City inches forward with library project

Chad Frey
The Newton Public Library and Newton City Commission are working through a multi-phase project to construct a new library in Military Park.

A new agreement for a new city library project was brought to the city commission — an agreement that states the city is willing to keep moving with a multi-phase project to build a facility.

The next phase in the project is to begin private fundraising to help support a project estimated at $8.8 million to construct a new facility located in Military Park that would replace the current building at that location.

There are, according to public works director Suzanne Loomis, donors who have already expressed interest — though they have not been willing to commit until the city solidified its intention to move forward with the project.

“This states you are willing to move forward with this,” Loomis said.

The agreement asked the city to commit up to $4.5 million, with $1.3 million committed from the library.

“We are not agreeing to write a $4.5 million check at this point,” said Commissioner Richard Stinnett. “We are simply agreeing to move the ball down the road so the library can begin its efforts to raise its $2.7 million.”

The next phase, fundraising, would run through December 2021. If successful, the project would be bonded in 2023.

“I think it is risky, at this point, to commit to anything. Six months ago we would not have envisioned a pandemic,” said Commissioner Clint McBroom.

There is an emergency out built into the agreement if the city is not able to move forward with the project.

“The gap of about 2.7 million would be raised through private donations through a fundraising campaign, or the project would be decreased to make up that gap,” Loomis said.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve the agreement and move to the next phase of the project.

In other business, the commission:

• Hosted a work session to discuss the results of a community survey.

• Approved SKEDD as the administrator of Community Development Block grants.

• Forgave a CBDG loan to the Gathering Church. In 2013, the city issued a loan to a community performing arts group for work in the Fox Theater. In 2015, the loan was transferred to the Gathering when the church purchased the theater. There were stipulations in the loan that would allow for the loan to be forgiven, which the church has fulfilled. The loan amount was $25,000.

• Approved a special-use permit for Newton High School to place a digital sign at the school. The sign was previously located at First Bank, now Intrust Bank, and donated to the school. The planning and zoning board recommended issuing the permit.