News and notes from around town:
• Lawrence is the fourth-best small metro area for military retirees, according to a new study released Monday by USAA — a financial services firm for military members and retirees — and military.com. Lawrence was ranked on:
— Its median home price ($162,300).
— Its unemployment rate (5.8 percent).
— Its proximity to a VA hospital.
— Its proximity to Fort Leavenworth and other military bases.
— The proximity of three four-year colleges in the immediate area.
Here’s a look at other small metros that were ranked in the top 10:
- San Angelo, Texas
- State College, Pa.
- Abilene, Texas
- Johnstown, Pa.
- Sherman/Denison, Texas
- La Crosse Wis.
- Cheyenne, Wyo.
- Lebanon, Pa.
- Pascagoula, Miss.
Compared to the other cities in the top 10, Lawrence had the lowest unemployment rate at the time of the study and the second-highest median home price.
The authors of the study note that attracting military retirees can be an attractive proposition for communities because of their young age. The average retirement age for enlisted members of the military is 42, while the average age for officers is 46.
• A longtime manufactured home dealer is leaving North Lawrence and its prime piece of real estate right along the Kansas Turnpike. Clayton Homes, 1330 N. Third St., is in the process of moving its operations to an existing Clayton Homes store in Topeka, said Allen Reed, the store’s manager.
Reed said executives with Clayton — a national chain based in Knoxville, Tenn. — made the decision to leave the Lawrence market. The decision comes about two years after Clayton purchased the Reed family’s Kaw Valley Homes, which had been operating in the city since 1981. The relocation also comes after the site was impacted for multiple months by the Kansas Turnpike project, and by the city’s North Second Street underpass project, which made travel in the area difficult.
The move will make available a large piece of ground along the turnpike. The Clayton Homes site is 13 acres and is just north of the North Lawrence interchange. Reed’s family continues to own the property. He said there weren’t any immediate plans for the property.
“It would be good for something, though,” he said.
Reed said a definite closing date for the Lawrence store hadn’t yet been set. He said it would be dependent upon how fast the location’s inventory is sold. The location had about four employees, although many already have left for other opportunities, Reed said.
• A project to rebuild Kasold Drive from 31st Street to Clinton Parkway could begin in January or February now that the state has received bids for the project. City commissioners are being asked to approve a $4.2 million bid from King’s Construction to rebuild the road. The bid requires that work on the project begin no later than March 15, but city officials said they’ve been told by King’s that they would like to get started sooner. The project is expected to be done by 2011.
As previously reported, the project will involve rebuilding the road as a four lane road plus a center turn lane in many sections. In places where a center turn lane isn’t needed, a median will be installed. Traffic during construction will be limited to one lane in each direction.
• A few people noticed a lot of activity Friday at the former MagnaGro International facility, 600 E. 22nd St., in eastern Lawrence. That facility has been declared unfit for occupancy since July because the former fertilizer mixing plant is not connected to the city’s water and sewer service. But the activity on Friday is not a sign that the city has lifted that declaration, said Diane Stoddard, assistant city manager. The activity Friday was to re-establish electric and gas service to the facility so that it can be properly winterized and to prevent “any degradation of the materials within the building,” Stoddard said in an e-mail to the Journal-World.
The building was the site of a major industrial accident in April that left two employees dead. The business also has suffered multiple chemical spills and was convicted of illegally dumping material into the city’s sewer system prior to the city disconnecting the service.
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