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Archive for Wednesday, July 15, 1998

July 15, 1998

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City officials soon will have new tools to fight neighborhood deterioration, one property at a time.

Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners agreed to a revised environmental code designed to combat ``demolition by neglect,'' a longtime concern of neighborhoods where older homes often are demolished to make way for new apartment dwellings.

The new code -- set for formal approval in two weeks -- would allow the city to crack down on chronic violators of the environmental code, which mandates conditions for keeping structures and properties in clean, healthy and safe conditions. Repeat offenders could be ordered to appear in court without prior notice.

``Every day is a violation ... if the judge really wanted to throw the book at them,'' said Lynn Goodell, the city's director of housing and neighborhood development. ``That could be $36,500 a year.''

Commissioner Erv Hodges said he'd prefer to see stiffer fines -- which, as proposed now, would remain $100 per violation -- but commissioners still endorsed the new code unanimously.

Representatives of several organizations -- the Lawrence Preservation Alliance, Oread Neighborhood Assn. and Landlords of Lawrence -- all said they supported the code as proposed.

Humane society

lands free ride

The Lawrence Humane Society is getting a free ride.

The society, 1805 E. 19th, is set to receive a surplus 1989 Ford station wagon courtesy of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical. Commissioners approved the transfer of title Tuesday night.

Fire & Medical, which had used the red station wagon for fire inspections services, doesn't need it anymore. The humane society doesn't have any money to buy a new one..

``The vehicle isn't worth anything to us as a trade-in,'' City Manager Mike Wildgen said. ``I think it's an appropriate use.''

Midge Grinstead, executive director of the humane society, can't wait to get her hands on the ``new'' wheels. Currently officials use a standard-transmission truck to pick up dozens of stray, injured and abused animals countywide.

The society averages more than 100 pickups and up to 80 cruelty calls a month.

On Tuesday, Grinstead said, the truck had four people waiting for it at four different locations.

``Right now, if we're out on a stray in Eudora and have an injury in Baldwin it's a nightmare,'' Grinstead said. ``This will make it much easier.''

$79.3 million budget

awaits Aug. 4 hearing

The city's $79.3 million budget for 1999 is set for a public hearing Aug. 4.

Commissioners told City Manager Mike Wildgen to go ahead and publish the budget's anticipated revenues and expenditures, a formality that leads into a formal public hearing prior to the budget's official approval.

Commissioners already have endorsed the 238-page document -- informally -- but must wait until after the hearing to vote.

The budget calls for a $5.2 million increase in spending, compared to this year's $74.1 million budget.

The budget also envisions a slight decrease in property tax rates. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $259 in city property taxes next year, compared to $261 this year.

Probe of beer bars

still on tap

Bullwinkle's and the Jayhawk Cafe aren't off the hook yet, and neither are the underage drinkers who seem to go to the two neighborhood watering holes, commissioners said.

Sixth months after granting the two bars licenses to sell cereal-malt beverages despite a history of alcohol violations, commissioners agreed to keep the heat on owners of the two bars, who voluntarily gave up their liquor licenses last year in the face of a state crackdown on serving underage drinkers.

``I think we need a few more bar checks,'' Commissioner Erv Hodges said.

Commissioners wanted to know how the bars performed during the first six months of the new licenses, and learned that no police reports had been recorded. Police responded to the bars only seven times, all but once for uneventful bar checks.

Even so, commissioners want to make sure the history of alcohol violations doesn't repeat itself. The state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control cited the Bull 57 times during the past three years for having minors in possession of alcohol.

Not that it's all the bars' fault. Students who drink underage should be held accountable for breaking the law, Commissioner Bob Moody said, and that means more than a slap on the wrist.

``There are all kinds of punitive actions that can be taken,'' he said.

City to convene

parking advisory board

Before anyone starts talking about financing and building a new parking garage across the street from the Lawrence Aquatic Center, commissioners want a little advice.

And they're asking the public for help.

At the request of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, commissioners agreed to form a downtown parking advisory board to help them sort through the complicated issues involved in getting the money to design and build a decked parking lot between the Lawrence Public Library and the Lawrence Senior Center, across Kentucky street from the city's outdoor pool.

Commissioners are asking that anyone interested in serving on such a board send a letter to Mayor Marty Kennedy at city hall, P.O. Box 708, Lawrence 66044-0708.

``Let's get it started,'' Commissioner Bob Moody said. ``It would be better to get volunteers rather than have to recruit.''

Joint planning sought

for city, school board

A city and school district that grow together should plan together, commissioners decided.

Commissioners endorsed a joint letter written by Mayor Marty Kennedy and Mary Loveland, president of the Lawrence school board, to work together to ``provide responsible policy development'' regarding growth issues.

Recommendations proposed in the letter and given the commission's blessing:

  • Staffers of both jurisdictions should look into how other cities and districts with similar sizes and growth patters deal with similar challenges.
  • Develop and recommend ``factors'' that commissioners, as well as the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission, can use to determine the impact of annexations and rezonings on the district.

``This is a good first step,'' Commissioner Erv Hodges said.

Commissioners and school board members would review the finding and recommendations during a study session to be scheduled at a later date.

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