Archive for Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Cuts may leave roads ravaged

Marty Pattin, left, walks with his grandson Blaine Pattin, 6, and his dog Juju, along north Kasold Drive.

Marty Pattin, left, walks with his grandson Blaine Pattin, 6, and his dog Juju, along north Kasold Drive.

June 5, 2007


Reader poll
Should City Hall increase street repair funding by $1.2 million?

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One City Commissioner says the recent budget cuts go too far

The cuts have caused two layoffs, higher prices for vaccines, and a 6% reduction in funding for social service agencies. Now, Commissioner Boog Highberger says city leaders may be overreacting as they try to trim 3.5 million dollars from this year's budget. Enlarge video

Three questions with ... Dan Partridge, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department

Hear Dan Partridge, executive director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, explain how his agency is responding to a city-ordered 6 percent cut in funding for their 2007 budget.

A tight city budget might mean bumpier rides for Lawrence motorists.

That's one of the big issues looming over City Hall as commissioners put together a 2008 budget.

Commissioners on Tuesday were told that they need to spend an additional $1.2 million in 2008 to maintain city streets, or they should expect a significant number of roads to fall so far into disrepair that simple maintenance won't be able to save them.

"Every year that we defer full funding for street maintenance, we're adding on to our future costs," said Chuck Soules, the city's public works director. "I can definitely tell you that the costs aren't getting any cheaper."

But the road repairs may have to wait.A majority of city commissioners, during their second day of budget hearings, made it clear they want to avoid an increase in the city's property tax rate.

"I feel like we have a mandate to try and reduce our expenses and not just turn to the taxpayers for more money," said Commissioner Mike Dever, who was elected in April. "I'm going to stay on that course."

Full funding sought

Without a tax increase or major cuts in spending to other city departments, commissioners may have to spend significantly less on street maintenance. The city is budgeted to spend $5.3 million on street maintenance this year, but Soules included only $2.8 million for street maintenance in the 2008 budget he submitted to city commissioners for approval.

That's about $3.65 million less than what Soules thinks is needed to keep pace with the city's aging streets, an amount that would bring the total to $6.45 million.

But Soules wasn't able to figure out how to work that $3.65 million into his budget without cutting other vital public works operations. Instead, he's asking city commissioners to figure out how to fund the $3.65 million, through a tax increase or some other means.

The city has been increasing street maintenance funding in the last two years after a city study found that 30 percent of streets have deteriorated to the point that routine maintenance no longer is effective.

Soules and other department leaders are struggling to maintain funding levels for various programs because the city is expecting sales tax and property tax collections to grow at much slower rates than in the past.

Other budget requests

Commissioners heard several other requests during budget hearings Tuesday. They included:

¢ A request from Soules for $250,000 to fill sidewalk gaps along major city streets. Soules said his department could provide continuous sidewalks along at least one side of all major streets - everywhere except neighborhood streets - if commissioners provided $250,000 in funding per year for the next six years.

¢ Soules also asked commissioners to consider a proposal that would require neighborhoods to begin paying for traffic-calming devices. Currently the devices - such things as traffic circles and speed humps - are paid for out of the city's general fund. Soules said he thought a more feasible way to pay for the projects would be to require neighborhoods to form benefit districts for the projects. That would mean that property owners in the neighborhood would have a special assessment on their property taxes - usually for a period of about 10 years - to pay for the work.

¢ Police Chief Ron Olin asked commissioners to fund four new positions at a cost of about $250,000. Two of the positions would be sergeants to provide additional oversight to the investigations and internal affairs division. The chief also is asking for a computer programmer to create and manage a records system, and a fleet manager to oversee the department's vehicles and equipment.

¢ Ernie Shaw, interim parks and recreation director, is asking for $93,000 in new funding to hire a maintenance worker and buy equipment to maintain Memorial Park Cemetery. He also told commissioners that it will require about $175,000 in new funding to begin operating the former Carnegie Library Building at Ninth and Vermont streets as a community center.

¢ Commissioners were told that staff members are still working on a recommendation for water rate increases in 2008. Water rates originally were scheduled to increase by 4 percent. But staff members alerted commissioners in April that a 7 percent increase may be needed to cover rising costs associated with expanding the city's Clinton Water Plant. Staff members Tuesday said they were still studying the need for a 7 percent increase, which would be on top of a 9 percent increase in sewer rates.


RKLOG 10 years, 8 months ago

Damn Marion, good points. You hit the nail right on the freakin head.

Michael Stanclift 10 years, 8 months ago

Between cowboy and Marion I think we've got it pretty much figured out.

Centrist 10 years, 8 months ago

Bubbles ... I hope you're joking ... really!

blackwalnut 10 years, 8 months ago

It scares me when I agree with most of what Marion says.

One thing I disagree with: the "loser T" as he puts it is no loser, having grown at 4 times the national average for fledgling transportation systems. If the T were a corporation, the CEO would be pulling down mondo bonuses. The loser is the city that suddenly lost the vision to keep supporting the T until it grows even stronger and better. The loser is the citizen who thinks the T doesn't benefit them if they don't ride it. With this new "instant gratification" city commission I am afraid there will be no more building anything for the future, because too many people want only to line their own pockets right now. A lot of damage will be done to our city in four years.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 8 months ago

"A tight city budget might mean bumpier rides for Lawrence motorists."

In my part of town we are asking, "So, what's new about that?"

blackwalnut 10 years, 8 months ago

OK everyone, I am taking bets. What will the next pretend-budget-crisis budget-cutting scare from the City Commission be? $1 gets you in, winner gets a case of whatever form of alcohol will best help numb them against what is happening to Lawrence.

My money is on the Lawrence Arts Center. Definitely, they'll want to gut that. They surely need to fire some of those instructors with master's degrees who earn $12 an hour part-time. And those little girls in their tutus on Saturday mornings with their mommies and daddies waiting outside the studio? No more of that nonsense for Lawrence!

After that what will be left to bulldoze? Police, EMTs and firemen? Fire them! Parks? Maybe they could sell the parks off to the city commissioners' developer friends and put some more Wal-Marts right in the middle of town, not at the edges which is too far away now that public transportation is going away. Oops, have I said too much and given them ideas?

KsTwister 10 years, 8 months ago

For crying out loud Chad how many times are you going to write the same news with a different headline??? Anyway, practice makes perfect.

Michael Stanclift 10 years, 8 months ago

The last thing we need are roads that are worse then what they are now.

coneflower 10 years, 8 months ago

For the love of God, what is wrong with these people running our city?

$200,000 to go ahead putting traffic lights at George Williams Way and Sixth Street just to make a developer happy - because no way would that be needed for years if Mercato were not going in there.

I hate the way they put developers' projects above the needs and rights of everyone else.

coneflower 10 years, 8 months ago

Chad seems on board with the whole agenda of the new city commission. The headlines, the choice of articles, and what the paper chooses not to print - all serve the purpose.

The sky is falling! And we need a sales tax increase!!! What will it be next week? What needed and valuable service will they threaten us with next?

Soon it will all be forgotten and they'll go back to pushing their $30 mill library and giant ice rink complex, on our dime. But not before they get a sales tax hike.

Who voted for these people, anyway?

Sigmund 10 years, 8 months ago

The road are not going to fix themselves. Procrastination is only going to make things worse and more expensive in the long run. Sales tax increases will hurt the poor disproportionately. Increasing the mil levy will raise the cost of homes and apartments making housing even less affordable. Property values are not increasing, or even declining, thanks to "smart growth."

The Lawrence Traffic Safety Commission played a large part in the mismanagement that put Lawrence in this crisis. Some even rationalized that pot holes are cheap traffic calming devices! They wasted a ton of money and time doing stupid, unwanted, and unneeded projects. If they had a modicum of self respect and decency they would do the right thing, apologize to the citizens and resign. But we all know they don't and won't.

What we are left with is a budget squeeze, we knew it was coming. Because we didn't trust the old PLC dominated Kommission to do the right things, two of three are gone. Unable to do what most Lawrencian's do every day, balancing income with expenses, one ex-mayor and ex-Kommissioner was so irresponsible with his personal finances he had to file bankruptcy . Therefore the current Commission is left with the hard and unpopular job of cutting current expenses to pay for the excesses and mismanagement of the last few years, something the PLC dominated Kommission couldn't or wouldn't do.

So far the current Commission appears to be making the tough calls. I don't agree with every single decision, but I didn't expect I would and neither should you. Believing your favorite program shouldn't be cut as we catch up on basic infrastructure spending is unrealistic and unfair. Every single project, every single department, and every single citizen should be negatively impacted. We need to share the pain as a reminder of the failed PLC smart growth urban planning policies, tools, and thinking that put us where we are today.

justthefacts 10 years, 8 months ago

OH NO...not the roads...........! Puleez Mr. Commissioners, raise my taxes - anything but the roads!!!

This ploy is so transparent.

They want to justify raising taxes. They know it will be unpopular.

So, the first things they threaten to cut (or do cut) are the necessities that will impact the most people (or the most vocal people).

They need to watch the movie "Dave" and then call in a CPA

There are tons of "extra" things that aren't critical to the city's functioning. Will the decrease in funding to these things smart? Oh yea. We get used to extras pretty fast.

But just like a family has to cut out movies and eating out, in favor of heat and home-cooking, so too does a government have to learn to live within it current budget - or spend even less - to make ends meet.

But the first thing to go is not the children.

Government was created to provide collectively for things that individuals can't afford. Roads, schools, police & fire protection are among the oldest of governmental services. The fact they even have roads on their list of things to cuts shows how little they know about governing. Or how little they think the people know.

cowboy 10 years, 8 months ago

squealing like baby pigs but not one of the city staffers , who are making big bucks , are stepping up to the plate with cost savings ideas. I'll repeat the short list cut all city travel for fy 2007-2008 moratorium on all new vehicles moratorium on all new IT projects cut all downtown subsidy dollars no new land purchases no traffic calmers increase T fares by one dollar / reevaluate rates to serve the lower eco areas adequately increase Eagle Bend rates to actual cost moratorium on carnegie bldg plan cut all social services by 5% moratorium on all art costs freeze city wage increases for anyone over 35,000 annual salary evaluate city health insurance benefits , increase co-pay by 10$ a visit freeze all new city positions increase municipal court cost to actual operational costs streamline court process to deal with issues in one appearance

form a eco devo committee focused on bringing revenue producing entities to lawrence reevaluate the city finance operation , they obviously are incompetent in projecting much of anything accurately and we are seeing the results

Audit the city water revenues , were approaching double digit increases annually, unnacceptable

Form a city endowment association , similar to LMH's for city notables to step up and return to the community resources and get their name attached to projects for the good of the community.

and by the way Boog , you are a major part of the problem , spending reserves is irresponsible

KsTwister 10 years, 8 months ago

If this city cannot do a budget then those people need to be replaced, ASAP. City Managers who cannot trim their departments down need to be replaced, ASAP. There is money available and personnel positions that can still be trimmed 23% of which are listed as 'other' personnel, make the cuts. We are paying for personnel for that golf course, sell it. And cut all studies, which seem to be recurring line items every year. That is another $500k- 1-million. If Soules cannot make correct projections, adjust those department managers. The city Finance department is top heavy, make the cuts, its larger than our police, fire and medical. For taxpayers to be bombarded with imaginary or real shortages after the fact -- they need to go. The Carnegie library was earmarked for $1million in restoration this year, use that for the streets, it can wait. I am not sure that the $173K in the article isn't for the workers for that project. It can wait. There is $850K in the guest tax fund for convention and visitors,use it. $610K for street lights, trim it. The $1,153,000 for public parking downtown this year, use it, this too can wait. There is $9million sitting in Transfers department. What???

And quit hitting taxpayers with proposed crisis management, we have heard it before----while they were spending our infrastructure funds on pipe dreams and roundabouts.
Tax increases ---the answer is NO!

And Marion had a good start, and he is right.

compmd 10 years, 8 months ago

I gave up on having faith in the city regarding the roads and just bought a car with huge tires and monster suspension. In some parts of town its smoother to drive offroad.

News_to_me 10 years, 8 months ago

Sensational headline, less than sensational news. They know they can't cut the budget for streets. so someone else's head will be on the chopping block. How about anybody who came in asking for more money? They were looking for places to cut the budget.

George_Braziller 10 years, 8 months ago

You are misplacing the blame for the current state of the road and finances. Mike Wildgen set the stage for where we are today. This is exactly why he was fired.

conservative 10 years, 8 months ago

I agree with the idea that neighborhoods should have to pay for traffic calming devices they request. But only if the neighborhood gets to vote on whether or not they actually want them. I know a couple of vocal neighbors who have requested a traffic calming device on Trail Rd. However the majority of the people in the neighborhood have no interest in said device. As long as they let us vote and kill the project I have no problems. But if a couple of vocal people can convince the traffic commission to endorse it and then the rest of us get stuck paying for something we're opposed to I would be quite upset. And if the vote goes the other way and in fact a majority want the device then democracy works and I'll pay my share.

craigers 10 years, 8 months ago

I know I'm not talking about roads, but what is it with the utility companies hitting up customers for all their expansion costs. These expansion or large improvements are capital expenditures and they get to amortize the costs of these projects for an extended time frame. That being said they are double dipping by charging the customer more and amortizing those costs.

I also thought they said they wanted people to move here? They can use this for their slogan, "Move to Lawrence: We can't budget anything well so we need more taxes".

monkeyhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't about the same amount CUT from the street budget a couple of years ago during the PLC reign?

The monument to the three amigos is all around us. They didn't need a bright, shiny new library for the citizens of Lawrence to remember them by. I, personally, think of them every time I drive down the street or roll through a roundie. Their legacy will continue to live on for many years, or at least until Lawrence is solvent again.

"A request from Soules for $250,000 to fill sidewalk gaps along major city streets."

"Police Chief Ron Olin asked commissioners to fund four new positions at a cost of about $250,000."

"Ernie Shaw, interim parks and recreation director, is asking for $93,000 in new funding to hire a maintenance worker and buy equipment to maintain Memorial Park Cemetery. He also told commissioners that it will require about $175,000 in new fund..." He also told commissioners that it will require about $175,000 in new funding to begin operating the former Carnegie Library Building"

All monetary black vortexes. Does the city actually own that cemetery? If so, it is not in the taxpayer's description book to bail out failing businesses and take over ownership/operation.

Mercado = tax producing venture. ( For those students of the Rundle School of Economics...)

Stephen Roberts 10 years, 8 months ago


I agree with your post whole heartedly.

I have a huge question, has the sales tax collections been dropping in the previuos years and the previous commission chose to spend down fund balances hoping it will get better? Does anyone know?

As for budgets, all directors know that they request way more than really need, in order to get what they want. It is call governmental budgeting.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

Marion and Cowboy are right on. I hope they email their ideas to the commissioners. I hope everyone sends an email to the commissioners with ideas for cutting spending. I did yesterday, got one response, and was not very encouraged by it. I got the feeling that the sales tax increase is all but a done deal.

Kontum1972 10 years, 8 months ago

Mike making a nice retirement..he made sure of that....why fix the roads the majority of folks drive SUV's anyway.....plenty of Range Rovers, Hummers, Jeeps, 4X4's....etc...etc.etc..

"Police Chief Ron Olin asked commissioners to fund four new positions at a cost of about $250,000."...hmmm divided by 4 = 64k..per person plus is my favorite for the justification ------>Two of the positions would be sergeants to provide additional oversight to the investigations and internal affairs division....holy crap..scruplous law enforcement officers....and u need money to find out that there are some bad apples...Ron its your job to know this info a good commander knows his troops...but u need some extra dough to root these varmint's out...u need to be investigated....

Jamesaust 10 years, 8 months ago

"$200,000 to go ahead putting traffic lights at George Williams Way and Sixth Street"

Seriously? Frankly, GWW shouldn't even connect to 6th until development along that portion is complete. (Isn't GWW where local parents were concerned about the volume and speed of traffic near the school?) The taxpayers have already provided an outlet via Wakarusa that is fully developed, traffic lights and all. Highway 40, undeveloped, remains first and foremost a highway not a city street. Only in Lawrence would people install traffic lights on highways (no doubt with a timing trigger that stops the highway traffic seconds after a single local arrives at the stop).

RKLOG 10 years, 8 months ago

Plenty of good old fashioned mud-slinging going on in here. Must be from all the rain we've been getting lately.

Bubbles 10 years, 8 months ago

Out source the running of the town to professionals. Not to a bunch of networked good ol's boys.

Hoots 10 years, 8 months ago

Why is it so hard for people in government to understand the word "BASIC" as in basic services and basic needs? It would be like you forgetting to feed your kids and then going out to buy a new BMW. Government is intrusted to use our tax dollars to provide basic services to all in a community first. Roads are basic and this we don't have the money crap just doesn't fly. Pretty soon we will have a new sports complex or $40,000,000 library but I won't be able to flush my toilet. The city needs to get a big clue.

bevy 10 years, 8 months ago

Well, I don't live in Lawrence but I shop there, and I can tell you that if they increase the sales tax, I will decide to turn west instead of east and do all my shopping in Topeka.

For those of you who do live there, exercise your right to shop elsewhere. I know many of you work in JoCo, so pick up the groceries before you get to Larry. (Don't know, maybe the taxes there are higher, but hey, this is civil disobedience folks - you gotta hurt a little to get your point across.)

My personal hope is that the good folks of Lawrence revolt against the developers before they manage to make it far enough west to ruin my little hometown.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 8 months ago

Most of the streets that I drive on in Lawrence are in pretty good shape. And on the ones that aren't, I just drive slower.

Nothing to panic about here, folks. Just use a little common sense.

peppermint 10 years, 8 months ago

How do you like this, posted on another thread but relevant here:

WWoftheW (Anonymous) says: FYI In order to be able to support all the development along 6th street including Wal-MArt the city is requesting a 40 parcel acre be annexed at the County Commission meeting tonight so that the city could pay and build a pumping station for development along 6th street and North of 6th. It is in the hardcopy on the 2nd page of the Lawrence & State under Briefly at the bottom of the page. The city is in such a financial crisis and yet we keep on paying and building for developers.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 8 months ago

peppermint I saw that post in the Walmart thread and it's a good one to drag over here.

For all those round-about haters and people who rant and whine about paying for art and golf... for the most part they're also the big lovers of another Walmart and all growth, big and small. They'd rather write a big-fat check to the Waltons than give a damn dime to the youth of Lawrence.

blackwalnut 10 years, 8 months ago

ljreader (Anonymous) says: How did we go from multimillion dollar libraries and ice rinks last week to third world ghetto this week?

Kinda fishy, ain't it?

"projected" budget shortfall - a little word that keeps getting ignored "proposed" sales tax increase - something Mayor Hack loves and we should refuse

These commissioners are funding a new pumping station on Sixth Street and new traffic light on Sixth Street that are costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, while telling us the city is broke and they have to cut the things that tens of thousands of citizens depend on. All so the developers can do what they want.">p>,

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 8 months ago

I hear Olathe sales tax is over 8.5%. I'd say a small increase wouldn't be bad, but I know our little street will never see the money.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 8 months ago

Some people insist that those who want traffic calming should pay for it, but I almost never use Kasold. Are all the people on Kasold paying for it, so I don't have to? What about the land owners (apparently there is nothing there yet) adjoining George Williams Way? Can someone tell me where the heck this street is?

otto 10 years, 8 months ago

I have seen the city waste large amounts of money in repairing the streets. In front of my place of work they came in and replaced 30 ft of the concrete curb. The 30 ft they replaced was in the same condition as the rest of the curb for miles. They wanted to spend this money or the budget will be lowered next year - guess what - the budget got cut any way. It would have been better to save this money.

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 8 months ago

kubacker I think half is an over the top estimate. But you may have a good point. Maybe people should live in the cities that they work in.

pelliott 10 years, 8 months ago

How to get the roads to the developers and give them the sewers they need to make the houses sell. Quit fixing the pot holes , call it a crisis, divert money from maintaining existing infrastructure costs, raise more money from additional taxes, call it a pothole and library tax. change the definetion of condition. Do what ever it takes to make the people pay for new development. Don't address the issues of overdevelopment. We lost the election, we will pay and it is our fault.

Baille 10 years, 8 months ago

If we can't afford to fix the roads we have, then we shouldn't be buidling new ones.

Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 8 months ago

Soak the rich. Charge $1 per 5 lb. of garbage collected. Quadruple parking meter rates and fines. Close the golf course -- yes. Tax the churches. Sue Wal-Mart. Tolls on Mass St. & 23rd St. Make the roundabouts higher and wider, made of platinum and oak. Legalize pot & tax it to high heaven. Mandatory $70 day passes to Lawrence for ALL Topekans. Ban SUVs, Monster Trucks and all other pot-hole makers. Build Berlin-wall-like divide down Iowa St. Nuke the Merc. Plow the parks. Ride the T.

grimpeur 10 years, 8 months ago

"I'm already regretting the way I voted in the last city election. They didn't promise us this."

They didn't promise you a dang thing. They made random vague noises about roads and jobs and economic development.

Gosh, really? Ya think those are good for a city? Hey, you betcha. Say the words in a 30-second spot and bob's yer uncle.

Of course, nobody asked exactly what their PLAN was. That's why they never provided one. I guess their supporters had had enough of low unemployment (in a nation of high unemployment).

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

"Of course, nobody asked exactly what their PLAN was. That's why they never provided one. I guess their supporters had had enough of low unemployment (in a nation of high unemployment)."

High unemployment?? less than 5% unemployment, accompanied by an invasion of millions undocumented workers, is fantastic performance.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

I agree that the current crop of new commissioners did not reveal their positions before the eleciton, on the issues facing them now; they are no different than any other successful politician.

Note that the candidates who did stake out their positions (sam and jake come to mind) lost.

peppermint 10 years, 8 months ago

Godot (Anonymous) says: I agree that the current crop of new commissioners did not reveal their positions before the eleciton, on the issues facing them now; they are no different than any other successful politician.

So you admit they deceived voters, by hiding their true agendas. And you think this is ok because lots of politicians do it.

Tell me, exactly why should we believe them now, when they pretend to listen to the public's concerns? Why would we be that dumb? Why would anyone trust this bunch, or, for that matter, anyone who approves of deceiving the public?

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