baseball/softball facilities.

Tuesday the city commission passed an agreement that would increase the city mill to 1.0 mills and extend the interlocal agreement another 20 years — contingent on passage of the agreement by the Rec Commission and Board of Education.

“The city implemented and increased the mill in the 2021 budget,” Kelly McElroy said.

Following acceptance from all three entities in the PBC, the agreement must be certified by the attorney general’s office — a process that could take a couple of months.

According to Loomis, city staff continues to meet with the firm selected for the design/build process of a new pool.

The city did table a contract with Dondlinger Construction, the design-build firm for the project. That action would have also created a not-to-exceed gross maximum price for the project.

The cost of design is estimated at $85,000 — and the city has committed to pay those costs regardless of if the project can move forward or be completed.

The project will be bonded, however, the city is wanting the bond to be paid by the public building commission — and not in the city bond and interest funds.

The pool generates about $50,000 in revenues, with an expected revenues to increase by 25% if a new pool is constructed. Overall, the pools loses about $50,000 annual for the Newton Recreation Commission.

“No city makes a profit (on a pool),” said Brian Bascue, superintendent of the Newton Recreation Commission.

In other business, the city:

• Proclaimed Oct. 12-16 as Newton Business Professional Women’s Week.

• Presented Joy and Joy Robb of 12 Circle Drive the Yard of the Year Award.

• Adopted the official city flag.

• Passed an ordinance to grant a petition of annexation for 81 acres owned by Prestressed Concrete on the north side of Newton.

• The city approved the purchase of right-of-way from NDV Real Estate for the construction of streets to access a multi-use development on S. Kansas Ave. The original cost of right of way — which had been previously approved by the city — for the project was $114,800, however the city requested an expansion of one of the right of ways. The new price is 125,197.

• Rejected a bid for re-roofing two buildings at the Newton City/County Airport. Only one bidder submitted a bid. The total cost was higher than budgeted.

• Approved a project to install new approach equipment at the Newton City/County Airport, mirroring action taken by the county commission earlier in the day.

• Approved a special use permit for Trinity Heights United Methodist Church. The church is wanting to install a digital sign where the church currently has a sign at the corner of Trinity and Boyd. The planning commission recommended the sign be turned off from 9 p.m. each night to 7 a.m. each morning.