November 27, 2022

Splash pad location secured

Council lets committee reserve city-owned lot, not obligated to spend funds at this time

The city-owned lot in downtown Newton which could be the home of a future splash pad for the community has officially been reserved for the committee leading the charge on the project.

By having the Newton City Council secure the green space at 224 W. Third St. N. for the Splash Pad Committee, the city essentially agrees to hold off on approve any other uses for the lot “for the foreseeable future.” This includes, for example, a private redevelopment or an additional parking lot construction.

Reserving the property also grants the committee time to raise adequate funds before any additional council action. On April 19, the city council unanimously voted in favor of supporting the committee wanting to use the lot for the proposed splash pad project, hoping fundraising efforts gain momentum.

However, one council member was concerned the city could be “getting the cart before the horse.”

Councilman Randy Ervin understands the concept of the splash pad and supports it. But what Ervin’s proverbial saying suggests is the city is deciding what to do with its vacant lot when the project itself has no substantial funding to support it. The councilman admitted he was confused a little bit.

“Is this a final vote? Because it’s my understanding they’re just asking us to retain this property,” Ervin said, noting he recently saw some drawings of a previous splash pad project proposed in 2015. “It was very similar to this. The only addition was there was also a stage or bandstand.”

Ervin suggested an amenity like that be reintroduced to the new proposal. The project is “a good thing,” but Ervin said at the same time the city may be getting ahead of itself by committing a property. Again, the councilman — although reserved — just as excited about the project as everybody else.

Councilman Mark Hallam, who served as mayor pro tem, sees it as a vote of support and a vote of confidence for the private group pursuing the project. Newton Community Services Manager Brian Laube said the resolution is also to help spur fundraising efforts.

The updated preliminary concept plan included in the 84-page agenda packet was commended by councilwoman Evelyn George, who pointed out the inclusion of a pump house and public restrooms in the southern half of the lot. Also included was a shaded structure and several kinds of water facilities.

Councilman Steve Mullan said there’s no reason the design couldn’t be juxtaposed onto another piece of ground, if necessary. Laube said the project was also included in the city’s FY22-FY26 capital improvement plan. Currently, the project is slated for FY23 as a standalone pad away from Maytag Pool.

Of the $422,000 estimated costs included in the CIP, about $147,000 is collected from private funds. The other $275,000 is listed as general fund bonds. It’s important to note, too, the CIP is not a binding document and is subject to change.

George, who recalled being involved in the initial fundraising efforts for Maytag Bowl, sees the council’s formal support as a “very important step.”

The Newton City Council 6-0 in favor of the resolution, thereby reserving the land for the project.

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

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.