City Hall

City Hall

Library decision won’t be rushed

City shelves plan to put issue on April ballot

December 20, 2006


It may not be about just a $30 million library anymore.

City commissioners at their meeting Tuesday agreed that an April election to decide the fate of a library expansion is unrealistic. Instead, they said it may be worth taking more time and considering whether a larger sales tax election could be created to tackle multiple city needs.

"Maybe there would be a way to package our needs into one kind of election," Mayor Mike Amyx said. "Maybe that would be the best way to do it."

Commissioners didn't get into specifics, such as how large of a sales tax increase would be needed or what type of projects could be funded. But in addition to the library, there's been significant discussion about new recreational facilities, increased street maintenance, North Lawrence drainage improvements and a multitude of smaller projects.

Library leaders said they're fine with commissioners thinking about including the library as part of a larger, multi-issue election.

"Given how much a 1 percent sales tax could create, I could easily see how you could package this with other items and create a plan that could really take this community into the 21st century," said John Nalbandian, chairman of the city's Public Library Board.

Nalbandian, who is a former Lawrence mayor, said he thought the opportunity was similar to what the community did in the mid-1990s by passing a one-cent countywide sales tax that funded a new jail, new health department building and new parks and recreation projects, and reduced property taxes.

Amyx previously has proposed a new 1 percent citywide sales tax, although his plan did not specifically include funding for a new library. The idea never won support of his fellow city commissioners, in part because a 1 percent increase would bring the city's total sales tax rate to 8.3 percent. That would be one of the larger sales tax rates in the state.

By state law, any sales tax increase would have to include a citywide election. But commissioners agreed that it would not be feasible to put together a plan in time for the public to really study it before the April elections.

Amyx asked his fellow commissioners to submit any questions they have about the project to City Manager David Corliss to get answered by the Library Board or its consultant. Amyx said he wants to have full public hearing on the library issue sometime in January, where the commission can start deciding where the library ranks in its list of priorities.

Commissioners on Tuesday also did not provide much indication of whether they were supportive of the site that the Library Board has recommended. The board has recommended a public-private partnership by members of the Fritzel family that would build a new $30 million, 94,000-square-foot library on the site of the current post office at Seventh and Vermont streets. A new location for the post office would be found downtown.

The project also would include more than $100 million in private development during a 10-year period to add new retail, residential, office and parking space along Vermont Street.

Commissioner Boog Highberger said he wanted to be assured that the library was the major driver of the project. Commissioner Mike Rundle said he wanted the city to become more involved in the specifics of the overall redevelopment project.

"The wrong kind of proposal could de-invigorate downtown," Rundle said.

The commission also received limited public comment on the project. Betty Alderson said she wanted commissioners to be cautious about entering into any public-private partnership.

"I'm in favor of a library expansion, but I have a lot of questions about a public-private partnership."


conservative 11 years, 4 months ago

No to the library,

No to the tax increase,

No to the PLC

Kaw Pickinton 11 years, 4 months ago

Why do they still allow comments on this site?

Richard Heckler 11 years, 4 months ago

Commissioner Amyx and Hack seem to be in favor of tax increases so getting rid of the three amigos will not quell that thinking. No doubt Commissioners Amyx and Hack support the Fritzell project.

Investing in downtown is a worthy project so long as it does not involve skyscrapers that destroy the character of our little downtown that generates much revenue for our community. So many cities are reinvesting in downtowns it's best that Lawrence invests now due to rising costs while our downtown is alive and well.

Private dollars are fine for downtown investment which seems to include a convention center where the old library is standing. Actually with a little creativity the current library could be remodeled to become a convention center with private dollars of course.

Jeff Barclay 11 years, 4 months ago

Library's are to be sources of information and not fronts for political agendas. The Lawrence Public Library is a tax-payer supported front for the left.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 4 months ago

Finally, the truth comes out. This downtown invigoration was never about just a "library". The taxpayers should be perturbed that the city tried to pull the wool over our eyes. It was always about ways to get your money to benefit Doug Compton and all the other property/business owners downtown.

Now, perhaps if they package all the normal, everyday maintenance that a city should be doing with the existing tax base into a sales tax, mill increase or both, people will be fooled into voting for it. Wasn't $1,000,00 cut from the street budget, now we might face a special election to catch up?

Maybe I was sleeping through the part where the city leaders discussed how they will actually decrease our taxes, and how much new tax base they anticipate through increased jobs, industry and retail.

Mr. Amyx, I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity to meet you at 27th St. the day you were there. (You might have noticed that with all those stations, there were probably only one or two people serving that long line - maybe we could use some tax dollars to hire more people to take our money?)

But, it seems that you may have caught the drift from my fellow Lawrencians. Maybe you and the other city fathers and mother should mingle with us little folks outside the downtown area more often. You probably experienced the mood of most of the city outside of the "benefit" district.

Patrick Wilbur 11 years, 4 months ago

It would seem obvious that infrastructure needs should be the top priority. If the city is unable to find a way to meet basic maintenance needs with the current revenue, then a new/shiny library needs to wait.

SpeedRacer 11 years, 4 months ago

I can't afford to do all of my shopping out of town, but if the sales tax goes up again none of my big tag purchases will be in Lawrence.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

Wow, the city commission has been studying the tactics of the last Congress. They know they cannot get the library or sports complex projects approved on their own, so they are going to try to hide them behind the smoke screen of street and sewer repair.

Dear City Commission:

If there is not enough money in the budget for the basics, forego the fluff.

For once, we taxpayers would like to see you cut something from the budget rather than raise our taxes.

Sincerely, Godot

Mike Blur 11 years, 4 months ago

Comments by Barclay, "conservative" et al show just how ignorant they are.

This taxpayer-funded boondoggle is being promoted by the "Library Board" (a shill for local pro-business, pro-development interests) along with Amyx and Hack, helping their developer friend Gene Fritzel try to get into the taxpayers' pocket.

Take time to study the issue folks, before spouting off uninformed opinions.

Janet Lowther 11 years, 4 months ago

Another cent of sales tax in Lawrence would be a great boon FOR TOPEKA, KCK, OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS CITY etc.

Lawrence is a bedroom community, anyway. There has been so little development (other than housing) add another cent to the cost of every dollar's worth of everything and a lot of those commuters will take to spending even more than they already do in the towns they commute to.

Not to mention the fact that a dollar of property tax costs most homeowners seventy odd-cents where a dollar of sales tax costs them a dollar.


lawrenceman22 11 years, 4 months ago


EXks 11 years, 4 months ago

Here's an idea!

Let's just bulldoze the current library and turn it into a parking lot for gas guzzling SUV's. Besides, who reads books anymore????

Nate Poell 11 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence's sales tax rate is not ridiculously high, and actually LOWER than most of our neighboring cities (Topeka, KC, most of Johnson County). Take a look: (scroll about halfway down). A bump in the rate will not dissuade me from buying big ticket items here ($10 extra on a $1000 item is worth it to not have to drive between here and Topeka or JoCo), and the revenues generated from it will benefit the city. A new library's worth it.

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

Please put this one on the SLT and HOUSING pages. We will look at it in 2030. There is no real hurry in making this plan so that we can come back to it every other month. Thank you.

Politicaly speaking, a new library will cause a need for new books requiring another tax to be imposed.

bige1030 11 years, 4 months ago

cog_nate: Consider that if a 1% increase is passed, Lawrence's sales tax rate will be higher than every other one on that page!

Jamesaust 11 years, 4 months ago

There's no way that I'm voting for a broad, grab-all, everything but the kitchen sink proposal (even if I agreed with each component, which I do not).

If the City wants to fund, say, seven different things then they need seven different ballot proposals.

Sigmund 11 years, 4 months ago

As been noted above, this was never about a library resources in Lawrence (btw, many of the KU Libraries are available to non-student Lawrencian's). What it is about is trying to "revitalize downtown" for the benefit of a few rich downtown landlords trying to keep their rents high in an ever increasingly vacant downtown; while at the same time lining the pockets of a hand full of developers in hopes they will support (or at least not oppose) the Kommissioner's reelection.

Nobody is against reading or nice libraries, but when the only consistent parts of the plan is the multi-million dollar price tag and the location downtown, then you have to wonder what the priorities really are.

Every time a suggestion of branch libraries is raised, it is objected to with, in essence, branches won't help downtown nor cost $30 million plus. And if we build a new library downtown we get to pay for the US Post Office to move AND build them a building downtown AND then new parking for downtown.

How about this for packaging, "Be heart healthy, just say "NO" to PLC Pork!"

redfred 11 years, 4 months ago

I thought that 1/2 of the last sales tax increase was to go for things like rec centers?

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

Interesting that the Library Board Chairman takes it upon himself to advise the city commission on taxes and budgeting.

It is not the responsibility of the library board to redesign downtown Lawrence.

It is not the responsibility of the city commission to resdeisign downtown Lawrence.

It is not the responsibility of the taxpayers to fund the redevelopment of downtown Lawrence.

All the taxpayers need is a functional library. Books are the issue; buildings, conference rooms, retail, condos, and office space should not be.

Mike Blur 11 years, 4 months ago

I know it's kinda late, but I feel the need to educate some of you on some of the basic issues here.

Sigmund's 2:13 post was actually somewhat coherent until the last line. Let me reiterate, the PLC appears to be AGAINST this proposal. This whole thing smacks of old-boy network city politics, before the internet and when pro-business people like Nalbandian, Buffalo Bob Schumm and Amyx the Barber populated the Commission. The pro-business, pro development commission back then made people like Doug Compton zillionares, and all Lawrence has to show for it is a few dozen tawdry prefab apartment complexes.

Also, the "Library Board" appears to contain mostly business types, with little if any connection to the library. Nalbandian may have a library card, and he may go to the library, but being on a psuedo-advisory entity called the "Library Board" is misleading.

I can remember a certain local plumber representing himself as being on the "Teacher's Board" in postcard mailings a few years back. Maybe his workvan ought to read "Teaching Through Plumbing" instead of "Saving Lives Through Plumbing."

Say no to the old boy network, say no to old business and old development interests making a mess of downtown Lawrence.

The PLC Commission is spot on this time by saying no to this boondoggle.

Godot 11 years, 4 months ago

"The PLC Commission is spot on this time by saying no to this boondoggle."

I hope you are correct in that prediction. My question is, if they are in charge, why have they allowed the city staff to devote so much time and resources to this, and why did they not simply say, "no" instead of "Let's study it more?"

budwhysir 11 years, 4 months ago

I would say, if we are going to revitalize downtown,

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