City Manager's Update – June 11, 2021

City Manager's Update – June 11, 2021
Kansas News Headlines and Alerts

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Amtrak Virtual Media Roundtable

On Tuesday, I was honored to participate in a virtual media roundtable hosted by Amtrak regarding the extension of the Heartland Flyer passenger rail line from its current route (Ft. Worth, Texas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) through Wichita, to Newton where it will interconnect with the Southwest Chief. As you may recall, the last time the line interconnected the ‘Flyer and ‘Chief on a regular basis was 1979. There has been much discussion over the past decade about needed infrastructure improvements on both the Oklahoma and Kansas sides of the line so that the train can run at passenger speed versus freight speed. The project has recently gained new momentum with the potential for the infrastructure improvements to be paid for as part of the current federal transportation bill.   

In 2019 (pre-pandemic), the Southwest Chief served approximately 340,000 riders on seven-day-per-week service. With the extension of the ‘Flyer, Amtrak anticipates 100,000-200,000 additional riders along this line annually, with an estimated annual economic impact of more than $64 million and an additional $1.9 billion in economic activity from capital investments. We often say “all roads (and hopefully soon, passenger rail) lead to Newton.” When completed, Newton will once again be the north, south, east, and west interchange for long distance passenger rail!

Thanks to our media partners from multiple outlets in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas for the coverage. You can view the KWCH clip here.


Our Fire/EMS team has been incredibly busy. Call data for May indicated we responded to 325 calls, which brings the year-to-date total to 249 calls ahead of this same time last year. In addition to responding to more calls for service, our members took some time to instruct Stop the Bleed courses to several City employees.

Task Force 5 tentsWith outside training opportunities increasing, we were able to send some of our Technical Rescue Team members to the Wichita Fire Department training facility to participate in a Task Force 5 training. During this training, members were able to practice the deployment and set up of temporary accommodations that could be pressed into service during large or extended deployments. These deployable tents are 18’ x 20’, environmentally controlled and can be connected to form larger tents. The purchase of these South Central Kansas regional resources was made possible through Department of Homeland Security funding. This deployable resource is available to the City of Newton through our active participation as members of Task Force 5. 

Our Fire/EMS budget support team, along with other key City staff, have once again been successful in the acquisition of supplemental funding and have been awarded two grants.  One through the State of Kansas, and the other associated with CARES Act funding. 

The funds from one of the grants have been used to purchase personal protective equipment for emergency responses, as well as air purification systems for our stations and apparatus. Funds from the second grant are being used to purchase equipment for the testing and maintenance of our self-contained breathing apparatus. The acquisition of this equipment will help us ensure the fit and functionality of our equipment in the protection of our members, as well as provide compliance with National Fire Protection Association recommendations and standards without further burden to taxpayers.

Meridian Center

We were pleased to host the Kansas Airport Association annual conference for three days this week. The group, which included airport administrators, KDOT staff, and vendors from around the state, contributed to the local economy by booking 80+ hotel rooms each night. They also played golf at Sand Creek Station Golf Course and enjoyed various other amenities in and around the community. Special thanks to Mayor Stinnett for greeting the group Tuesday morning and thanks to the Airport, CVB, IT, and Parks departments for contributing to the success of the event. The team also booked five future events worth over $8,000 in revenue during the week.

Yard of the Year

Only one week left to nominate great-looking yards in Newton for the 2021 Yard of the Year award! You can nominate your favorite yards at, at City Hall utility billing office or the Newton Public Library through June 18. Nominated yards will be judged based on appearance, creativity and overall condition, with extra points given for landscapes that require less water. To be eligible, nominees shall not have violated any City of Newton Uniform Code Regulations within the past year. The winners will be honored at a City Commission meeting and will receive a gift certificate and a yard sign to display. For more information about the contest or the rules, contact the Engineering Office at 284-6020.

Community Partner News

Library Summer Reading Program

Our partners at Newton Public Library are taking a safe and fun approach to their annual summer reading program, which is for adults, children, teens, and tweens. Everything is on Zoom, outside, or to be picked up and taken home. Storytimes will be outside, weather permitting. The theme for all ages this summer is “Tails and Tales.”  For more information and how to participate, check out the Library’s website or give them a call at 316-283-2890 to sign up.

NRC Discovery Camp

Last week marked the first day of the Newton Recreation Center’s Discovery Camp. The camp, which runs through August 6, is an all-day camp with fun projects, field trips, swimming, crafts, and more. There are still some spots available. For anyone interested, please visit with the Rec Center in person for the enrollment packet or give them a call at 316-283- 7330.

We are very fortunate to have these resources and activities available for our youth during the summer months!

USD 373: Former NHS Coach in Hall of Fame

Longtime former Newton High School tennis coach (and former City Commissioner) Grant Scott was recently inducted into the Kansas Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame during the Class 5A state tournament in Maize. Scott coached the NHS boys team for 13 years and the girls team for 12 years. During that time, he coached numerous state and league medalists. Scott also was a player at Newton High School under his father, longtime Railer coach Phil Scott, who also was honored by the KTCA. Way to go, Coach! We are #NewtonProud!

Mirror Inc. Leadership Transition

In February, the Mirror Board of Directors appointed Mr. Heath Bechler as the new president of Mirror Inc. Bechler will replace CEO and former City Commissioner Barth Hague as he transitions to retirement this summer. To learn more about Mr. Bechler, check out this recent article from Harvey County Now and introduce yourself when you see him out and about. Please make sure you congratulate Barth on his upcoming retirement when you see him; he has made such a tremendous impact on the lives of so many at Mirror, and many contributions to the Newton community.

Upcoming Meetings

  • 7:30 am June 17 – City Commission agenda review
  • 7 pm June 22 – City Commission meeting
  • 5:30 pm July 1 – Public hearing on Kansas Public Wholesale Water Supply loan
  • July 5 – City facilities closed for Independence Day
  • 7:30 am July 8 – City Commission agenda review
  • 7 pm July 13 – City Commission meeting
  • 7:30 am July 22 – City Commission agenda review
  • 7 pm July 27 – City Commission meeting 

Kelly McElroy
City Manager

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