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Knable presents City Investment Plan to Council

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 11:43 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 11:45 a.m. CST

City Administrator Bob Knabel presented the City Investment Plan to the Newton City Council on Monday.

The investment plan emphasized capital expenditures throughout the past and what it means for the upcoming budget for the city.

“We are really starting out at a high level looking at big pictures, and we will work our way down to the details,” Knabel said. “As most of you know, you will have plenty of opportunities to look at the details of in the infrastructure.”

Knabel said the plan emphasizes a true and complete investment into Newton.

“The Community Investment Plan represents a true investment. We’re looking at capital expenditure items — things like equipment, streets, facilities, water pollution control, buildings and airports,” he said. “Those kind of investments are huge when you look at the City of Newton. Any organization, regardless of type or size, makes its biggest investments within its employees and capitol expenditures.

“Those are critical to the success of the organization — to identify, pay for and meet the needs through the human resources — but it’s also a challenge when you look at the scope of the needs when it comes to infrastructure.”

Although many things have been pushed aside over the years, Knabel cautioned that doing something simple may save money for the city in long run while it establishes funds to complete the expenditure.

“I label those as the ‘sleeping giant’ or the ‘silent killer,’ because if you just don’t pay attention to it, and a lot of things are underground — you don’t see water and sewer needs — things quietly get by,” Knabel said. “It’s a critical planning tool that balances out what our long-term needs are with long-term funding.”

Knabel pointed out the city has been doing a good job on many areas in investment but showed that connecting the two has been a weak point in the process.

“I would say that the document you have is not as strong in that area of connecting the two,” Knable said. “We do a good job of identifying the needs, and we do a good job of identifying the available funding sources, but not necessarily do we tag the one to one, and that is an area we need to strengthen. It allows the councils to set the direction for those infrastructure decisions. They’re not ones that can easily be made because they involve large sums of money, engineering, design and financing decisions.”

Knabel emphasized the challenging history the city has overcome with great resolve but said much work is still needed.

“The history here has been one where we have been challenged to meet those long-term infrastructure needs,” Knabel said. “Starting in 2003, we have seen changes that have impacted us, where over that period of time the city has lost some of its ability to meet the infrastructure capital expenditure needs.”

He also noted sometimes expenditures get worse when pushed by the citizens of the city. This results in having to deal with a larger expenditure.

“It’s the idea that, except when it’s my street, it’s alright to cut that capital expenditure because it doesn’t impact me immediately,” Knabel said. “But if you continue to cut it year after year, then you begin to find that if you’re going to do a street repair, you will have to do a total reconstruction versus doing just an overlay.”

The Community Investment Plan has resulted in frustration within the council and city staff, but having the plan in hand will show the exact needs of the expenditures.

“It’s been a frustration between council and staff with there being a lot of money identified as being for a need, but there’s no money in hand to do it,” Knabel said. “So staff gets frustrated. If there’s no money, then why plan, which is kind of a Catch 22.”

The full Community Investment Plan is available at the Newton City Government website’s Agenda Center at www.newtongov.org/AgendaCenter.

Staff writer Zach Johnson may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at zjohnson@newtondailynews.com.

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