City buys flood-prone
lot in North Lawrence
Debbie Chalender's headache is about to become an $86,000 memory.
Lawrence city commissioners agreed Tuesday to buy Chalender's home, 234 N. Eighth, for $86,000 of city money. The price is equal to an appraisal ordered by Chalender and her husband, Richard Chalender, for the city's benefit.
The Chalenders requested a buyout after being hammered with flooding that followed heavy rains.
Now they're just ready to move out and buy a new home -- somewhere else.
"They've made it clear they don't want to spend any more money over there," said Debbie Chalender, who has been critical of the city's perceived lack of spending on drainage projects in the neighborhood. "We'll probably move to a different city, like Baldwin.
"I like the rural, small-town feel. North Lawrence was like that, but the rest of Lawrence doesn't have that."
Commissioners agreed to buy the lot as a last resort, after checking out options that would have included raising the house or building a berm along the street to prevent flood water from rushing onto the low-lying lot.
Lawrence workers help
Ottawa's storm cleanup
Lawrence city officials sent up to three employees, plus a large piece of equipment, to Ottawa to help clean up debris felled by a violent storm last month.
The city loaned its new tub grinder -- which grinds tree limbs and stumps into wood chips -- to Ottawa, where a June 28 storm toppled about three quarters of the big trees in its main park, which is similar to Lawrence's South Park.
Three Lawrence Parks & Recreation employees -- Paul Baumchem, Kip Patzel, and Mike McLees -- helped with the cleanup during portions of a three-day period.
tax break for Amarr
Commissioners approved a 10-year, 50-percent tax break on $3.65 million of machinery and equipment at Amarr's garage door plant in the East Hills Business Park.
On a 5-0 vote, commissioners approved the tax abatement that had been endorsed by commissioners in January. Since then, however, Commissioners David Dunfield, Jim Henry and Mike Rundle took office in April.
Discussion leading up to the vote evolved into a debate about the merits and value of tax breaks.
Larry Kipp, a founder of the Douglas County Property Owners Assn., urged commissioners to find out whether businesses that have received tax breaks in the past had followed through with their promises of new jobs and benefits to the community.
Debi Moore, acting director of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that Amarr -- previously known as Garage Door Group -- started 10 years ago with 50 employees, and today has nearly 350, with an annual payroll of more than $7 million.
Even so, Moore said that the chamber already was working with local industries to get the information in question.
"We will be looking at the cost-benefit models ... to see how we can accurately determine the benefits to the community, and/or the cost," she said.
Police locks up
$2.5 million shop
Having successfully made their case, Lawrence police will be getting a $2.5 million new home.
Commissioners approved a resolution to provide for the purchase and renovation of the PSI building, 4820 W. 15th, to become a police substation.
The city expects to close on the deal in October, but may not take possession until Jan. 1. PSI, a Chicago-based local environmental and engineering firm, would pay the city $16,000 a month in rent if it does not get out by the time the city closes the deal.
Another tenant in the 30,000-square-foot building, Oread Inc., will pay the city about $117,000 a year for using its half of the building through 2004.
Police need the space for patrol and detective operations, which currently occupy cramped quarters at the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th. City Manager Mike Wildgen has included money in next year's proposed city budget to hire two new detectives plus three new officers, who would form a traffic division.
City to buy lights
for soccer fields at YSI
High school soccer teams could be playing under the lights by year's end.
Commissioners agreed to spend $94,200 for lights to illuminate two fields at the Youth Sports Inc. complex in southwest Lawrence.
Musco Lighting landed the city contract. City Manager Mike Wildgen expects the lights to be installed on the large field sometime this summer and be ready for play this fall.
Lawrence High School's boys' soccer team plays this fall at YSI, while Free State High School's team is set to play its home games on campus.
The lights will be financed using revenues from a 1-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 1994.
Health building awaits
A new $14.1 million health building will have more than $300,000 in furniture.
Commissioners approved spending $310,055 for furniture for the health building, scheduled to open in September across Maine Street from Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
The building will provide office space and service areas for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Dept. and Douglas County Visiting Nurses Assn.
The project is being financed jointly by city and county governments, using revenues from a 1-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 1994.