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Local

City Council approves its 2018-2020 goals

D&D, roads, housing, courthouse retail are top priorities

Demolition crews finish loading debris into a truck at the Mid-Iowa Motel site along First Avenue East. The property was sold to the city’s D&D program this summer. The program was listed highly among the Newton City Council’s 2018-2020 goals. Demolition of the building is scheduled to end by Dec. 31.
Demolition crews finish loading debris into a truck at the Mid-Iowa Motel site along First Avenue East. The property was sold to the city’s D&D program this summer. The program was listed highly among the Newton City Council’s 2018-2020 goals. Demolition of the building is scheduled to end by Dec. 31.

By creating an updated list of goals through 2020, the Newton City Council can simultaneously concentrate its efforts on fresh projects while still maintaining its progress on past, yet still relevant, initiatives.

The council approved 10 newly upgraded goals during its Dec. 3 meeting. Created during the city council’s annual goal setting meeting in September, the list allows council members, city staff and citizens to clearly understand Newton’s ambitions for the next few years.

Documents attached to the Dec. 3 city council agenda state the goals “summarize the details of the tasks and responsibilities that will serve department directors in the course of their daily work and the setting or priorities.”

As expected, many of the objectives and projects rated highly in the 2017-2019 city council goals carry over into the 2018-2020 list, but with varying levels of priority. Newton City Administrator Matt Muckler spoke with the Newton Daily News to discuss five of the most highly rated 2018-2020 city council goals:

D&D program funding

Within the past year, Muckler said the Newton City Council has had a lot of success with its dangerous and dilapidated (D&D) program, which has affected both residential and commercial properties throughout the city.

One of the most noticeable residential D&D projects the city has ever undertaken is the Jewel Tea condos, which Muckler believes helped rejuvenate the northeastern corner of the downtown area.

“We’d like to do more of that,” he said. “We’d like to build on that success.”

Demolition of commercial properties like Mid-Iowa Motel, Muckler added, will “clear a nice development spot” in an area that has already seen successful redevelopments like the new Kwik Star, Kinetic Edge and Anytime Fitness buildings near the eastern portion of First Avenue.

“With D&D program funding, what we’d like to do in the future is more of the same,” Muckler said. “…All of sudden when you get rid of that worst structure on the block, I think it brings up the entire block. If we can get some new development back in that’s even better. A new development that fits the neighborhood.”

Road improvements

Easily one of the most popular citizen talking points is a top priority on the updated city council goal list. Muckler said the first part of the road improvements goal is to conduct street overlays in fiscal year 2020-21.

However, if a roadway has a subbase that has not held up and could not withstand a hot mixed asphalt overlay, then a reconstruction may be needed. One such location that meets that criteria would be the 800 to 1100 blocks of South Fifth Avenue West. Muckler said the public works department and city engineers have determined a total reconstruction would need to be implemented.

Muckler also noted reconstructions of downtown streets on the 100 blocks of West Third Street South and West Second Street South.

“I think council has found a nice balance of doing some overlays, doing some near downtown street improvements and also doing some out in the neighborhoods reconstructions,” Muckler said. “… I think their goal here is much more targeted.”

Growth in single family homes & multi-family housing

Maintaining its same position from the 2017-19 city council goals, growth in single family homes continues to be a point of interest for the city. As does multi-family housing, which lost its No. 1 spot in place of a No. 4 entry in the list of 2018-2020 city council goals.

Citing Newton’s available job opportunities and potential for further economic growth as clear benefits to the community, Muckler said the next step would be to provide housing for those people.

“We also know we have people from TPI working from 62 different communities in the state of Iowa,” he said. “And it’s likely if we had appropriate housing for those folks then a lot of them would come here … We’d love to increase our tax base with new housing.”

Muckler also noted an influx of housing opportunities will become available following the completion of the former Hotel Maytag building and the 38-unit apartment complex by Lion Development Group. Muckler said the city will likely need more residential developments scattered throughout the city.

“It’s just a matter of trying to find people that we can put together,” Muckler said. “We’re taking the approach of just because we’ve had some good success doesn’t mean we’re going to lay back at all. We’re going to stay at a very aggressive position.”

Courthouse square retail

Muckler said citizens see the value of small businesses in downtown Newton, which is why city staff plans to work with Newton Main Street to “identify retail leakage and category deficiencies” and update “the status of vacant storefronts, retail businesses and building owners,” according to the expanded city council 2018-20 goals.

“People want to be able to go a Fine Things Reclaimed or a small town jewelry store or get a meal in the downtown and have an experience downtown,” Muckler said.

Improving and maintaining Newton’s downtown vibrancy can also attract new retailers to available storefronts. Muckler cited the upcoming mercantile shop Esther & Co. as one of Newton’s “success stories” of 2018.

“You had what a lot of people considered was maybe kind of a black eye on our downtown and we were able to really turn it around into one of the nicest properties we have in our downtown,” he said.

The full list of 2018-2020 City Council Goals include:

1. D&D program funding

2. Road improvements

3. Growth in single family homes

4. Multi-family housing

5. Courthouse square retail

6. Create a stormwater utility and stormwater capital improvement plan

7. Focused economic development at areas near interstate exits

8. Update the rental inspection program

9. Increase quality and quantity of overnight lodging accommodations

10. Business property code update

11. Complete hike and bike trail repairs

12. Reconstruct northwest downtown parking lot

13. Westwood Golf Course clubhouse plans

14. City council professional development

15. Complete Memorial Park Cemetery tower repairs

16. Contract for a new GIS system

17. Downtown traffic signal improvements

18. New Westwood Golf Course restroom

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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