Newton accepts $20K grant from Prairie Meadows for dog park

·3 min read

Jul. 23—With the acceptance of a $20,000 community betterment grant from Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack and Hotel on July 18, the City of Newton will now have the supplemental money to fund a new dog park at Sunset Park regardless of whether the upcoming $1.6 million park bond referendum passes.

Newton Community Services Director Brian Laube confirmed the grant is not contingent on the park bond passing on Sept. 13.

"If that does not happen, I'll probably be back here before council trying to figure out, hey, can we still build this project and utilize this grant? In no way is it tied to the ballot issue," Laube said to council member Vicki Wade, who asked whether the grant would be ineligible if the bond failed to pass.

Newton City Council voted 6-0 to accept the grant, which is expected to offset costs of the proposed dog park. City staff submitted its grant application to PrairieMeadows requesting $48,900 in funding to go towards the project. Therefore it is expected more funding would be needed to fully fund the dog park.

By accepting the grant, the city commits to spending it on project expenses by July 1, 2023, repaying any portion of the grant not used, completing a grant evaluation report by August 2023 to state how funds were spent, publicly thanking Prairie Meadows and allow Prairie Meadows to audit project files.

According to the informational flyer distributed to Newton citizens about the park bond referendum, the projects put up to a public vote include: improvements and upgrades to play features at Maytag Pool, pickleball courts at Aurora Park, a dog park at Sunset Park and a new clubhouse at Westwood Golf Course.

Specific dollar amounts for each project were not included in the flyer. However, it did note all projects would be funded by a mix or private donations, grant funding and voter-approved bond funds. The city states the tax rate for Newton residents will not be affected by the bond election.

The dog park project includes the construction of separate areas for both small and large dogs, the city's flyer states. Also included are site improvements like dog water stations, seating, walking trails and shade/shelter structures. Construction of the dog park will not affect the nearby sledding hill.

Proposals to construct a dog park at Sunset Park date back to September 2020, when the Laube sought feedback from the Newton Park Board about the project. The city pitched the rolling hills as an added benefit to the park, which would wear out most canine visitors. The centralized location is also a plus.

With the addition of Lions Gate Apartments and Hotel Maytag increasing the rate of downtown living in Newton, pet owners are looking for places to walk or exercise their animals. Places like Sersland Park are close, but it does not offer near as much space or an enclosed area like the dog park near the golf course.

By having an enclosed and dedicated dog park closer to downtown, it could bring more people to Sunset Park. In 2021, when the city released its FY22 capital improvement plan, the project was slated for a 2021 to 2022 construction date. However, projects in the CIP are subject to revision, and this was no different.

Initially, the city estimated the dog park in its FY22 CIP to cost $15,000 in TIF funds. With the acceptance of the $20,000 community betterment grant from Prairie Meadows, it is possible the city is thinking of construction a larger scale dog park than it initially proposed in 2020.

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