City commissioners will go on the offensive next month in their efforts to garner federal funding for a variety of projects.
All five commissioners are tentatively scheduled to travel Oct. 15-17 to Washington, D.C., to lobby federal legislators and their staffs.
"We always have lots of needs in the community, and this is a way to communicate them to people who can be in a position to help," Mayor Mike Amyx said.
Lobbying federal lawmakers for funding is nothing new for city leaders, but the fact that all five commissioners are planning to make the trip is unusual. Traditionally, the city has sent two to three commissioners to Washington as part of a national convention of city leaders.
But several commissioners said that trip wasn't always very productive because congressmen and senators were bombarded by representatives from dozens of other cities at the same time.
"I think there will be more meat to this visit," City Commissioner Sue Hack said.
Commissioners on Tuesday gave tentative approval to a list of topics that they want staff to gather "talking points" on to present to legislators. They include:
¢ funds for transportation, public transit, airport projects and the Community Development Block Grant program.
¢ an appeal of the Census Bureau's population estimates for the city.
¢ efforts to garner a National Heritage Area designation for Douglas County.
One issue not specifically on the list is funding for the South Lawrence Trafficway. City commissioners have been split on where the final leg of that road should be built.
City commissioners on a 3-2 vote earlier this year agreed to send a letter to the Federal Highway Administration asking it to approve a route south of the Wakarusa River for the eastern leg of the road, rather than the approved route through the Baker Wetlands.
Commissioners on Tuesday said they weren't sure whether they would discuss that particular road project as part of their transportation discussions.
"We all need to be talking about the same project, it would seem," Amyx said.
City commissioners are expected to be joined on the trip by representatives from Douglas County and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
Interim City Manager David Corliss said exact totals on how much the trip would cost weren't yet known. He said the city would pay for airfare, lodging, meals and cab fare for commissioners, just as it does for any conference that commissioners or staff members attend.
Commissioner Boog Highberger said he thought the trip would be worthwhile.
"I really want to drive home the point that the buck really does stop here at the city and county level," Highberger said. "Federal and state governments make funding cuts for a number of programs, but that doesn't mean the needs go away."
Bonds, notes issued to pay for city projects
City commissioners unanimously agreed to issue new debt to pay for previously approved city projects.
Commissioners issued $17.13 million worth of general obligation bonds and $16.345 million worth of temporary notes at their meeting Tuesday night.
Commissioners accepted a low bid from George K. Baum & Co. on the general obligation debt. Baum offered an interest rate of 3.86 percent. Commissioners accepted a bid from Parker/Hunter for the temporary notes. That company offered a rate of 3.66 percent.
The general obligation bonds generally are paid off over a 10- to 15-year period. The temporary notes are done for a much shorter time period and later are converted to general obligation bonds after a project has been completed and its exact costs are known.
City staff to continue work on energy audit
Commissioners directed staff members to keep working on ways to make the city more energy efficient.
Commissioners received a staff report on several initiatives that staff are undertaking. They include a planned energy audit that will look at how major energy consumers - such as the city's sewer and water plants - can conserve more electricity.
Interim City Manager David Corliss said he's also exploring a program through the Environmental Protection Agency that rates and scores cities on a variety of environmental management issues. The program looks at issues ranging from the types of vehicles that are purchased to the energy efficiency of public buildings.
"We think we have an opportunity to show some leadership in this area," Corliss said.
No announcement on Farmland property
City and county commissioners met in executive session to discuss the Farmland Industries property but did not make any announcements about their intentions regarding the vacant fertilizer plant just east of Lawrence.
The 467-acre piece of property is up for sale as part of Farmland's bankruptcy case. The city and the county have expressed some interest in purchasing the property, which must undergo some environmental cleanup, to use as an industrial park. Members of the private sector, however, also are exploring possible purchase of the site.