The Newton City Council welcomed a new member on Monday night with the swearing in of Ward 2 appointee Evelyn George following a brief debate and vote during December’s first regular meeting.
With a short agenda at hand, the majority of the meeting was dedicated to questioning George and Larry Johnson, both of Newton, by current councilors. Following the short debate, councilors unanimously voted for George to fill the Ward 2 seat, which was left vacant by the appointment of Mike Hansen as mayor on Nov. 5.
George and her husband moved to Newton in 1983, where she worked in the Maytag marketing division. She considers Newton to be “a community just right in size” for raising her family, and after moving to Coralville a few years back, recently returned to Newton.
“We left our hearts here in Newton,” she said.
While both George and Johnson fielded various questions from councilors, George made a handful of strong points in her answers that ultimately led to her appointment.
She stated that highlighting the amenities Newton has to offer — among them the Bike & Hike Trail, public art and historic homes — as well as giving the west entrance to town a facelift would make Newton more appealing to visitors and new residents.
“We need to attract people and improve their first impression of Newton, especially families with children so they’ll have a long-term interest,” she said.
She noted that while she’d been concerned with the “inaction” of the city council in past years, things were looking up.
“I’ve seen a real change in the most recent period of time (in the council),” she said. “In order to meet the needs of the city today, we’re headed in the right direction.”
Additionally, the council unanimously adopted a resolution approving a preliminary agreement with Miller-Valentine Group, of Cincinnati, Ohio, to provide additional assistance by the city to help the development better fit into the downtown area.
These incentives include $150,000 toward infrastructure surrounding the complex as well as $25,000 in tax rebates per year over the next ten years. In addition, final construction plans have been drafted for the complex which will be comprised of 53 two-bedroom units.
Councilor Price suggested that Newton Public Works Director Keith Laube explain what specific improvements in infrastructure the initial sum would cover.
“Right now it’s a vacant lot and it’s not in the best condition, so we’d probably do some on-street parking, some parallel parking and improved crosswalks to ensure that residents can walk in all directions,” he said.
Councilor Julius then asked Newton Community Development Director Bryan Friedman for his input into how the percentage of the project’s total value the city is investing in compares with other recent projects of this nature.
“In the past history of incentives, this is a smaller amount than in the past,” Friedman said of the $150,000 requested by Miller-Valentine, nothing that the overall project cost was approaching $10 million.
In other items of business:
• The council adopted a resolution authorizing the submission of a pre-application for federal airport improvement funding and certifying eligibility requirements. This is a requirement, per the Federal Aviation Administration, for any projects slated over the next five fiscal years; this resolution was adopted by unanimous vote as well.
• A resolution authorizing the establishment for a Title VI nondiscrimination program and the submittal of Title VI assurance and agreement documents to the Iowa Department of Transportation was passed unanimously without discussion.
• The council adopted a resolution accepting completion of the Maytag Park and Woodlands Park stump grinding projects, agreeing to pay the remaining $7,507.25 to Tree Pro of Newton.
• A resolution approving quotes for the prohibited sanitary sewer discharge removal work at 508 S. 4th Ave. W. was adopted, agreeing to a $2,108.00 financial aid payment to Jeff Seals Construction of Newton.
• The council held two closed sessions, the first to discuss collective bargaining issues and the second to discuss and evaluate the professional competency of a city employee.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.