The City of Newton, Iowa recently received the Program of the Year award from the Iowa City Manager’s Association (IaCMA) for the City’s work on the implementation of Newton’s Future: A Comprehensive Plan.
IaCMA’s annual awards program honors creative contributions to professional local government management and increases public awareness of the value of professional management to the quality of life. The Program of the Year Award is presented to a local government and its chief administrator in recognition of an innovative and successful program.
“I am very proud of the community’s work on the development and implementation of the comprehensive plan,” said Erin Chambers, City of Newton Director of Planning and Zoning, “Receiving this award helps send a message to the rest of the state that we in Newton already know—Newton’s future shines bright!”
Newton’s Future is a unique approach to comprehensive planning and is clearly different from run-of-the-mill land use focused comprehensive plans. The plan serves as not only the City of Newton’s official policy and strategic approach for future development and growth, but it has also been designed to be the plan for the whole community of Newton, offering a clear checklist of “things to do” to make Newton a great place to call home.
Newton’s Future was created through a collaborative community process and was adopted by Newton City Council in October 2012. Following the plan’s adoption, the Steering Committee which oversaw the development of Newton’s Future transformed into Implementing Newton’s Future, a citizen advisory group which helped identify initial projects from the comprehensive plan to tackle.
Newton’s Future has been widely supported by the Newton community, and a number of projects, or rather “things to do” are currently being implemented. Comprehensive plan projects underway include:
•Dilapidated building demolitions program: For buildings that are beyond repair, the City has bonded to address demolition costs.
•Downtown Historic District: It is anticipated that in September of 2014 the National Park Service will notify Newton of the placement of the downtown on the National Register of Historic Places.
•Financial and Payroll software: The City has updated its financial software. This will greatly improve efficiency and provide valuable tools to better track, analyze, and manage the City’s financial resources.
•First Avenue of Sculpture and Art Program: Beginning this past spring (2014), the program provides artists a stipend for the display of their pieces from May-November.
•First Avenue West Aesthetics: Newton is preparing a bid package for the sandblasting and repainting of an older railroad bridge located on First Avenue West.
•Focus on hazardous intersections: The City of Newton has begun to address uncontrolled intersections, making our roads safer and easier to navigate.
•Get to Know Newton: The Get to Know Newton marketing effort has been working to initiate a dialogue about the amenities Newton has to offer.
•Housing Initiative: The initiative provides incentives to home owners, builders, and developers for new residential housing in Newton.
•Keep Iowa Beautiful: Newton is working together with other communities across Jasper County to join the Keep Iowa Beautiful Hometown Pride program.
•Main Street Iowa: In February 2014, Newton was selected as one of three new Main Street Communities.
•Nuisance Enforcement: The City has updated the nuisance code, and increased nuisance enforcement.
•Park and Ride Study: Newton was approved by CIRTPA (Central Iowa Regional Transportation Planning Association) for the funding of a Park and Ride Study.
•Playground Equipment: New playground equipment is being installed at Maytag Park to better serve children and families in Newton.
•Rental Code: The City is exploring updating the rental properties code to ensure the safety of our residents.
•Retail Recruitment: The City completed a study which provided detailed information about retailers whose marketplace criteria closely matches Newton, and is using this data for recruitment.
•Sidewalk Infill and Hike/Bike Trail Expansion: The City is working on systematically addressing gaps in the sidewalk infrastructure around town, and is continuing to expand the Hike and Bike Trail.
•Social Media Workshops; Social Media Lunch and Learns have been hosted to ensure local organizations and businesses have the technical skills they need to communicate with their customers.
•Volunteer Connection: The United Way of Jasper County has implemented Get Connected, an online tool for connecting volunteers and volunteer opportunities.
•Way-finding Signage: Installation of new way-finding signs is anticipated to happen by October of 2014.