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Archive for Friday, May 27, 1994

CITY LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD IDEAS FOR PROJECTS

May 27, 1994

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City commissioners are asking for ideas to spend millions of dollars on public projects.

MONEY TALKS

Here are the high-ticket topics up for discussion during Tuesday's city commission meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts:

City budget. A chance to pitch projects for inclusion in the budget, which last year hit $48 million.

Downtown redevelopment. A task force wants support for a $35 million reconstruction of a downtown block -- bordered by 10th, 11th, Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets -- to include parking, shops, offices and more than 300 apartments.

Construction priorities. Drafts of two new budgets are finished. One details $16.8 million in parks projects; the other schedules $16.5 million for public improvements during the next five years.

Sales tax increase. Commissioners discuss impending November vote to impose a 1-cent countywide sales tax, which would finance new parks and expanded health facilities.

Lawrence city commissioners say they will come to their weekly meeting Tuesday with clean slates and open minds, as public discussion opens on more than $100 million worth of public and private projects.

While none involve specific financial commitments yet, Tuesday's discussions will center on a proposed sales tax and construction for new parks, roads, downtown parking, shops, offices and apartments.

"Big dollars," Mayor Jo Andersen said. "I'm hoping we'll get some comment from people on how they want us to spend their money."

The meeting begins at 6:35 p.m. in the city commission meeting room at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.

First up will be the city budget. While commissioners won't formally take up the budget until June 22, they are looking for ideas about what to include. Last year, for example, commissioners set aside $100,000 for coordinating pubic transportation.

A few years ago, however, a summer-youth employment program was denied after being proposed too late in the process.

"What we want to hear from people is things we don't normally think of," Andersen said. "Not frivolous things, but ... ideas that come up when your family's around the dinner table. You know, `Why hasn't the city ever done (blank)?' That's what I want."

Commissioners then could ask staffers to plug ideas into drafts of the budget, which last year appropriated $48 million.

A $35 million redevelopment project for a downtown block also will be discussed. A Lawrence Chamber of Commerce task force has proposed drawing a private developer into rebuilding a block bordered by 10th, 11th, Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets, to include shopping, offices and apartments.

The task force wants the city to hire a redevelopment specialist, plus help build 873 parking spaces for about $4.2 million, half paid for by taxpayers.

Next, commissioners will take up drafts of two new budgets: $16.8 million for parks and $16.5 million for public improvements. The parks plan sets priorities for several improvements, topped with a downtown teen center and followed by renovation of the Community Building, construction of a $5.7 million community recreation center, renovation of the municipal pool and construction of a new softball complex for adults

The capital improvements budget would include financing a city hall annex next year at 19th and Haskell, plus widening North Second Street and building a bike path between 15th and 23rd streets. In 1996, $150,000 would go toward buying an online card catalog computer system for the Lawrence Public Library, and $1.6 million for various roads improvements.

In 1997, extending West 15th Street would get $786,000. The municipal pool would be replaced in 1998, and Iowa Street intersections at 15th and 19th streets would be improved in 1999.

Imposing a 1-cent county sales tax comes up last on the meeting's regular agenda. Commissioners are working toward a formula for spending estimated revenues that would be generated by charging consumers an extra penny for every dollar spent on food, clothing and services in the county.

In theory, the tax would finance new parks, expanded health-care facilities and a new county jail -- all while reducing property taxes enough to allow the school district to build a new high school without forcing an overall increase in property taxes.

"Money gets things done," Andersen said. "I want all the wonderful ideas out there to come up Tuesday."

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