The Implementing Newton’s Future committee held its first meeting Thursdayand discussed various ways the city should spend its $250,000 Comprehensive Plan budget, which focuses on ways to improve the city’s image.
First impressions play a major role in attracting new residents, and members agreed there were a number of “eyesores” in the city that may need to be addressed. Member Don Poynter said in the past the mentality has been to put enough pressure on the council and hope that something gets done about it. He suggested the committee look into the possibility of removing those “eyesores.”
Member Mary Ann Nevins also suggested that if the committee does start work on a property, it should submit “before-and-after” photos to the media in order to show its progress.
One of the major misconceptions about Newton is its distance from Des Moines, and newly elected INF Chair Bruce Showalter said he wants to fix that.
“We need to make ourselves visible,” Showalter said. “Recently, I have been working with a builder in Des Moines that built some new houses here in town, and his contractors don’t want to come down here because (they think) it’s too far. He struggles to get subcontractors to come down here.”
Member Frank Liebl, who is also the Newton Development Corporation director, said the committee must be careful on how to market the city.
“I had a chance to talk to a couple of people in the Des Moines area,” Liebl said. “I asked, ‘What’s your opinion of Newton, (and) how is it perceived?’ One (person) told me, ‘Well, it’s a black hole.’”
Liebl said the reason the person referred to the city as such was because of the departure of Maytag.
Although the city added more than 15,000 jobs since the departure of Maytag, Liebl said many people and city residents do not realize how many jobs the city has recovered.
With the arrival of new jobs, one must look for a place to live, and Liebl said he noticed many people who want to move to the city can’t because they cannot find a suitable house or apartment.
“We just lost a young man with three kids,” he said. “He ended up moving to Baxter. There are three kids that are not going to be in our school system that we lost. There was (also) another one who moved to Altoona.”
Signs & City Pride
Bob O’Brien, vice chair of the committee, said that when he saw large signs in cities that showed where a school or a park is, it can make a difference.
“If you go through Indianola, every block has got a sign of something (showing how to get a to a school or something),” he said. “That is a simple, cheap deal. It’s real nice.”
He also said the signs would show someone who is not from the area what the city has to offer.
Some members of the committee thought having children and teenagers volunteer could benefit the city.
Showalter said those who were involved in projects may be less likely to damage the city if they worked on it.
The committee would like to remind the public that its meetings are open to everyone. Its next meeting will be at noon May 9 at the Newton City Council Chambers.