By Adam Strunk, Harvey County Now
Happy 150th Newton.
A large crowd of people gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate the city’s long-awaited Sesquicentennial.
“May we never lose sight of what comes ahead,” Mayor Clint McBroom told the crowd as he addressed the city’s history. “Let’s remember to keep looking to what’s ahead.”
Newton formed as a rail stop and cow town 11 years after Kansas became a state, only to grow into a location with a wild and rowdy reputation complete with saloons, bars, salacious entertainment establishments, and even a shoot-out that prompted the short-lived sobriquet of Bloody Newton.
The city over the years has civilized but city leaders passed a proclamation at a city commission meeting held Tuesday to make 2022 a year to celebrate the city’s heritage.
“Everyone is free to party and celebrate this entire year,” McBroom joked.
The evening event had dancers, a symphony performance and other entertainment, which was the first course in planned celebrations.
The city will throw itself a much larger birthday party on June 4 and everyone is invited.
The city commission signed off on a 150 Year Anniversary Birthday Bash to fill Main Street with dancing, music, food and a Ferris wheel.
“Recognizing sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate well, we decided on a smaller indoor event in February and a larger community event in the summer,” Erin McDaniel, who was on the anniversary celebration committee, said.
The June event will mirror the street dances during the past Chisholm Trail Festivals, as well as a photo of a Ferris wheel on Main Street from 1910, McDaniel said.
“What we have proposed is an event that will be free for the public to come to that will be accessible for everybody and have something that would appeal to various ages and community members.”
The event will feature live music from the Astronauts – a Wichita-based 80s cover band, as well as a local opener.
There will be children’s activities, as well as a Ferris wheel. All would be free outside of food purchase costs and a small fee for the Ferris wheel.
The city cost of the event is slated around $25,000, but McDaniel said organizers are working with community sponsors and others to help offset those costs.
The city’s economic development sales tax fund would pay for the event.
“We would ask for your approval tonight to move forward with the event as planned or direct us to make any changes you’d like us to make.”
The commission approved the request, 5-0.
In other city news, the city commission sold another parcel of industrial property at its meeting Tuesday, this time to a local metal fabricator.
The commission voted 5-0 to sell 9.24 acres at Newton’s older industrial park to CD Custom for $46,200.
“They’re growing too fast and where they’re at right now is not ideal at all,” Harvey County Economic Development Coordinator Beth Shelton said. “They’d want to build a new facility with everything under one roof. The building that they have now would be for sale or lease by them.”
Shelton said the company came to Newton in 2015 and currently has 45 employees. Expansion plans would add another 18-20 employees in the future.
The sale includes a clawback provision that would allow the city to buy the property back if a 40,000 square foot facility wasn’t built or in progress by 2025.
The property sold for $5,000 an acre, lower than recent industrial sales by the city, which have been around $8,000 an acre.
City Manager Kelly McElroy explained that the land sold is in the older industrial park and the city had been given or sold the land for a cheaper cost than the land at the Kansas Logistics Park.
She said that resulted in the city setting a lower price to recoup its investment.
At the meeting, Community Development Director Zach McHatton said that the city had been paying $18,000 a year on the property in special assessments and the sale would allow it to save that annually with the property coming on the tax rolls.
Finally, the city granted permission to provide owner Brad Jantz a taxing incentive tool for the development of the upstairs part of a building at 713 N. Main Street into 1-2 apartment units.
The city will grant the property a Residential Housing Incentive District designation.
The designation allows taxes that would be paid on property improvements to go back to the property owner to recoup their costs for up to 25 years.
* The city commission gave permission to remove two-hour parking signs from in front of New Jerusalem Missions along Broadway Ave. The city will have to approve an ordinance removing the parking at a future meeting.
- The city approved changing the zoning for a tract of property along US-50 from commercial to residential. The entire area is surrounded by residential zoning. The location is on the north side of US-50 just west of the Cow Palace intersection.
- The city commission declared 2022 a year of celebration for the city of Newton.
- The meeting date was the 150th anniversary date for the city.