Archive for Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sprucing up Mass. St.

Plans in bloom to provide more natural beauty downtown

February 25, 2006


Downtown Lawrence is set to become a more colorful place.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider signing off on a new $90,000 plan to change how and when flowers are planted along Massachusetts Street to ensure that beautiful foliage is in bloom through more months of the year.

Parks and Recreation employee Curt Talken assembles a new greenhouse at 11th Street and Haskell Avenue. Next week city commissioners will consider a $90,000 proposal to revamp the city's landscaping process in downtown Lawrence. The plan calls for more plantings that bloom throughout the growing season.

Parks and Recreation employee Curt Talken assembles a new greenhouse at 11th Street and Haskell Avenue. Next week city commissioners will consider a $90,000 proposal to revamp the city's landscaping process in downtown Lawrence. The plan calls for more plantings that bloom throughout the growing season.

"Hopefully, except for the dead of winter, you'll see color downtown all year around," said Mark Hecker, parks and facilities superintendent for the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

The plan's primary recommendation is to change the landscaping strategy for the approximately 150 planters that line Massachusetts Street. The study suggests the department buy more mature plants that take less time to bloom. It also recommends that the department make four separate plantings from early spring through fall to increase the odds of year-round blooms.

The department already does several plantings but purchases cheaper, smaller plants or bulbs that take several months to mature to bloom.

"We do plantings in the early spring, but sometimes you don't see the color until June," Hecker said.

That leaves parts of March, April and May void of foliage at a time when many residents and visitors expect to see sure signs of spring.

Members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. had pressed city commissioners to adopt a change. Bob Oderkirk, president of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said his group was happy with the recommendations. And he said the annual increase in city spending for the program would be worth it.

"Downtown Lawrence plays a large part in the overall image of the city," Oderkirk said. "Having the downtown really shine will help the entire image of the city."

The report also suggests that intersections at Sixth and Massachusetts and 11th and Massachusetts could have new monument signs welcoming visitors or arches that would make it clear that people are entering the downtown area.

The report also recommends that new midblock crosswalks with adjacent planters be added on New Hampshire and Vermont streets. Areas for plantings at each of the corners along Vermont and New Hampshire streets also could be added.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx said he's all for spending extra dollars on additional plants and staffing to care for them, but he's not sure about adding more planters and other elements.

"Anytime we can do something that cleans up and brightens our downtown, that is a good investment," said Amyx, who owns a downtown barber shop. "But we have a lot of other significant items we have to take care of around town, so some things will have to wait."

The $90,000 annual price tag would not pay for any of the new crosswalks or planters. Instead it would pay for new plants and one full-time maintenance worker and several part-time employees who would do watering. The report estimates that new crosswalks would cost about $35,000 apiece, new corner planting areas $90,000 each and new gateway monuments $40,000 each.

Commissioners will discuss the report at their weekly meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


KsTwister 12 years, 2 months ago

Now read the other article about priority checks as it echos everything most of us here has echoed for months.

mcoan 12 years, 2 months ago

Of course, many of the posters here would prefer the city spend $0 on parks, plantings, beautification, etc. They appear to want Lawrence to look like East Germany, circa 1985.

Lawrence is pretty lucky to have far-sighted parks and public works professionals. They know what they're doing, although many of the posters mentioned above refuse to give credit to them for the city's appeal. (For that matter, they probably want the city to get rid of professionals altogether...too expensive, you know.)

Fortunately, we know that no one who makes decisions reads the posts of the Rightists here.

speedykitty 12 years, 2 months ago

Couldn't some of that money go toward re-establishing safe electrical service so that the Mass. St. trees can be lighted at the holidays. I seem to remember an article a few months ago that these couldn't be lit because of safety concerns about the receptacles near the planters.

Kelly Powell 12 years, 2 months ago

This isnt just the "rightist" complaining about if downtown should have decoration or not....It is about the seemingly endless little side projects and silly little expeditures(maybe little is the wrong word) that the commission is allowing.....If our streets and sewers are in desperate need of repair, or if the patched together electrical system downtown needs to be upgraded that should be a priority...... I can safely say it is the moderates that make up the majority of people saying that if we live here there is a certain standard that we would like to see....namely, decent streets, decent plumbing, our overinflated property tax being used wisely. It is not the fault of the present people in office that these things are crumbling.....But it is their problem now, and I for one would like to see some actual leadership....Not useless frippary that amounts to civic masturbation.

lunacydetector 12 years, 2 months ago

i wonder if amyx will recuse himself since this cost to the taxpayers will be benefitting all of the businesses downtown, including his own business. perhaps an added sales tax to all the downtown businesses to pay for the upkeep down there is the best idea. i know it has been proposed to other retail areas in town. why not downtown?

outdoor55 12 years, 2 months ago

I love the backseat drivers on this post. I'm not saying that I totally agree with spending $90k on flowers, but I bet that the persons involved actually got out a calculator and figured the cost. I guess we could always buy the flowers from Wal-Mart and save $3,000. Why would the city actually want to support locally owned business?

lunacydetector 12 years, 2 months ago

outdoor55, the city doesn't support locally owned businesses as it is, unless of course, it applies only to the downtown. if the city supported locally owned businesses then 40% of the retail spending wouldn't be spent out of town.

KsTwister 12 years, 2 months ago

The downtown planter are the size of one of mine. I just spent 8.00 on seed,10.00 on the potting soil with fertilizer.Under a $45 greenhouse lamp-plants will be up and outdoors in March. Cost $18 dollars(of course I don't already have a greenhouse and the lamp is not included),multiplied by 150 (their planters)=$2,700.Now what am I wishing for with the other $87,300.00? An accountant on the city council thats what.

moveforward 12 years, 2 months ago

Every on of us could concock some method to do a project 'cheaper' than the city. Few could execute on the same level and provide equivalent 'value.'

Most citizens (individuals) have great difficulty scaling their personal 'money concept' to the realities of running a business or civic department - with all of the necessary overhead and administration costs.

Priortizing... as well as small thinking goes on... for both the long term and quality challenged and amongst visionairies. You have to love the diversity of thought...

But if you want a local government that provides minimal amenitites. low quality life, minimal art and parks, move 30 miles west or east and you will likely be much happier.

KsTwister 12 years, 2 months ago

Sorry, forgot to factor in the $87,300 for the minimal "overhead costs" on the flowers and shrubs. No one needs streets and sewer repairs anyway-look how many years we have managed without fixing them so far.

beatrice 12 years, 2 months ago

ottr: I agree that 90k seems like a lot at first glance. However, if the city hires someone with experience for 35k to 40k, won't the cost of benefits like health insurance, retirement fund, etc. basically double the amount spent for the employee? Then you have to figure in supplies, equipment, somewhere to store all the stuff necessary to do the job, and certainly other expenses I can't even think of since I'm not a city manager. Unfortunately, in today's world the 90k figure probably isn't that far off the mark. Now, if that would be money well spent is another argument.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 2 months ago

stop increasing spending on optional stuff! please change lawrence spending priorities! or, are the broken streets actually intended as a passive traffic calming method? the broken sidewalks actually a backdoor method to keep down property values? bad broken insufficient sewers actually to prevent growth?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 2 months ago

"S3=sidewalks,streets,sewers. "

Sidewalks: the current and longstanding city policy is that sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the property owner, not the city.

Are you proposing that either a) the city strictly enforce this policy and start repairing sidewalks and then billing homeowners, or b) change the policy and raise taxes enough to repair all sidewalks throughout the city?

Streets: the streets are no worse, and no better, than they have ever been in my 25+ years in Lawrence. Are you suggesting the city raise taxes to increase its street maintenance budget?

Sewers: When was the last time a break in the sewer line went unrepaired? Did you not notice the sewer reconstruction on 9th St. and on Barker St. a few years ago, and the major replacement of the sewer lines on Mass St. which will resume this spring?

Should the city just go ahead and immediately replace all sewers more than 30 (or 20 or 40 or whatever) years old, regardless of how well they currently function?

When constructing new sewer lines in new sections of the city, should the city just build double or maybe triple the anticipated capacity so that developers and builders don't have to do any particular planning on when, where or what they build?

Just a couple of questions I'm sure you have all the answers to.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 2 months ago

how far is it that the city requires you to give up part of your land, for sidewalks, and then requires you to maintain that item, which in the older parts of town was actually apparently built by the city? not very fair.
so, B of Bonzoid's list, change the policy and make the city more responsible, however, stop frittering so much money on wasteful and fad things and just fix infrastructure for a while.
RE the sewer, other cities use a combination of an accelerated maintenance schedule for older or endangered sewers, why not lawrence. use modern tech such as sewer cams to evaluate the sewers and also ground penetrating radar, to evaluate most in need.
streets, are rated as 31% broken, that's probably conservative...which part of broken do you not understand bonzoid, or do you think because you ride the T or bikes that you don't have to worry?

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