Archive for Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sewer crisis likely over

$3M in improvements approved; landowners pleased with solution

April 12, 2006


A sewer crisis that has stymied growth in northwest Lawrence and created concerns that the city's construction industry would start shedding jobs is essentially over.

City commissioners Tuesday unanimously agreed to a plan that would undertake more than $3 million worth of sewer improvements in the northwest part of town, which in turn would remove questions about whether the area's sewer system could handle projected growth.

"This is a big step to correct the majority of the problems we have in the northwest area," Mayor Mike Amyx said.

But commissioners stopped just short of officially declaring the problem dead because staff members now face an important task: to ensure that all the projects get started on time and work as planned. Specific questions about how much the city will pay for the improvements and how much developers in the area will contribute also must be worked out.

The plan calls for improving three existing sewage pump stations in the area, building a new station near the Kansas Turnpike and improving an existing piping system near Lake Alvamar in west Lawrence.

The projects could total significantly more than the $3 million estimate because that number does not include any costs for the new pump station. Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun told commissioners a cost estimate couldn't be made for that project until a more detailed report by Black & Veatch engineering is completed next month.

But commissioners ordered staff to push ahead with the plan, in part, because it received strong recommendations from both city staff members and key members of the development community.

Phil Struble, president of Landplan Engineering, told commissioners that he had spoken with a majority of the landowners in the area who may be asked to pay for part of the improvements as they develop their land.

"I have yet to run into a single property owner who has said they weren't on board with this deal," Struble said. "I just want to let you know that from our standpoint, we're on board to work with the city staff."

Commissioners also received assurances from staff members that none of the proposed improvements would create problems in other parts of town. There has been concern that if sewer systems become overloaded it would cause raw sewage to back up into basements or through manholes.

"One of the clearest goals we've had is that we're not going to push the problem somewhere else," interim City Manager David Corliss said. "We've been insistent on that from the beginning."

Those assurances seemed to be enough for commissioners. Most were praising the plan as a solution to a problem that had created cries of outrage from the development community, which felt the city was not providing a basic service that it previously had committed to provide. The issue ultimately played a role in the forced resignation of longtime city manager Mike Wildgen.

"This really does prove that when you get the major stakeholders at the table and ask them to look for solutions that we're still a community of great minds that can come together and work together," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.

Trafficway should avoid wetlands, leaders say

The Lawrence City Commission will submit an official comment urging federal highway leaders to consider choosing a route for the uncompleted South Lawrence Trafficway that doesn't run through the Baker Wetlands.

Three of the five members on the commission - Boog Highberger, Mike Rundle and David Schauner - said they had concerns about the social and cultural harm a road through the wetlands would create.

"I think we would like to find a solution where nobody feels they are a loser, and I think that is possible," Rundle said.

The Federal Highway Administration is accepting written comments on the trafficway project through May 31. The road - which would connect Interstate 70 west of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence - must receive approval from the administration to receive federal funding.

Mayor Mike Amyx and Commissioner Sue Hack expressed opposition to submitting official comment, in part, because they said a 32nd Street route already had been thoroughly studied and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

City to weigh options for historic fire station

City commissioners aren't ready to sell a historic fire station to a Lawrence resident who wants to convert it into his home.

Commissioners said they wanted staff members to take a harder look at whether old Fire Station No. 2 at 1839 Mass. could be used for some type of city government function.

Lawrence resident Matt Henderson submitted a proposal to buy the early 1900s brick structure for $128,500 and convert it into his personal residence. But commissioners said the price seemed low to them and that they weren't ready to part with what has become an iconic building in the community.

Commissioners also received proposals from three other individuals interested in converting the building into living space, but those proposals were submitted after a February deadline.

Staff members will bring a report back in six months detailing possible city uses for the building.

If staff members haven't identified a suitable use in six months, commissioners said they might reopen negotiations with Henderson.


Devon Kissinger 12 years, 2 months ago

I have a pump station across the street from my house that failed sometime back, filled my basement with raw sewage. Our 70+ year old neighbors slab house was completely filled with raw sewage, it ruined all of their carpet and furniture. The good folks at the city promised us it would be removed by 2006. The city just came a couple of weeks ago and installed some "improvements" to it, I guess it's not going anywhere. We cant even go out on our deck for more than just a few minutes. The stench of raw sewage fills the air in our neighborhood so bad it'll make you gag. The city needs to fix what they already have in place. Spend money on repairs not studies.

admills 12 years, 2 months ago

$128000 for that building?! Where did he get that number?

My house is 1200 ft and they're taxing for $155000. What gives? That's robbing us tax-payers!

KsTwister 12 years, 2 months ago

Drainage systems but no pump?? I smell trouble.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Pressure to develop often overwhelms local governments, and some do not fully realize or understand the environmental consequences that result. Land set aside for residential, commercial, and industrial use ignites a vicious cycle of constant development. How many more pump stations that necessitate studies are taxpayers willing to support?

When a town experiences rapid building, traffic congestion quickly becomes a major problem. Citizen outrage and demand for relieving congestion will result in the expansion of the highway system. This not only encourages but also facilitates population growth, which in turn overwhelms all expanded systems.

Rationalanimal 12 years, 2 months ago

It would be cheaper to fill the Baker wetlands, put the K-10 extension in, and then build new wetlands on the other side of the river with the money saved? We might even have enough to fund a free Walkarusa feast there and hand out free misquito repellant. The green folks would have their artificially man-made created wetlands and the enviro pillaging SUV drivers would get 5 minutes shaved off their commute. Win-Win.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

High property taxes driving a new revolt Several states eye moves to cap tax growth after property boom. By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor ATLANTA In Orford, N.H., a tin-roofed hunting cabin worth $10,000 was recently assessed at $200,000, just for its mountain view. Taxes on the cabin and its outhouse skyrocketed. Around Lake Tahoe, along the California-Nevada border, property taxes have shot up 135 percent in the past four years.

Residents of Beaufort, S.C., pay $17 million more in property taxes today than in 2000.

Welcome to the flip side of the real estate boom. Years of rising home values have boosted property taxes steadily. Now, homeowners across the United States are fighting back.

"Real estate growth and real estate boom seem to be happening all over the country and [property-tax revolt] is an inevitable consequence," says Roger Sherman, a property tax expert in Boise, Idaho.

lunacydetector 12 years, 2 months ago

the sewer problem has been around for a few years, so there isn't any reason why the city commission had to get caught with their panties down and using wildgen as the fall guy showed true cowardice for not owning up to their mistakes.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

We also know that the trafficway supporters like the SOR route for their bypass in addition to their trafficway. Let's forget the trafficway and agree on the SOR bypass tying it into existing interchange 1057 and K10 to take traffic north to I 70 by way of constructing I-70 connectors to an eastern Tongie KTA interchange now on the table. Running I-70 connectors through Eudora would be a slow boat to I-70. This I-70 at K10& 1057 connectors idea accomplishes many things such as providing a complete loop around Lawrence.

Additionally: A. Services JOCO and Douglas County traffic going to NW Lawrence or Topeka B. Services the Eudora Business Park east of 1057 C. Services East Hills Business Park and the SE Work Center area west of 1057 D. Diverts traffic out around the city as it should E. Keeps the SLT entirely out of the wetlands F. Reduces traffic substantially on 31st G. Working with the Kansas Turnpike Authority could save Douglas County taxpayers untold millions of dollars. H. This concept potentially brings Douglas, JOCO, Jefferson and Leavenworth counties together as partners to assist in funding. I. Building a road through the wetlands at any cost at this point in time is simply not prudent use of Douglas County tax dollars. J. eliminates the need for an eastern bypass as well K. services the Lawrence airport L. eliminates much large truck traffic on 23rd stret

Sooner or later with gas prices on the rise once again residents may feel a need to no longer support billions and billions of dollars in corporate oil profits and move closer to job locations. Each unecessary price hike only increases profits. It appears as though they are inching up slowly ripping us off just to see how far it can go until consumers begin screaming AGAIN. When will we get tired of being screwed by the huge profit gas corporations?

Linda Aikins 12 years, 2 months ago

What do gas prices have to do with the sewer issue? Oh, I know now. Never mind.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

Isn't a pi*er that the city has managed to find a solution to the problem that has its roots with the chambercrat-dominated commissions of the past, luny? I mean, it must be getting really hard to keep making sht up to prove your baseless point.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Actually after all these years growth patterns have changed and coummunities in neighboring counties have grown. It is more practical to seek another route perhaps consider putting it to the voters. The Lawrence community needs a bypass not a trafficway.

Tree huggers are a fine group of people who cherish life in the wilderness.

nonimbyks 12 years, 2 months ago

As long as we have a plan to save the salamanders, that's what counts here.

Can salamanders live in a poo filled environment?

girly 12 years, 2 months ago

I'd think a lot on Mass St alone would be worth more than $128,000. The building should be used for commercial or city purposes, not sold for living space.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

Yea, consumer1, the only people that ought to be consulted on the route for the SLT are the ones who had the secret meetings to plan it in the first place. Who cares what the Injuns want? This country was stolen fair and square from them, so they should just shut up and assimiliate already.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

Gas prices up to $2.70 this afternoon... The petro companies have inched up little by little an little has been said. The bitchin should have started at $1.99 per gallon to keep these multi trillion dollar executives in line.

Property taxes are up, housing and land prices are inflated, long term interest rates are up,medical premiums are up and petro prices are up = not good for business or our wallets.

Jay_Z 12 years, 2 months ago

Bozo, are you related to one of the city commissioners, or affiliated with one of them in any way? Your undying support/allegiance to the city commissioners and their ideas is quite go out of your way to defend these people.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

I have no problem with fact-based and well-reasoned criticism of this commission.

But what's undying around here is the fact-free, knee-jerk criticism of anything this commission does, and even more about things they didn't do-- like screwing up the sewer situation, the repair of which headlines this thread.

moveforward 12 years, 2 months ago

"I think we would like to find a solution where nobody feels they are a loser, and I think that is possible," Rundle said.

Do you think he can turn the clock back 20 years... cause that's what it will take?!?!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

Everybody considers whatever ground they stake out to be the "middle ground," and whatever sense they have to merely "common sense."

The SLT, if completed, will likely serve fewer than 1/4 of all Lawrence citizens on a regular basis. But those 1/4 have made the lifestyle choice that necessitates driving somewhere in the vicinity of the Haskell Wetlands, and they believe that their special interest trumps that of Haskell, even though Haskell only exists as partial payment to the Native Americans who gave up their lands so that mostly non-natives might live in a place like Lawrence. For the entire last century or more, our "indian-giving" neighbors have been slowly whittling away at what rightly belongs to Haskell.

And all consumer1 wants is some sort of "common ground" position in the lastest attempted fleecing of the Indians.

KsTwister 12 years, 2 months ago

I have a copy (I can share) of a letter sent to all the commissioners on July 7,2003 complaining of them raising the water and sewage rates every two years but not fixing the problem. Also in that same letter begging them to fix the streets. Bozo has to be a commissioner I say he is Boog---the only one on the commission who replied to my letters. Three years later(10 altogether) it the Same Old Sh*T, Different Day. I watched two good families with businesses leave Lawrence because there house flooded with sewage with every 2 inch rain. Go figure. Heck yeah, ya just have to whine,nothing else happens.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago


This commission (as in the PLC majority) had been in office all of 3 months in July of 2003. Are you suggesting that they created the problem of complaint in this letter which you reference, in a mere 3 months in office?

BTW, I'm not Boog, or any other member of the city commission.

KsTwister 12 years, 2 months ago

Here are the names of the Commissioners who were on that 2003 board----you tell me.;;; And I might add that Amyx was the earlier ones so it is not like it is a new problem. Of course maybe the reservoir won't support as many homes as they think so the need to flush will just go away.

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