News and notes from around town:
• In the more than two months since Lawrence city commissioners rejected a plan by Lowe’s to build near Sixth Street and Folks Road, the rumor mill has been pretty quiet about whether the company still has any interest in Lawrence. There’s still nothing definitive, but the speculation has started to churn again. Several sources said a site immediately west of the Wal-Mart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive has been strongly presented to the company in recent weeks. The property has been planned for a retirement community, but that project hasn't been developed. No word yet on how interested Lowe’s may be in the location. It will be interesting to see if a new development plan is filed for the site, and it will be particularly interesting if it is filed before the April City Commission elections. It surely would be a major issue in campaigns.
• Soon the last stamp will be licked at The Mail Box, a longtime Lawrence shipping business at 3115 W. Sixth St. Owner Joel Wagler said he plans to close the business on Dec. 30 after 25 years of operations.
Wagler has owned the business for the last 19 years, and said profit margins have shrunk dramatically since UPS and FedEx both adopted corporate strategies of owning their own shipping stores.
“They went from being our vendors to now being our competitors, too,” Wagler said.
Plus, don’t tell Wagler that inflation is under control. When it comes to lots of items that are little expenses for most of us — but big expenses to a shipping company — inflation has been higher than Wagler could stand. Tape prices, for example, have tripled in recent years, and box prices are up 17 percent, he said.
The store, which employs a mix of five full- and part-time employees, plans to start marking down merchandise and empty the shelves on Wednesday.
“We had a great, loyal customer base for a long, long time,” Wagler said. “But with the economy people are shipping less, and it is time to move on.”
• UPDATE: The Census numbers are now out. We released the numbers in several of the posts below as they were being announced this morning. But for a one paragraph summary, here we go: Kansas' population grew by 6.1 percent from 2000. That's less than the national growth rate of 9.7 percent. That national growth rate, by the way, was the second slowest of the last century. The decade of the 1930s is the only one to produce slower growth. Kansas' total population is 2,853,118 up from 2,688,418 in 2000. Population totals for Lawrence and Douglas County and other places weren't released today. The Census Bureau will start releasing local population totals — broken down to the block level — in February. The data will be released state-by-state. All state data should be released by the end of March.
Data geeks will get their first taste of 2010 Census results today. The Census Bureau will release its national population total, its state population totals and Congressional district population totals at 10 a.m. today. It will be the first of many data releases to come, but this one is big because these numbers will be used to determine the new lines for Congressional districts for the next 10 years. We’ll provide you the numbers when they are released.