Archive for Monday, January 9, 2006

North Lawrence repairs total $41M

Report puts price tag on fixing flooding problems

January 9, 2006


At least city commissioners now know how much it would cost to fix persistent flooding problems in North Lawrence - $41 million.

But the new report doesn't give commissioners ideas how to pay for it, and that has North Lawrence residents worrying the report will just gather dust.

"They may spend that type of money in other parts of town, but I'm not sure they will over on this side of the river," said Ted Boyle, longtime president of the North Lawrence Improvement Assn. "I know it is a lot of money, but it is stuff that needs to be done."

What seems certain is that much money won't be spent all at once. That would drown the city's stormwater fund, which already is treading water to pay for completed projects in others parts of town.

But city officials said some of the recommendations in the new report by the engineering firm HNTB can be done in phases over many years.

Joshua Hout, 8, of Lawrence, plays with his skateboard in a driveway on the 700 block of Hickory Road. Recommendations for fixing the persistent flooding problem in North Lawrence will come with a $41 million price tag according to a new report by engineering firm HNTB.

Joshua Hout, 8, of Lawrence, plays with his skateboard in a driveway on the 700 block of Hickory Road. Recommendations for fixing the persistent flooding problem in North Lawrence will come with a $41 million price tag according to a new report by engineering firm HNTB.

"We have a road map now, and that's important," said Chuck Soules, the city's director of public works. "We can follow the road map if we find some funding. Even if we can't fund the entire list, we can pick our priorities, get the biggest bang for our buck, and make a difference over there."

Boyle said he understood the work would have to be done in phases, but he said he hoped city officials understood that even doing the work in phases would mean a significant commitment to North Lawrence.

"We don't want them to just replace a couple of drain tubes and clean out a few ditches and think they're doing something," Boyle said. "They are going to have to spend some money, and it will be the million dollar type of figures every time they do something over here."

Area residents will have two opportunities next week to learn more about the plan. The North Lawrence Improvement Assn. will host a meeting at 7 p.m. today at Odd Fellows Hall, Sixth and Lincoln streets. The City Commission and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission will have a joint study session to discuss the report - which cost $282,000 - at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


The report breaks its recommendations into two areas - improvements needed in the existing part of North Lawrence, and improvements needed north of the city limits in areas expected to develop over the coming decades.

The price tag to fix systems in the existing neighborhood is $16.2 million. Improvements needed in the undeveloped portion of the watershed would add an additional $24.8 million.

In the existing neighborhood, the top priority project is a $9 million improvement to a pumping system along North Second Street just north of the Lawrence Visitors Center. The second rated project is a $3.9 million enlargement of the pump station near Fifth and Maple streets.

Soules said even though it is ranked second, that project may rise to the top of the city's list because it could have a large affect on reducing flooding in the residential area around Lyons Park. The city recently bought a home for $138,000 in that area because flood waters were entering the house with increasing frequency.

For projects outside the city, the report recommends significant changes near the Teepee Junction, or the intersection of U.S. Highways 59 and 24/40. The report calls for U.S. 24/40 to be raised several feet to create a makeshift levy for water flowing from the north. The water would be channeled to a new $11 million pump station that would dump the water in the Kansas River east of Lawrence. The new pump station would allow water flowing off newly developed ground to bypass North Lawrence's current stormwater system.

That project could be built in phases, and Soules said developers of the new property could be asked to pay for a portion of the project.

The report also makes recommendations on how new development in the area should occur. The main criteria is that new development shouldn't be allowed to change the current boundaries of the 100-year floodplain. That means there will have to be significant green space in the area, but the plan also said the area could accommodate a large new residential neighborhood. Residential development, though, should be about half as dense as in other parts of the city, the report said. The area also would be able to accommodate three new commercial areas, along with new industrial areas near the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

Paying the bill

Boyle said he's largely satisfied with the report's recommendations. He said making sure the city undertakes them in proper order is most important to him.

"The established residents should be taken care of first," Boyle said. "There haven't been significant improvements to parts of this system for 50 to 60 years."

How the city chooses to fund the plan also is a major issue North Lawrence residents will be watching. Boyle said he would oppose any efforts to create a special North Lawrence tax to fund the projects. He noted many of the houses in North Lawrence have been there since the late 1800s.

"We've been paying taxes over here for a long time," Boyle said. "Now we want something in return for it."

Soules said there won't be any painless funding solutions. He said it would be difficult to rely on the city's existing stormwater fee that is charged to every home and business because those dollars have been spoken for to pay off bonds that were used to fund previous projects. He said the stormwater fee money will be tied up in bond payments and maintenance operations for several more years.

"This is a utility we're operating," Soules said of the city's stormwater division. "When you have needs for a utility, oftentimes what you do is look at a rate increase."

City commissioners aren't yet ready to say that is where this issue is headed. City Commissioner David Schauner said city leaders first need to become more familiar with the recommendations.

"The price tag is a scary number, but it doesn't scare me away from wanting to make improvements," Schauner said. "We need to have a plan and figure out how to get the best bang for our buck. I know it is one of those things that we have been putting off for a long time."


moron 12 years, 5 months ago

The flooding problem wouldn't be a problem if proper building practices were enforced in this city.

As it is, local builders are allowed to slap-up anything they want to where ever they want to.



moron 12 years, 5 months ago

...must make profit at all cost... officials in my back pocket...

...create favorable building code with money & influence... houses in path of mother natures distruction...

...citizens pay for repairs through rate increases... bank account grow big...



bobi 12 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Moron. The builders have taken away the character of North Lawrence where older people sweep their sidewalks, tomato gardens are in abundance in the summer, walkers enjoy the levee, and eagles soar around their natural habitat.

As a matter of fact, the builders are also the cause of school overcrowding and the closing down of wonderful, neighborhood schools.

badger 12 years, 5 months ago

Moron, I'm not really sure how North Lawrence could have been built out of the 'path of mother natures distruction' (sic). It's pretty hard to build where rain doesn't fall sometime in Kansas.

It's not necessarily that the storms are making the river rise, and that the river is flooding homes. It's the sheer fact of the rain itself. For example, going under the train bridge just after you go over the river, that area floods insanely every time there's even the most normal rainstorm. Over in some of the residential areas, the streets are a huge problem because the water disposal system just can't take care of them, thus the need for improved pumping stations. The storm sewer system has been sorely neglected.

If this was really a matter of the water coming over a levee or backing up out of the river or something, there might be something to the idea that it's just being stupid and building in dumb places.

I also don't really get how the people currently benefiting from this (likely to be the contractors) were really looking fifty or seventy years ahead (or more) when they built in the flooded areas. Most of the people who developed that area are currently pushing up daisies and in no position to benefit.

Is it your contention that the areas were deliberately developed badly in order to generate revenue for sewer replacement companies? That seems...counterintuitive.

I'm inclined to chalk this up to about a hundred years of really poor city planning, and to forty or so of serious neglect of North Lawrence when it comes to city maintenance.

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago


Your correct...the city does now and has as long as I can remember neglected the North Lawrence area. I find it very sad and shameful. There is so much history and nostalgia connected with the area. It is one of the few places you can feel as if you are in the country when you are in the city.

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago


I can promise you that North Lawrence is no swamp! In this part of town you will find some of the most fertile soil around. Yes flooding occurs because of too many inexpensive homes causing too much run-off for the neighborhoods. This is a much more recent situation caused by too many builders being given permits to build on inexpensive land.

This past summer I recall so much water off of 6th street and in other areas of town, the streets were closed off. I doubt we would close off main streets in town and refer to them as swamp-like.

gilmourfam 12 years, 5 months ago

"What kind of knuckleheads buy homes in North Lawrence?"

The kind who can't afford to pay 250k for a house that woudl sell in other cities for 100.

The kind who moved here to get a legal education so that they could better the lives of their children.

The kind who buy a house instead of pay someone else's house payment. They build equity.

The kind who don't want their children to grow up in apartments where college kids are puking their guts out over the railings of the apartments in West Lawrence.

The kind who like the character of North Lawrence, where the people are friendly, and you actually talk to your neighbors.

I would like to say that I am appalled at some of the comments here. We have lived here for 2 years and the flooding is really a problem. We don't have drainage tubes draining the water. We have ditches, deep ones at that. This means that the water stands there in the ditches until it's absorbed or evaporated. So what your comments mean in essence is that though these homes have been here (some of them) since the 1800's, while other homes in other areas of Lawrence were recently built, drainage is good enough for the children who live out West, or East, but not for those in North Lawrence?? WHy are your kids better than mine?

Stagnat water breeds mosquitos. In case you don't know, West Nile is spread this way. I don't know about you, but I don't particularly want my child to catch it.

Oh, and let's not forget, that unless you actually buy your house when it's flooded outside, you might not know about the flooding problems. If you are an "average joe" and didn't grow up here, and hadn't heard a word about the 1951 flood, and were lied to by the realtor about the flooding, you just might not know until you buy the house.

By the way, 80% of NL homes are owner occupied. I bet there aren't too many other parts of the city that can say that.

Todd 12 years, 5 months ago

$250k houses that would cost $100k in other cities? There's a reason for that, location means something. The location of north Lawrence is less desirable hence lower property prices.

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago


I am not a child and do not need to spoken to as if I am. I am quite familiar with the make up of the land in North Lawrence. I was raised there for many, many years as were my parents and their parents. So you see, I know all about the soil, the water, and all other issues pertaining to this part of town. You sound very angry and perhaps have some motive for venting that this discussion board is unaware of?

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago

If you haven't noticed the river levels are lower than I have ever seen them in 40 years. You can almost walk across it simply stepping on the rocks. The threat of flooding is coming from too many houses being crowded into neighborhoods not designed to handle the run off in addition to inadequate drainage for rain. The more concrete roads and sidewalks exist the more this will happen as the rain runs down into ditches that can't handle it instead of down into the rich soils.

The river levels are being controlled by the opening and closing of the dams at the lakes...are you uninformed about this? The river is not the issue at hand..

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago

Your comments to tear down houses is confusing. The people who have lived there for generations never wanted these cheap houses built in the first place. So the city basically lets builders ruin the charm of old neighborhoods by permitting builders to put up cheap houses that were not wanted, causing drainage problems, and then people like Marion suggest tearing all the houses down when they weren't wanted in the first place. How insane is this?

Confrontation 12 years, 5 months ago

Marion- Trying to encourage the people of NL to understand this is like trying to explain why the people of New Orleans are crazy for wanting to rebuild in the 9th Ward. There's a lack of common sense over heartstrings.

dviper 12 years, 5 months ago

Where's all of the radical Liberal and environmental groups when you need them?

I've never understood why little to nothing is ever heard from them when development issues surrounding North Lawrence areas arise. Even the mention of the SLT brings these people / groups out from under their rocks. With North Lawrence we have a real (made by nature) swamp / wetlands instead of a man made one.

I hope the city of Lawrence looks at some alternative ideas and solutions instead of wasting over 41 million dollars on an area that is a floodplain and swamp.

However, maybe the city can get a developer to pay for all the improvements that need to be done by agreeing to let said developer build several 'new urbanism' projects in North Lawrence. It would make a nice fit with downtown and you get it for free....... Whoops, that idea just might get the radicals attention....

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago


You are so wrong on everything you are saying. Yes, flooding happens but it happens in areas all over town. Your anger seems really directed at the people and culture of NL...What a waste of my time to continue to make you understand. I lived in NL for 30 years, so have my parents, and their parents (as I said before) the problem we now see is an escalated problem caused by those tyring to make a buck.

Maybe what really should happen is that all those who crammed houses in neighborhoods where they weren't wanted should now pay for any and all improvements needed in the neighborhoods. Get it? The builders owe all the older residents millions of dollars, and you owe those of us who now live, or have lived there an apology for your ignorant behavior.

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago


By the way I hold a Broker's license in real estate. I really don't need an explanation of slab housing versus houses with basements. Builders build on the slab because it is cheaper...once again it is all about the all mighty dollar at the expense of others.

bobi 12 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for all your wonderful insight. You have told me nothing I don't already know. Sorry to disappoint you but I must get on to other important tasks. Hope you can convince someone else that you know what you are talking about.

trueninetiesgirl 12 years, 5 months ago

marion great set of plans . i grew up in nl ,in the 60and the 70s. and it never flooded. but i do remeber 6th steet by the train park all being under is a great place to grow up or it use to be.

neopolss 12 years, 5 months ago

Great example is Broken Arrow park, which is usually always flooded on the south end. They can build the SLT through the wetlands, but they'll be back to do repairs once the road sinks in.

North Lawrence is nice. I rather enjoy it. But by all common sense this current proposed solution seems only a temporary solution that will continue to come up again and again. I hate to say it, but I doubt that too much money will be given to NL. The commish are fairly loyal to their downtown and "progressive" urban development.

corporate_sleaze 12 years, 5 months ago

RE: Marion's statement about NL being a swamp.

Hey everyone, Marion is a frequent poster and receives a lot a flack. However, he has completely and totally got this one right. I urge you to reread his posts today. The "development" that has been allowed to happen in NL and other parts of this city are criminal.

stargazer 12 years, 5 months ago

keep your asses on the other side of my bridge, and quit raising my taxes.

grimpeur 12 years, 5 months ago

Marion inquired thusly:

"(1) Why was residential development allowed in what is essentially a swamp?

(2) Why did developers build in a swamp?

(3) What kind of knucleheads buy homes in a swamp?"

Hold on a sec. We're talking about North Lawrence? Gee, all this time I thought we were talking about 27th and Crossgate.

gilmourfam 12 years, 5 months ago

Okay, let me shed some light on this whole thing. I went to the NLIA meeting last night. The problem isn't that we live in a "swamp". The problem is that we have drainage pipes that are 9" and need to be 60". The problem isn't the new development, it's the inability to deal with the current flow of water. The city has known this for a long time. They have just neglected North lawrence.

Also, it seems like Marion has waaaayyyy too much time on her hands. I agree with the earlier post that her comments are directed at the people and culture of N lawrence. Let me tell you something, when my husband and I moved here we moved way out by Clinton Pkwy and Kasold. My kids went to the ritziest school district in the city. Let me tell you, I prefer N Lawrence to that. The people are nicer, the parents aren't so stuck up, and EVERYBODY DOESN'T DRIVE A HONDA MINIVAN COSTING 40K OR A GAS GUZZLING SUV. People care about each other and are willing to go the extra mile for someone over here, WITHOUT the added gossip. My neighbors bring over tomatoes in the summer home grown from their garden.

I don't know why you have such a bad impression of NL residents Marion, oh and by the way, it's LYON not Lion.

Bottom line, the city has been neglecting the NL community for too long.

By the way, FEMA doesn't prohibit people from "building in flood plains". The houses just have to be elevated. If you angry residents are sooo concerned with the slab houses built over on Lauren, Lake etc streets, the building codes need to be changed to require foundations, or putting in adequate drainage systems.

Last thought, the survey engineers reccommended upgrading the 2nd street pump station first at a cost of 9 million, though the real problem could be greatly alleviated by upgrading the Maple St pump station at a cost of only 3 million.

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