News and notes from around town:
• New numbers are out showing how Douglas County voters align themselves. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew recently certified the number of voters in each political party. The results: Democrats have 27,830 registered voters in Douglas County; Republicans have 23,202; Libertarians, 701; and the Reform Party checks in with 72. But the largest group of registered voters continues to be in the unaffiliated category, with 28,015.
• The total number of people registered to vote in Douglas County is 79,820. Douglas County has 95,466 people who are 18 years old or older, according to the 2009 data from the Census’ Bureau’s American Community Survey.
• As voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide an $18 million bond issue, here’s a reminder of how the voters have responded to past special taxing questions. In November 2008, Lawrence voters left little doubt they liked the idea of increasing sales taxes for streets and public transit. The question to add a 0.3 percent sales tax for streets and infrastructure won with 73 percent of the vote. The question to add a 0.2 percent sales tax to support transit operations won with 70 percent of the vote, and a question to add a 0.05 percent sales tax to expand the transit system received 68 percent support.
But the last time voters went to the polls to decide whether to increase property taxes, the vote was much closer. In April of 2008, voters narrowly approved a plan that allowed the Lawrence school district to increase its local option budget — funded by property taxes — by 1 percent. The vote won 50.4 percent of the vote — with 3,819 people voting for it and 3,758 voting against it.
• Plans to get city sewer service to the Lawrence Municipal Airport are expected to change significantly. City engineers are now recommending that a plan to build a force main line to connect the airport in North Lawrence to the rest of the city’s sewer system be put on hold. Instead, the engineers are recommending that sewage holding tanks be installed for the airport terminal and other businesses that are near the airport. Even with some new development that city leaders hope will occur at the airport, the tanks would have to be pumped only about two times per month. The sewage would be hauled by city crews to the city’s sewage treatment plant.
Public Works Director Chuck Soules said that would be a manageable task for city crews, especially given the amount of money the city would save by not installing the force main. Soules is estimating savings of more than $200,000, but the city won’t know for sure until bids on the tank installation are received later this year. If development activity at the airport warrants a larger sewer system, Soules said the forcemain could be installed in about nine months since the construction plans for the project already have been completed.
The city already has completed a $600,000 project to extend city water service to the airport.
• One of the new businesses that city leaders had hoped to see at the Lawrence Municipal Airport has yet to develop. Plans announced last year for Ottawa-based Hawkeye Helicopter to build a new hangar and office building at the airport have stalled. The company, which uses a fleet of helicopters to conduct various aerial inspections, is still trying to secure financing for the roughly $700,000 project. In January, when city commissioners agreed to the project, the company had hoped to be under construction by August. Now, company manager Jarrod Scott said he can’t give a date when the project may move forward. Scott said the company is working to finalize financing for the deal.
“We’re still pursuing it fully,” Scott said. “Just about any business at this point in time is having trouble getting banks to step up and lend money. But we’re still very excited about a move to Lawrence.”
When announced, the deal was expected to bring at least five aviation jobs to Lawrence upon the company’s relocation, and up to 10 more jobs over the next five years. The jobs were expected to each pay more than $50,000 a year.
• Snow plows will be out on the city’s streets Tuesday. Hopefully, snow will not. City snow plow trucks from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be traveling up and down 16 routes as part of a training exercise to prepare for snow season. For people interested in which routes the city plows first during a snowstorm, click here for a map.
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