Prioritization and reorganization are expected to be major themes in 2007 at City Hall.
Mayor Mike Amyx said he would continue to tout the need for the City Commission to prioritize a long list of expensive requests that include a new downtown library, additional recreational facilities, improved street maintenance and major economic development efforts such as the purchase of the former Farmland Industries plant.
"I keep saying it, but I think we have to come up with some sort of ranking system," Amyx said. "We have to ask what we can afford to do and when we can afford to do it."
Commissioner Sue Hack - who currently serves as vice mayor and, if tradition holds, will be elected by fellow commissioners to serve a one-year term as mayor in April - said she agreed. But she also said reorganization would be evident during the new year.
New City Manager David Corliss has said he's undertaking a top-to-bottom review of city government. That already has resulted in a decision to combine the Neighborhood Resources Department and the Planning Department into a new Department of Community Development.
The city also has multiple department leadership positions it must fill, including directors for community development, utilities, parks and recreation, and human relations.
Hack said getting the new Community Development Department off and running would be a major priority. It's designed to be a one-stop shop for people with development or planning issues.
"Enabling our planning process to be fair and efficient is really essential," Hack said.
She also didn't rule out other reorganizations during the new year.
"That's not to say that the people in the current positions aren't doing a good job," Hack said. "It just means that we'll be looking for ways to use our excellent staff to the best of its abilities."
Here's a list of several of the larger issues that commissioners likely will tackle in 2007.
¢ Downtown library. The commission has a proposal on the table for a new library to be built at the site of the current U.S. post office at Seventh and Vermont streets at a cost of about $30 million. The public-private partnership that brought the plan forward also has proposed about $100 million worth of private development along Vermont Street in a 10-year period.
¢ Sales taxes. The library project and others have sparked more discussion about whether the city wants to create a sales tax. The city now has legislative authority to create another 1-cent sales tax to provide general revenue money, if it so desires. It would require a citywide election.
¢ Sewer plant. The city already has begun buying property for a new sewer treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River. This city is expected to start spending significant money this year to continue work on the plant. The project is expected to cost about $80 million. Sewer rates already have been adjusted upward to pay for the project.
¢ PLAY. A new community organization - Partnership for Lawrence Athletics and Youth - is working on a study to determine what new recreational facilities the city may need. That study is expected to be done in early 2007.
¢ Economic development. City and county commissioners have confirmed they have serious interest in purchasing the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant on the eastern edge of Lawrence. The city has expressed an interest in redeveloping the environmentally damaged 467-acre property as an industrial park. The property is controlled by a bankruptcy trust. It would have to be purchased at a bankruptcy auction, which likely will draw other bidders.
¢ New urbanism. Commissioners have hired consultants to help the city develop codes that will give developers the option of building neighborhoods using old-style planning principles. The new codes would allow for more mixed-use areas, with neighborhoods that have traditional street grids instead of cul-de-sacs and an increased emphasis on walking.
¢ Elections. This year also marks an election year for the commission, which occurs every two years. As usual, three of the five city commissioners will be up for re-election in April. They are Commissioners Boog Highberger, Mike Rundle and David Schauner. None has announced plans to run again.
City Hall's 2007 priorities
- Library decision won't be rushed
- Public should weigh in on new library, mayor says
- Parents want to level playing fields
- Is it time to pay for play?
- Chat about Lawrence recreation facilities with Bonnie Lowe
- Chat about road construction and the condition of city streets with Chuck Soules
- Cities playing catch-up on street maintenance, road work
- City, county may buy Farmland plant
- Area around airport also may see development