Trash, in one form or another, will be a hot topic at Lawrence City Hall in 2011.
The city has at least two projects that revolve around refuse and what to do with it.
First, is the former Farmland Industries site. The city already is on the way to figuring out what to do with the old buildings, equipment and other debris on the 467-acre site on the eastern edge of Lawrence near Kansas Highway 10.
Lawrence-based R.D. Johnson Excavating has been hired to demolish the majority of the buildings and equipment at the former fertilizer plant. Now, it is just a matter of how quickly it gets done. Johnson hopes to start in early January and finish by June.
Then, city officials said the work of converting the property into a business park will begin.
“We’re going to see some progress on Farmland in 2011,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell, who, if tradition holds, will take over as mayor in April. “We’re absolutely going to start talking to businesses about locating there.”
The second trash issue may be less clear cut. City commissioners plan to do a thorough review of the city’s solid waste division to determine how it can become more efficient and more financially self-sustaining. Cromwell said he plans to chair a task force that will look at a host of issues, including possibly privatizing the city-operated service.
But already it is appearing that option may be a tough sell at City Hall.
“We’ll have a discussion about privatization and look into it,” Cromwell said. “I personally don’t believe that is the way to go, but we’ve opened up the discussion and we won’t ignore it.”
Mayor Mike Amyx also indicated that privatization wasn’t at the top of his list either.
“We’ll have a discussion about what the future will look like, but I can’t say enough that we have an extremely good service today,” Amyx said. “It is just really hard to beat.”
Cromwell, though, said he does think there are some possibilities for change. He said increased automation — which could include new trucks and a mandate that residents use special trash carts — will get reviewed. That option could draw a lot of discussion, especially since automation could end up reducing the number of people required to staff each trash truck. More automation, though, may make a city-run curbside recycling program more feasible.
“I’m fully expecting solid waste and recycling to take a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of meetings over the next year,” Cromwell said. “But we’ll work through it.”
Other issues that are expected to come up at City Hall:
• The idea of a new West Side recreation center probably will get some discussion, Cromwell said. The project isn’t in the 2011 budget, but commissioners likely will at least consider putting some money for the project in the 2012 budget, which will be crafted next summer.
• Figuring out when to restart plans for a new sewage treatment plant that could cost upwards of $90 million will be a decision that commissioners will have to make at some point. The city already has purchased property for the new plant, which will be south of the Wakarusa River near where O’Connell Road would be if O’Connell continued south of the river.
Commissioners halted design of the plant after it became clear the city’s growth had slowed. But it will take multiple years for the plant to be built, so figuring out when to get started in order not to fall behind future sewer treatment demands will be key, Cromwell said.
“I would be a little surprised if now was the time for it, but we certainly can’t ignore it,” Cromwell said.
• Street maintenance will continue to be a frequent topic at City Hall. The city’s major street rebuilding project will be Kasold Drive from Clinton Parkway to near 31st Street. The city also plans to do major repaving work on Sixth Street between Massachusetts and Iowa and also between Monterey Way and Folks Road. The northern section of Kasold Drive between Fifth Terrace and Peterson Road also will be repaved and receive upgrades.
“People have a right to demand good streets, and we’ll continue to work on that,” Amyx said.
• City Commission elections — as they do every two years — have the chance to change the majority on the commission. Seats held by Commissioners Rob Chestnut, Mike Dever and Lance Johnson are up for election. Dever has filed for re-election, but the other two commissioners have not yet said whether they plan to seek a second term. The general election will be April 5.