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Council to tackle request for development specialist position, Newton Housing Initiative

Published: Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 11:04 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 11:05 a.m. CDT

At its meeting Monday evening, the Newton City Council will revisit two important proposals discussed at its Oct. 21 meeting.

City Administrator Bob Knabel has recommended the creation of a new staff position, Development Specialist, at a cost of approximately $100,000 per year for salary, benefits and equipment and supplies. The cost in the current fiscal year would be roughly $60,000.

In his proposal, Knabel said the purpose of the position would be to implement both the Newton Housing Initiative and the Buxton Report recommendations. Funding for the current fiscal year would come from the Hotel/Motel Tax and the Undesignated Fund Balance.

Councilors will also be asked to consider a resolution that would launch the Newton Housing Initiative. Knabel has recommended the program, as currently proposed, would be funded through the sale of $3.6 million in general obligation bonds paid back over a term of 10 years.

Both the proposed Development Specialist and Housing Initiative stirred lengthy discussions, and disagreement, among the councilors. There was no clear indication at the Oct. 21 meeting how they might vote on either proposal.

The council is expected to hear once again from residents of the East 19th Street North area north of Berg Middle School about their perceived need for stop signs to slow down traffic. Dave Hoyt and others spoke to the council about the issue at its Oct. 21 meeting and brought a number of petitions asking the council to take action.

Hoyt approached the Traffic Safety Committee at its meeting in early October. At that time, he addressed the need for a four-way stop at East 19th Street North and North 11th Avenue East.

Instead, the committee recommended removing on-street parking on the east side of East 19th Street North from East Eighth Avenue North to East 11th Avenue North. Committee members said they felt restricting parking to one side of the street would improve traffic flow and visibility for vehicles backing out of driveways.

The council will also consider another citizen request to restrict parking on one side of the street along East 15th Street North between North Second Avenue East and North Fourth Avenue East.

Councilors were first introduced to a proposal to sell all of its lots in the Fountain Hills Estates subdivision to a West Des Moines-based developer at their Oct. 21 meeting. The issue is on the agenda for further discussion at Monday’s meeting.

Skiff Medical Center CEO Steve Long will also address the council. He said he plans to address the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the hospital, as well as future strategies for Skiff.

Steve Long, CEO of Skiff Medical Center, is on the agenda as a discussion item.

Among its other business, councilors are expected to address:

• Two amendments to the city’s Code of Ordinances covering Site Plan Control and the Subdivision Ordinance. Staff have recommended the changes to “better reflect current urban planning and engineering practices and standards for development.”

• Expansion of the North Central Urban Renewal Area TIF district to include the Newton Downtown Area. This would allow TIF funds to be used for street lighting, streetscaping and facade improvements.

• Authorizing the city’s participation in Newton’s Main Street program, and designating an official to represent the city on the Main Street Governing Board of Directors. It will also establish the city’s financial commitment to the program.

• Establishing a $50 registration fee for the city’s new vacant building registry.

• Demolition of two structures as part of the city’s dangerous building abatement program. The former WaterWorks garage at 216 N. Third Ave. E. is being considered for demolition, as well.

Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at beschliman@newtondailynews.com.

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