How quickly water pipes are replaced, roads are repaired and a sewer plant is built depends on one thing: how much money Lawrence city commissioners agree to spend.
This year, three commissioners will be elected to help make decisions about next year's budget -- the document that controls how much work is done and when.
Last week, the Journal-World interviewed all 13 city candidates about basic city services, also known as infrastructure. The candidates will face off in the Feb. 28 primary, vying for six spots on the general election ballot. The general election is April 4.
Their responses are summarized below.
Infrastructure needs more financing, but not sure where money would come from. "You have the right to expect safe sidewalks, streets, sewers, alleys and water pressure." She favors building a new sewer treatment plant. The city should address drainage, but not sure how.
For infrastructure, sewer lines should be top issue, followed by water lines -- "We get angry at potholes, but they're not as important as our water and our waste." The city should balance needs in older neighborhoods (replacing water and sewer lines) with demands for new facilities in growing areas of town (a new sewer treatment plant). A budget shift away from amenities may be required to address current problems and prevent future ones. "We won't be able to do everything."
Carl E. Burkhead
"These are basic needs, and I think they ought to be top priority." Building new roads, sewers and water lines need to be balanced with maintaining existing systems and remain within existing budgets -- "You've got to be realistic." He opposes imposing impact fees on developers because they would stifle development. Favors looking for the cheapest alternative for building a new sewer treatment plant.
Infrastructure remains a top priority for him and the current commission. Plans in place now ensure extensive repairs in existing neighborhoods and keep up with needs brought on by development -- "We're not talking about doing it. We're doing it."
Developers should pay more of their fair share, and tax money collected in central Lawrence should be used to repair roads, sewers and sidewalks in the city's older neighborhoods. Costs should be cut where possible, including saving maintenance costs by replacing brick streets in Old West Lawrence with conventional asphalt roads.
Three words: sidewalks, sidewalks, sidewalks. The city could take $600,000 from its public parking system fund and spent it on building sidewalks in existing areas of town -- "We can build a lot of sidewalks for that. We have children who are walking in the streets now." Old water mains and storm drainage also should be addressed, but sidewalks top the list.
City must monitor existing systems to ensure equal services in new and existing neighborhoods. Lawrence should look to other cities for advice about successful maintenance programs. Supports impact fees for developers, but not if they would kill all growth. "People who profit from growth should be willing to pay for some of the services."
Bottom line: "Yes, there's a problem. Let's fix it." Willing to charge developers "impact fees" for new development, but not if it quashes growth -- "Opportunity costs money. If they want to develop in Lawrence, they should definitely pay." Would look at offering low-interest loans for people looking to repair their own infrastructure in older neighborhoods.
Roads, water and sewers are the "primary function" of local government. The city has a reputation for not repairing its streets properly, and therefore it should put more money into its infrastructure. "I'd rather put more money in fixing the streets than paying consultants." Impact fees offer a "reasonable alternative" to charging all city residents higher property taxes.
Wants to take a "neighborhood approach" to roads, sewers, drainage and transportation issues -- "As Lawrence grows, a lot of its established neighborhoods are falling by the wayside." Wants to start a citywide bus system within 10 years. North Lawrence needs new sewer systems, both for waste and drainage. The Oread neighborhood should get new alleys and a permit-parking system. All infrastructure should come before annexing more land and building more roads -- "don't have growth at the expense of the infrastructure." Favors placing impact fees on developers for new parks, stoplights and other needs brought on by growth -- "Growth should pay for itself."
Paul N. Longabach
Basic services should get more attention than peripheral projects. A new full-service sewer line should be installed in East Lawrence as soon as possible, and other water and sewer needs should get top billing. Replacement sewers, water pipes and widened roads could be financed more aggressively by eliminating the city's public transportation program, canceling consultants' contracts for parks projects, closing the teen center and turning garbage collection over to a private company. Opposes assessing impact fees on developers.
Favors continuing the city's current plans to upgrade existing infrastructure, particularly in eastern Lawrence and North Lawrence. "We should anticipate and plan for the impact that growth has on future infrastructure needs and examine ways to fairly assess the costs of new infrastructure between people living in Lawrence now and future residents."
Favors pumping more money into new sewer lines for the city's older neighborhoods, particularly sanitary sewers and storm sewers. Older neighborhoods -- such as Oread, East Lawrence and Old West Lawrence -- should receive more equitable shares of city roads projects, particularly for resurfacings. To get more money for infrastructure budgets, the city should should make cuts in several areas, including the risk management department, public art programs and social services. "We can make cuts in the existing budget without increasing property taxes."