Archive for Monday, September 22, 2008

Neighbors pleased that district taking time out on new fields

September 22, 2008


Clark Kebodeaux holds the football as Nick Voss attempts a 30-yard field goal on Sunday at the practice field at Lawrence High School, 1901 La. The Lawrence school board has postponed a vote on the new school district construction projects until Oct. 13. The projects include facility improvements for the LHS football field and other sports fields.

Clark Kebodeaux holds the football as Nick Voss attempts a 30-yard field goal on Sunday at the practice field at Lawrence High School, 1901 La. The Lawrence school board has postponed a vote on the new school district construction projects until Oct. 13. The projects include facility improvements for the LHS football field and other sports fields.

Opponents of construction projects at Lawrence High School shuffled out of City Hall last Tuesday night after watching city commissioners approve projects that would add athletic fields at LHS and Free State High School.

They had lost a battle.

Neighbors had hoped commissioners would defer action - providing time for further discussion between neighbors and the school district.

Well, the neighbors now might have time for that, as the Lawrence school board has decided to put off a vote on the projects for four weeks, until Oct. 13.

"We're going to take a step back," said school board President Craig Grant. "We just need to make sure our engineers can do what we need to get done, in terms of doing what the city wants to get done."

Superintendent Randy Weseman said the move buys the district time to re-evaluate its plans, in light of a City Commission mandate that a new LHS football stadium be moved 20 feet farther from private property.

"I don't want to cobble it together that fast," he said.

Moving forward

Tom Bracciano, the district's division director of operations and facility planning, said last week that the district hoped to break ground by Oct. 9. Even though that won't happen, he says the projects will move forward. He expects baseball facilities will be ready for use in the spring. Bracciano said the football fields would be ready by springtime, giving LHS girls soccer players a place to compete while soccer fields are built.

Last week, Weseman met with engineers to review revisions to the blueprints. He'll take time this week to meet with principals, athletic directors and coaches at the two high schools.

Weseman said the school board hopes to conduct further discussions with opponents of the LHS project. There has been no visible opposition to the Free State construction.

Funding discussions continue

Weseman also said the district continues to discuss how the projects will be funded. Among the options: private financing, direct leases and performance contracting - which allows governments to pay for projects during several years if they save on energy and water, installing artificial turf and special lights.

Bracciano said the district would save significantly by installing AstroTurf. Currently, he said, the district spends about $275,000 to maintain fields. He said costs would drop to $5,000 a year with the artificial turf.

At a school board meeting in January, district officials said the overall plan would cost $14.5 million. While some items are still being negotiated, Weseman said he's confident the price tag will be less than $10 million, and perhaps as low as $7 million.

Grant said $2.3 million left over from a 2005 bond issue will be used to fund part of the project.

Self's foundation out

In May, Weseman mentioned the possibility of working with Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self's Assists Foundation to build a district health and wellness center. And last year, a study was conducted measuring the feasibility of indoor and outdoor sports complexes. It would cost at least $21 million to build a new indoor sports fieldhouse, and another $18 million to construct an outdoor recreational complex for Lawrence youths. Both ideas have been pushed by local group PLAY, which stands for Partners for Lawrence Athletics and Youth.

Weseman said both those ideas are on the shelf for now, though several concepts from the PLAY study are being integrated into the high school projects.

Neighbors are 'sick'

Residents of the Centennial neighborhood are "sick" about the plans to move forward, said Joan Stevenson, who for the past 52 years has lived in her home in the 2000 block of Alabama.

"No matter what we say or do, it's still going through," she said. "It's just too much for this small space. ... It's just an awful lot of a footprint to put in the back of Lawrence High."

Bob Tryanski, who also lives on the 2000 block of Alabama, said there's perception that the neighbors are "against progress." That's not the case, he said.

"I think it's really important that everybody understands that in no way, shape or form are the neighbors opposed to the proposed improvements to the athletic fields, in terms of safety and the students having the best fields to practice on," he said.

The problem is that the neighbors are unconvinced that the fields will be used only for LHS activities and continue to worry about light and noise pollution and traffic problems they say will come with the new facilities.

Tryanski credits the school district with listening to neighbors' concerns about drainage problems and creating a caveat in the plan to alleviate some of those problems. He thinks more solutions will come out of discussions between neighbors and the school district.

"It seems like there's a way to get to a point where everyone wins," he said.

The passivity with which the neighbors have acted may be coming to an end, as some have hinted recently that they will take legal action against the school district.

Last Tuesday, attorney Price Banks, who represents the Centennial Neighborhood Association, again asked the district to re-evaluate its plans.

"We're (not) asking you to deny it," he told the commission. "We're asking you to perfect the project."


Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

I say Deerfield,Prairie Park and Central Junior High Schools could use the $2.3 miilon. How many times do USD 497 taxpayers want to pay for this big time tax increaser? Who's going to foot the bill for staffing and maintenance? How much will this cost? Where are the numbers?Where is the actual demand? Do LHS sports events draw 4000 people consistently if ever?

mom_of_three 9 years, 6 months ago

Residents of that neighborhood have lived next door to a KU student at one time or another. If they could live with that, then they can live with athletic fields. And could the traffic be much worse than an LHS basketball game or even a KU game? Adding parking just means they might not be parking in front of your house. Wouldn't you rather have that? Just remember that football is only a few nights during the season, and I don't know how many night games that softball, baseball and soccer have. Not too many I would think. And you would have, what, 10 home games for each sport, and not many under the lights. Yeah, I don't see the lights and the noise being much of a factor with putting a kid to sleep.

Boston_Corbett 9 years, 6 months ago

Jerk must be obviously referring to that self-described ecological expert, Sven.And even if Sven is laying low lately, it is now Merrill arguing to maintain a two-tier high school system.Shame, shame, shame on him.

packs_of_wild_dogzz 9 years, 6 months ago

I wonder why they are so opposed to building one nice facility for both schools to play on.

sbdad 9 years, 6 months ago

When would the softball fields be done? People don't understand that these kids go to school in the morning then have to find transportation to a far away field to participate in a given sport. I do think the football field is a bit much for the LHS footprint, But the Base/Softball fields, more parking, moving the tennis courts, call the dozers.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

$2.3 million left over from a 2005 bond issue will be used to fund part of the project? Was there a $2.3 million miscalculation presented to USD 497 tax payers? Deerfield needs more room. Prairie Park need insulation in the ceiling.How in the world do city and USD 497 officials plan to pay for these tax increasing projects? Is this coming from the new sales tax proposal to be voted on in November? If so why hasn't it been mentioned? Taxpayers deserve to know where is the money?

mom_of_three 9 years, 6 months ago

Because Free State already has a nice football facility to play on, but it needs some more seating, etc. They have a baseball and softball complex next to their school, so they have been far ahead of Lawrence high in that area.

Shelley Bock 9 years, 6 months ago

Packs questions..."I wonder why they are so opposed to building one nice facility for both schools to play on."In the best of worlds, that would be great. It could be like Hummer in Topeka or ODAC and CBAC in Olathe. I don't believe anyone argues with that proposition.However, where would it be placed? What would be there? And, would the community be willing to pay 2 or 3 times the cost? And when, this decade? next decade?YSI is out. It lies in the flood plain. It has limited access. DOTdoesn't want more access so the infrastructure cost would be incredible. Maybe a ramp / bridge over the SW trafficway? Maybe access roads from other directions? This would skyrocket the cost.`

Ragingbear 9 years, 6 months ago

The city commission, the people we voted to represent us, do not care what the people think. They are too busy representing their own self interest, and involving themselves in shady practices that reek of things like kickbacks. You know, a recall would be pretty easy to get rolling.

jafs 9 years, 6 months ago

$7 to $14 million for athletic fields?

71_Hawk 9 years, 6 months ago

Why doesn't the school district and city look south of 31st St and east of Haskell? If they ever get off their arses and finish K-10 east it would be a great place with no neighborhood complaints. Look ahead! KU has a beautiful setting, but look at the traffic and congestion they have on game days. This has far reaching consequences to rush a decision.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

It seems the project is moving forward without knowing the source of funding for the entire project. Hmmmmmmm

kusp8 9 years, 6 months ago

Just be thankful that the city of Lawrence isn't doing what Topeka would do in this situation, and assert Eminent Domain and take your property for pennies on the dollar and do whatever they please with the land. Well, atleast until the state legislature curtailed their ability to do so.And with all due respect, you live by a freaking high school. Get over it. The school is going to expand. I understand it wasn't that way a long time ago, but times change. If you look outisde they've also allowed women and minorities to vote. And I hope you're sitting down for this one...that 'series of tubes' former Senator Ted Stephens described, otherwise known as the internet, is now in almost every household in America....I know, it's crazy.

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