Archive for Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Habitat groundbreaking honors longtime volunteer

February 21, 2006


Jean Lilley stood by the barren plot of land in the 800 block of Walnut Street on Monday, waiting to scoop dirt from what could soon become the foundation of a dream come true.

For the Habitat for Humanity executive director, the groundbreaking represented the dreams of Clay Comfort and the families that soon could live in a 16-house Habitat-built neighborhood bearing his name.

"He will never be replaced but will always be remembered," Lilley said about Comfort, a long-time Habitat volunteer who died of cancer in 2004.

Now, after months of planning and wrangling with the city, the project officially began Monday, as Comfort's friends and family gathered to celebrate the project and the man whose name will adorn the future neighborhood.

The groundbreaking may have been a bit premature - the contract with low-bidder Kings Construction hasn't been signed and the project is still about $175,000 short - but for Lilley, the event displayed a drive to get the neighborhood built.

"It's time to let people know this is a real project," Lilley said after the ceremony began.

Then, Lilley's thoughts turned to Comfort, the man who for years worked with Habitat, both as a volunteer and then as a board member.

Comfort gave his time and energy to building homes for those mired in a cycle of paying rent they could scarcely afford, living paycheck to paycheck.

Jackie Rinke and her family stood by, listening to Lilley talk about Comfort. Rinke and her three children have lived in rural Douglas County for 14 years, paying rent for a place they would never own.

But if the project is successful, Rinke will become a first-time homeowner.

"Then we'll have something we can settle down," Rinke said.

Comfort would have wanted it that way, his widow, Ardis Comfort, said. She told the crowd that Clay Comfort dedicated his retired life to helping build homes people could afford. Now, Ardis Comfort and Habitat officials can look out over the four-acre plot and see a future for 16 area families.

"Clay would be so pleased," she said. "He would think this was perfect."

Clay Comfort's buddy Gordon Longabach also spoke. Longabach and Clay Comfort were best friends, and he remembered all of the meetings and events Clay Comfort would attend to help Habitat succeed.

Lilley announced she wanted to see some dirt turned.

So Clay Comfort's friends and family all took red shovels and, with the heels of their shoes, pushed the blades into the cold earth.

Comfort Neighborhood


none2 8 years, 1 month ago

Before you get into conjecture about people being "afraid of new neighbors", perhaps you should learn about the situation in North Lawrence. We had an exaustive study done on the subject and presented to the public.

The issue isn't about whether it can be addressed or not. The issue is that the city needs to address the situation BEFORE granting more building permits. To do otherwise, only adds to the problem. It won't be cheap, but it has to be done if they want the population density to go up in North Lawrence.

[The city tends to procrastinate improvements needed on this side of the river. Case in point would be the sink in the road at Elm and 2nd (right before the railroad overpass). The comment from the city manager was just to slow down. We have had this problem for years now. Had this issue been anywhere else in town on a major road it would have been fixed a long time ago, and just telling people to go slower wouldn't have been given for a solution.]

The drainage situation doesn't affect just old time residents; this also affects the people living in the new developments. We heard from some of them at the meeting.

Adding dirt won't make the problem go away. Water still has to have some place to flow. One thing that the report pointed out was that the drainage pipes are too small. It cannot haul the volumes that need to be moved during heavy rains. You can have delelopers put in all the culverts you want, but if they in turn dump into undersized pipes, you still have a problem.

North Lawrence isn't a wetland waiting to be filled and developed. It is part of the city that needs the infrastructure upgraded so that both the existing residents and new residents don't have to worry about flooding.

Finally, concrete and asphalt do affect the ability of the ground to absorb water. That isn't a problem if you have adequate drainage system to move the water off. If you don't which is the case in North Lawrence, then the loss of ground space does add to the flooding problem.


Multidisciplinary 8 years, 1 month ago

There used to be no storm sewers at all over there. If it rained, the water went to the ditch at the curb, and around the block. Your particular block. And if it rained more......

There were low lying areas, there always have been, just like in may other places in the city. The city encouraged owners to fill in the low spots, but it seldom happened, unless someone wanted to build a new house or business. Then is was hurray! That nasty place that is always full of stagnant water is FINALLY gone. At some point, the city started doing some improving over there, to what extent, I haven't been able to keep up on, but it was neat to drive over there and actually see IMPROVEMENT.

So, now things have been done. I'm guessing these long, long standing water basins, that harboured pests and smell are being filled and used. Drats, what bad luck. Usually when development is being planned, the drainage is addressed, and sometimes, the planning doesn't forsee the problems. We've got that all over, here and there. Not pouring slabs and streets isn't the real issue, it's what is being done with the grading, and the infrastructure. I wonder if the people who are yelling the most are people who are afraid the "new neighbors" are going to cause problems, just don't want to hear construction for a couple of years....or they like the open view, and don't want it to change. I mean, if I lived next to several vacant lots (and I did over there, it was SO nice, we had nearly the whole block to ourselves, right in the city limits), I can see where they might be using every argument they can to keep things as they are. Hey, if you want to live in the middle of a quarter section, then a person needs to buy the whole quarter section! I empathize, really, but I'm not sure the problems can't be addressed. The man who bought the lots next to our old house brought in enough dirt to build his house and his garage, and left the rest low...looks dorky as was too costly to build all 8 lots up high enough. But he's high and dry! (I'm so glad I moved before he built that) Sometimes, things change and it sucks. Been there too many times.


none2 8 years, 1 month ago

This is not a worthwhile project.

We just learned two months ago about all the monies that the city needs to spend on drainage in North Lawrence.

This is a project for people who don't listen to what is going on in the area. We need the drainage fixed before we exasterbate the problem. If you want to cough up some bucks, give it to the city to fix the drainage. Then lets talk about building more. Every inch of land that is covered with concrete for the house and driveway is that much more land where the water has no place to go but run.


Anne Bracker 8 years, 2 months ago

It would be a real shame to let such a worthwhile project go down the drain because the people of Lawrence couldn't cough up a few bucks. There are so many ways to free up even a dollar or two each day, like skipping the fancy coffee or bringing lunch to work instead of eating out. I'd like to challenge everyone who reads the online J-W to save at least a dollar a day for the next two or three weeks and donate it to this project. If we all did this, the Habitat Comfort neighborhood would become a reality very quickly!


rextheterrible 8 years, 2 months ago

21 Feb. 2006 It was wonderful to see the Comfort Neighborhood become a reality. Knowing Clay Comfort and his passion for people and Habitat for Humanity makes this event extra special. It is something my grandsons, Ian and Timothy Comfort will always remember. Gayla Corley


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