Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Don’t shelve current site yet, library director says

$40 million expansion proposed in 700 block of Vermont

May 10, 2006


Butch Moore exited the Lawrence Public Library on Tuesday afternoon with an armful of books - potboiler mysteries by the likes of James Patterson.

"Mindless crap," he said with a laugh.

Moore goes to the library regularly for his mysteries. He said he likes the library, and he likes it right where it is.

"I personally believe we should build on top of the library and keep the library where it is," he said. "I like the location."

That's still a possibility. As the community on Tuesday began mulling four proposals to build a new, bigger city library downtown, director Bruce Flanders went online with a reminder that one more choice was still on the table.

"There is a fifth option: Expanding the library in its current location," Flanders wrote at, one of several postings he made throughout the day in a give-and-take discussion with readers about the library's future.

The other four options were unveiled Monday:

¢ Massive redevelopment of parts of the 600, 700 and 800 blocks of Vermont and Kentucky streets by the Fritzel family, owners of a local construction company.

¢ A proposal by members of the Simons family - which owns the Journal-World - to place the library along the Kansas River, in the former Riverfront Mall.

¢ Redevelopment by Lawrence developer Doug Compton that would turn much of the east side of the 800 block of New Hampshire Street into a library, retail-residential development and a large public plaza designed by artist Stan Herd.

¢ A plan by developers of the Downtown 2000 project to suspend a multistory library above a section of New Hampshire Street near Ninth Street.

Not cheaper

Taxpayers would pay $40 million or more under any of the proposals. Flanders said expanding at the current location - building atop the parking lot in the 700 block between Vermont and Kentucky streets, with new parking underground - wouldn't save any money.

"I don't see that it will be any cheaper than any of the other options," he said. "I think people are talking about the $40 to $50 million range, and that's what we're talking about."

The stay-put strategy wouldn't include, however, the retail or residential construction proposed by the other developers, nor would it include any private funding.

"That fifth option treats the library expansion as a project unto itself, without ancillary private developments," Flanders said. "In other words, the fifth option focuses solely on the library and would be a wholly publicly funded option."

Varied thoughts

Library patrons Tuesday were of mixed opinions about which option was best, or even if the library needs to be expanded.

Steven Petty, a waiter, said he visited the library four times a week to check out books and use computers. He said the expansion was a hot topic of conversation among patrons Tuesday, but he didn't think a $40 million project was justified.

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"At this moment? No," he said. "That's kind of ridiculous."

But retiree Carl Allam, 75, disagreed. He said he stops by the library every day, after lunch at the nearby Douglas County Senior Center, to read newspapers.

"The city's going to grow," Allam said, while returning a book about the O.J. Simpson trial. "We need a new library."

Tim Cook, a once-a-week patron, walked out Tuesday with a biography of President Reagan.

"I've seen libraries in towns this size much better-equipped than this," he said. "This is not an acceptable level of service for the size of town we're in."

George McCoy, who left the library with nine books, agreed.

"Lawrence has roughly doubled in size since I came to school here 20 years ago," he said. "The library's the same."

A committee of city officials and library leaders will review the proposals during a meeting that starts at 9 a.m. Monday at City Hall. Flanders said a bond election for the project probably wouldn't occur until April 2007, the next City Commission election.


KsTwister 11 years, 10 months ago

33 Million for a new site, but 40 million more to keep it where it is?? Damn, what got added a skyscraper parking garage and an aquarium? People are not this stupid and know when they are being lied to and by whom. More BS please, I have not had breakfast yet. I suggest you take bids first (open bidding please) on the current site and don't tell me parking is the problem you cannot work out.

Reader 11 years, 10 months ago

"I Told You So!" It Really Doesn't Matter What The People Say, It's Coming! And We're All Going To Pay Out The @$$! "So Shall It Be Written, So Shall It Be Done"

kualum03 11 years, 10 months ago

I live in a town roughly the size of Topeka. Its basically a blue collar environment. We aren't close to any other cities - think Wichita.

There are 8 branch locations and one central downtown library. The Central Library was built in 2003 and cost taxpayers $28 million. The old central lib is being renovated into a hands-on children's museum.

It is a state of the art facility and one of the main reasons why living in Evansville, Indiana is worthwhile. Lawrence's library doesn't draw people because it is the same as it was when I was 10 years old, in 1991.

Build another one. keep the existing location as a branch, except add a cafe and make some of the space into larger community rooms (update the current ones' lighting) and add smaller study rooms.

John Spencer 11 years, 10 months ago

CMS You! You! You better take on another job.

ksTWISTER, The consultant in February said a new library 'could' cost 30 millilon to build. All of the proposals, new and renovation, cost 40 million +.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

I dislike the Riverfront location because of the traffic congestion on that curve. It will require a huge makeover to make entry and exit any better. This may why the retail center failed and I do like bailing this disaster out not even for a new library.

An explanation is deserved as to what ratio of expense the taxpayers are expected to pick up considering the money making ventures for builders in the retail and condos.

I like the 9th and New Hampshire location because no expenditures will be required for demolition and retrofitting.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

I do not see any reason for a coffee shop/cafe in the library considering all of the local venues in the area. Food service is high dollar operation expenses.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

Folks, the City's annual budget is about 50 million. Therefore, the City Commission is proposing that we construct a library that reflects the City's entire annual budget. To put that in perspective. That's like the U.S. Govt. blowing the 3 Trillion dollar National budget on a a new Lincoln Memorial. Wow, it would be great, but we don't need it.

Any of these proposals are out of proportion to this City's budget and the tax generation capabilities of this community. 50 million dollars in debt will strap this community for decades.

Ed Mullins recently told the Commission they need to stop spending at the rate they were. That warning didn't even contemplate a 50 million dollar library.

Sorry Bruce, no matter how nice you are online, there is no justification for a library of this size and at this cost on Lawrence's budget.

Make due with what you have, but don't ask the tax payers to mortgage the City's future for decades on one building. This is irresponsibility to the max.

jafs 11 years, 10 months ago

Actually, the city budget is approximately 120 million/year at this point. Certainly seems like enough to maintain infrastructure to me! But that's another topic. The simple use of existing city buildings as annexes would solve this problem with minimal cost to taxpayers, and is the obvious and best solution. And, I believe there are ways to increase our tax burden without allowing us to vote on it, which concerns me greatly.

Janet Lowther 11 years, 10 months ago

I'm not sure I like any of the proposals to date, but Lawrence is closing in on Topeka in terms of population, but the library is pitiful by comparison.

Branch libraries are a bad idea: It seems like whatever you want is always somewhere else.

I wonder what proportion of library users use the KU libraries? Over the years I have used the KU libraries at least as much as the Lawrence library, despite the KU libraries' often inconvenient schedule.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

jafs, when your wrong your wrong. Thanks for the correction on the budget. I was referrring to the budget allocated for the general fund. See

Here's the deal. a 30-50 million dollar project is 25-40% of the City's total annual budget. However, is anyone really willing to admit that the final tab on this project won't be double what the bids initial are??? That puts us into the neighborhood of 60-100 million. I'm scared to ask this question, but how many of us would manage our househould finances like this? You don't blow the family's annual budget on one thing so small of scale in comparison to the rest of the family's needs. That's like buying a $20,000 candy bar.

Lawrence residents need to attend the City Commissions every Tuesday at 7:00 and voice opposition to this. We may have to ciruclate petitions and garner enough support to have a special vote to oppose this.

The alternative is to do nothing and allow ideological dogmatics that lack the requisite sound financial judgment make irresponsible decisions that will cast a cloud over this City's future for decades. As it is this flies in the face of the advice Ed Mullins (the Director of Finances who has a glowing education in finance) gave to the commission to stop spending at the rate they were.

This isn't a dip or a bump folks. 50 million bucks of debt is big time for a City this size, and the consequences will be felt by the taxpayers for decades.

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

Does the $30,000,000 that became $40,000,000 that is, today, $40,000,000 or more, include all the new fixtures, books, computers and equipment and new employees for the new library, or is that just the cost of the structure?

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

Like I said, 30-50 million is going to end up costing 60-100 million. Maybe there is a deeper conspiracy as to why we have a marijuana ordinance than we all realize. If the majority of Lawrence residents are stoned sky high then 30-50 million is interpreted as 30-50 bucks. That doesn't sound too bad for a library.

princess 11 years, 10 months ago

I may not be a rocket scientist, but when an outside consultant comes up with a number of $30MM to build out the existing library and that number suddenly changes to $40MM without reason something is fishy. And while I rarely (and I mean rarely) even come close to siding with Marion I do wonder what is going one here. So why is $40MM the magic number now? What kind of deal making is going on and who will be benefiting?

jafs 11 years, 10 months ago

I stand by my suggestion to create annexes. They don't have to be "branches", but could be use-specific annexes. For example, we could create a non-circulating annex. Or a children's section annex. Or an audio-visual annex. Or a computer annex. Or a reference annex. This would be so much less expensive than any of the proposals, and fairly useful. It would free up space in the main library, and allow the library to expand its' offerings. It would be a little less convenient, but not that much, especially if we used some downtown locations. I was serious about Abe and Jake's - if they are violating anti-discrimination laws by requiring college ID's, let the city take the building back and use it as a library annex.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

tony88, macon47 was probably already going to say this but I will. The qualitative distinction here between your analogy in funding the PD is that this library proposal as it stands contemplates 25-40% of the entire annual budget. If the costs balloon like they probably will we might be in the 50-80% of the entire annual budget. So going back to your analogy, although the PD is funded and paid for by 97% of the taxpayers while only 3% use it, the real issue is should 50-80% of the budget be used to fund something which is only used by 1-2% of the population. The answer obviously is no. Are you one of the commissioners using an alias log-in name?

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

This really isn't about a library, it is about a transformation of downtown into an upscale business and shopping destination. The expnasion of the library is the ruse to get taxpayers involved in the funding of what, in other cities, would be private development.

conservative 11 years, 10 months ago

I really torn on this issue. My children and I do visit the current library occasionally, and would probably do so more often if it was improved to offer a larger selection. However I'm not sure it is worth 30+ million to do this. When I was in school I spent a lot of time in the local library doing research for papers, debate club, etc. However with the internet today I would do a majority of that type of research without ever going to a bricks and mortor library. While I don't expect printed books to go out of style because of the internet, I do believe that many of the other reasons for visiting a library are being eclipsed by the internet. Bottom line, I don't know how I'll vote when this eventually comes to a vote (I'm sure my decision will come down to how practical and financially responsible the proposals are).

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

What do you mean there's no footing. Yesterday the costs were estimated at 30 million and overnight they've grown to 40 million. That's a 33% increase in less than 24 hours. And when has government ever stayed within budget? Especially this commission. Recall that a few weeks ago Ed Mullins warned the City Commissioners they were spending too much and that if the didn't curtail the current level of spending the City would be in the red in a few years. Lastly, even if they stay in budget, thats 25-40% of the entire annual budget. That's one building, ONE building, using up 25-40% of the budget. One building used by 1-2% of the population taking up 25-40% of the budget is grossly disproportional. Come-on tonyhawk, even you can admit that. Again, are you one of the commissioners using an alias log-in?

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

OK tonyhawk, since your going to be a stickler on statistics then pony-up. What's your hard and fast source for 1000-2000 new people walking through the library doors everyday. Somehow your facts are jiving because you also earlier said that it isn't the same people. The figures your citing add up to 350,000-700,000 people walking through the library door every year, moreover the facts you've supplied imply that these are new and original people. There are only about 80,000-90,000 residents in Lawrence (including students about 120,000) Where are the extra 230,000-580,000 people coming from. I'm quite certain that the population of the entire state of Kansas isn't more than a couple million. So were talking about every person in Lawrence visiting the library plus about 10%-25% of the entire population of Kansas visiting our 40 million dollar library. Come-on, let's be serious Mr/Mrs Statistical Guru.

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

Can't the commission avoid putting this project up to a vote simply by funding it with an increase in property tax?

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

To your second comment (I just can't keep up with your flawed logic). 'The amortized life of the building reflects 1-2% of current annual budget.' Tony, Tony, Tony. The annual budget is 126 million dollars. What you have proposed indicates a one time, and one time only total cost for a 50 year building. Are you telling us all that this building is going to be around for 50 years? We all know that in 20-25 years some other commission is going to tell us we need another library to serve the needs of residents in west-Lawrence. And another Bruce Flanders is going to tell us we need a new library to keep up with Topeka and JoCo. The debate will then become what to do with a building that is old, ugly and antiquated. Meanwhile, the bill for maintaining the building, which will be substantial, will be footed solely by taxpayers. That's why this is disproportional and extravagent. If we all ran our households and spent on credit like the City does, we'd be up to our ears in credit card debt. That's the whole point, you don't spend money just because you can find a clever way to finance it. In the end, the interest comes back to bit you in the rear and your strapped paying the max interest rates. That's why Ed Mullins warned the Commissioners to stop spending at a fast and loose rate (they've already all but erased the "rainy-day" fund which has built up over decades). He knows that he'll be here to figure out some solution to keeping the City afloat and prevent our bond credit rating from slipping into junk territory long after the spend-dogmatic-ideologues have been booted out.

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

tony, taken directly from your 11:18 a.m. post:

"Your assumption that the same 1000 people use the library every day is false."

Get a grip DUDE.

blessed3x 11 years, 10 months ago

Will they be hiring illegal day laborers for the construction?

Rationalanimal 11 years, 10 months ago

The context in which you presented it was to rebutt the argument that only 1-2% of the population would use an argument. Thus, you were either being intellectually dishonest in your vaguness or have argued your self into a corner.

I'm signing off so you have free reign to terrorize this forum with your vague statistics and flawed logic. The last word is yours dude.

invisible_insanity 11 years, 10 months ago

Let one of the private developers build the library on the condition that they eat some of the cost of the library.

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

Donquipunch, I hope I'm kidding, too. However, I believe it was either Boog or Charles Jones, or maybe both, who said they favor using property tax to fund the purchase of the old Farmland property for the specific reason that property tax increases do not require voter approval.

So, what is the total property valuation in Lawrence, anyway? How much would they need to increase the mill levy in order raise another $50,000,000 spread out over, say, 10 to 20 years?

KsTwister 11 years, 10 months ago

How empty is Tanger Mall now?? Look at all those empty parking spaces. Why make our kids and grandkids pay for so much. Oh, yeah, I keep Bush does....spend......spend.....spend. Worry about how to pay for it later. Gee Whiz what a bunch of baffoons.I can't wait until election time. This pandenmic is worse than the bird flu.....somebody best be working on an antidote( Boog -not anecdote).

bmw 11 years, 10 months ago

What I like about the proposals from the private developers is that along with the tax dollars spent will come economic development that will provide more revenue in return for the money spent.

Spending money to expanding the current location with no other development (hotel, retail, residental) attached would mean no return on investment. Libraries don't expand the tax base but these other developments attached would.

Reader 11 years, 10 months ago

KsTwister If Read My Past Posts, I Mentioned This! What A Prime Spot For The "Library", And/Or The "Farmers Market!" But As I Would Guess Your Part Of The City, (I Assuming) Is Far Better Than Ours That Live On The North Side. Even Though The Property Taxes Are The Same? Look What It Took To Get The Bump In The Road Fixed! A Near Death Of An Innocent Boy. It's Smooth Now, But It Still Looks Like $hT. I See New Streets Going In All Over Town, I Mean "Whole" Streets! But Not Over Here! We Do Good Just To Get Some Of That Black Pancake Syrup They Put In The Potholes, I Think They Even Sweep The Loose Debris From The Street To Fill It In? These Last Few Days Of Rain Has Just Washed It Away And The Potholes Are Back! Like I Said Before, (Again) I'm Still Looking At The Sand From Last Winter! "No Street Cleaners In My Neigborhood!" But Hey "The City" Did Approve Us Another "Liquior Store!" Maybe, Just Maybe When The New WalMart Is Built, Dillions Will Be Closed And Have Enough Since To Build On The North Side! It's A Gold Mine Waiting To Happen. Who Ever Builds First Gets The Prize! (Just As Long As We're Not Priced Gouged!) We've Already Got 2 Gas Stations Doing That! Oh Well Enough Of My Ranting, It Really Hasn't Done Us Any Good!

KsTwister 11 years, 10 months ago

Reader, although I don't live on the North side, it is a quick drive but somewhere in the back of my mind the Commissioners are just concerned with keeping everything within walking distance of Massachusetts. They suffer from tunnel vision. They can't control what they cannot see or pat their backs when they look out from City Hall. Just an observation.

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

Ks Twister wrote: "the Commissioners are just concerned with keeping everything within walking distance of Massachusetts. They suffer from tunnel vision."

Make that "funnel vision." Funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to the powerbrokers of Lawrence: The Fritzels, The Schmalbergs, The Simons, and The Comptons, and a "few" of their friends.

"mmm, I'll get by with the help of my friends, oooh, I'll get by with the help of my friends, oh, I'll get by with the help of, get by with the help of , get by with the help of my f..r...i....e...n..d..s..........."

monkeyhawk 11 years, 10 months ago

For all of you who have revered our city "fathers and mother", and worked so hard to elect them and have defended them wholeheartedly over these too many months, where are you now? Where is bozo with your defense of these smarth growth, progressive, greenie Gore/Soros types, who have undoubtedly let you down? Even merrill/heckler is becoming disillusioned. One day he might even move to the "other" Lawrence. I have the feeling he may be able to pick up some golf course property vewy, vewy cheap. Maybe even for back taxes on the courthouse steps.

Godot 11 years, 10 months ago

OHMIGAWD, thank you, Marion. We have been railroaded!!!!

From a minor expansion to $10,000,000 to $33,000,000, to $40,000,000 and more in just a few months....

What a boondoggle, what a taxpayer ripoff, what an extraordinary example of government employees who are in over their heads, of government officials who are being played liked instruments by the developers of Lawrence....

Save your timeline and articles, Marion.

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