Archive for Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Town Talk: Garmin deal confirmed; city, KU buses set for move; $90 million sewer plant discussed again

November 10, 2010, 1:02 p.m. Updated November 10, 2010, 1:19 p.m.


News and notes from around town:

• Olathe-based Garmin Industries indeed is the much-rumored tenant set to occupy space in the new Bioscience and Technology Business Center on Kansas University’s West Campus. Matt McClorery, director of the incubator, confirmed Wednesday morning that Garmin has signed a lease for office space to accommodate 12 to 15 software development professionals. Plans call for the new Lawrence operations to begin in January. The incubator also has signed two other tenants — a start-up in the electronic health records industry, and a technology firm that specializes in LED lighting. The incubator, which opened in August, is now about 40 percent leased. Check back later with for a more complete story.

• All those transit buses parked near 31st and Haskell soon will be a thing of the past. A new joint maintenance and parking facility for KU and city transit buses is expected to be open by Dec. 19, a city official confirmed. KU and the city previously agreed to work together on a new $4.5 million bus facility along Timberedge Road near the Reuter Organ manufacturing facility in northern Lawrence. The city will pay KU an annual lease payment, but those payments are expected to be about $500,000 less over the next 10 years compared to what the city would have paid to stay at the leased facility at 31st and Haskell. The city, though, did contribute significant amounts of upfront money to help fund the facility.

A new joint maintenance facility for Kansas University and city of Lawrence transit buses.

A new joint maintenance facility for Kansas University and city of Lawrence transit buses.

The new facility includes six maintenance bays — up from two at the current facility — an automated bus wash bay, a centralized dispatch center for KU and city transit operations, an onsite fueling station, and a paved parking lot large enough to accommodate 100 full-sized buses.

• A nearly $90 million discussion is likely to get started again at Lawrence City Hall. A new report from the city’s utilities department estimates that design work on a new sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River will need to begin by 2014. That would allow the plant to open by 2019.

That’s still a ways off, but City Manager David Corliss said the plan to increase sewer rates to pay for the massive project will need to be developed within the next year. The plant is expected to be the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the city, with cost estimates between $80 million and $100 million.

The project is a numbers game in other ways, too. The utilities department is basing the 2014 start date on an assumption that Lawrence’s population will grow by about 1,250 people per year between now and then. If the city’s population grows by 1,650 people per year, the start date would need to begin in 2012.

From 2000 to 2009 — according to Census data — Lawrence has grown at an average of 1,276 people per year. But from 2005 to 2009, that growth rate has slowed to 846 people per year. However, to complicate matters more, the most recent Census numbers showed a large uptick in growth. From 2008 to 2009, the Census Bureau estimates the city added 1,528 residents.

The numbers are important because city engineers believe the city’s current sewage treatment plant will reach its capacity once the city grows to 105,000 people. Previously, the city thought the plant would reach its capacity at 100,000 people, but they’ve revised the estimate upwards based on further study.

“We don’t want to be late on this project,” Corliss said. “We don’t want to be early either, but we really don’t want to be late.”

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somedude20 7 years, 7 months ago

The only thing I find in my pockets (when not playing pocket pool) is lint. I will be willing to pay with pocket lint. I will pay more money when Whitney takes me out for a drink!!! (or hell freezing over)

kernal 7 years, 7 months ago

Didn't Hell freeze over last winter?

Slaphappy 7 years, 7 months ago

I hope the 1650 people are taxpayers. Is Lawrence a sanctuary city? I can't afford to pay for others people's.......if things don't start looking up I'm going to have to collect more rain water and make like a cat in the back yard. Trash.......what are the burn regs in town?

ronwell_dobbs 7 years, 7 months ago

Look, if you don't appreciate the services provided by a city then move out to somewhere in rural Idaho where you can build your house out of used tires and go to the biffy out back. There's probably an ultra-low property tax out there (if there even is one). From what I keep hearing, this should be a teabagger's dream come true.

Otherwise...shut up, grab an oar, and row harder.

Slaphappy 7 years, 7 months ago

Services provided by a city.....well shut my mouth. I didn't know that Lawrence prints it's own money. I only have one oar in the water ronwell. What's a teabagger? Should I bing it?

Slaphappy 7 years, 7 months ago

Holy moley! Jeez....I'll stick with my one oar rowing ronwell_dobbs.

SeaFox 7 years, 7 months ago

Well the 1650 people would have to be people using the city's water system in order for their inclusion to impact the capacity of the existing sewage treatment plant, right? So they would have to be customers of the utility, which means they would need to live within the city limits. Maybe they wont be homeowners paying property taxes, but as the article states, the sewage treatment plant is being paid for with an increase in sewage rates on utility bills.

I don't see you can glean the idea these 1650 people will not be paying their fair share of this project with the details in the article.

alittlecurious 7 years, 7 months ago

For what its worth... a used tire house has already been built in rural Douglas County... with a building permit.

kernal 7 years, 7 months ago

Then there are the hay houses in Canada.

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 7 months ago

Got those in Douglas and Jefferson County as well.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Put the $90 -$100 million dollar sewer plant to a vote !!!!!!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Put the $90 -$100 million dollar sewer plant to a vote !!!!!!

PugnaciousJayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Matt McClorery is clearly not doing his job well if he is filling his incubator with companies like Garmin instead of the start-ups that need it. If he was half as good as he thinks he is at helping start-ups that whole space would have been leased up by new ventures from day 1.

gccs14r 7 years, 7 months ago

It's worse than that. Garmin is based in the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes, so our "incubator" is using tax dollars to help a tax cheat.

gccs14r 7 years, 7 months ago

So they are. Just recently, though. Still, why are we subsidizing an established successful foreign company?

llama726 7 years, 7 months ago

Garmin does have its main office in North America (Olathe actually), like many corporations, it simply shelters its "headquarters" offshore to dodge taxes. It's a good thing we're worried so much about individual taxes while corporations dodge taxes.

gccs14r 7 years, 7 months ago

Let's see how the 2010 census shakes out before we commit to spending $100 million on something we may not need. If we're about to nose over to negative growth, the new plant will bankrupt us.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

Based on the same logic, would you agree that the library should be put on hold as well?

bearded_gnome 7 years, 7 months ago

Merrill wants the sewer plant to be up for a vote, but hypocritically forced millions of roundabout costs down or throats, and pushed for health care government take over without public vote!

the next year. The plant is expected to be the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the city, with cost estimates between $80 million and $100 million.

oh yaay! $2million for the stupid 2% fr art thingy!

and what do we get for $2million of art there? some neohippie sculpture of ... uh ... something appropriate for the sewage treatment plant?

Whitney, it's the two thousands and this is womyn's lib. you gotta pay now.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 months ago

"That’s still a ways off, but City Manager David Corliss said the plan to increase sewer rates to pay for the massive project will need to be developed within the next year."

The latest bill for sprawl.

cowboy 7 years, 7 months ago

What do you get when you cross a sewer plant and a flood plain ?

A flooded sewer plant , releasing goo into the Wakarusa and surrounding ground.

Winner winner , chicken dinner

If you thought the wetlands road was a bad idea you should really start chomping on this fiasco.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

There are 8-10 million homes on the market with more on the horizon.

There are 10,000 homes on the market in the KCMO metro alone = buyers market

Lawrence, Kansas like the rest of the country cannot afford another "boom town economy" which is what I hear being talked about. It is over.... it was all artificial = reckless economics!!

"The housing bubble was in part generated by the Federal Reserve maintaining low interest rates. Easy money meant readily obtainable loans and, at least in the short run, low monthly payments. Also, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan denied the housing bubble’s existence—not fraud exactly, but deception that kept the bubble going. (Greenspan, whose view was ideologically driven, got support in his bubble denial from the academic work of the man who was to be his successor, Ben Bernanke.)

In addition, government regulatory agencies turned a blind eye to the highly risky practices of financial firms, practices that both encouraged the development of the bubble and made the impact all the worse when it burst. Moreover, the private rating agencies (e.g., Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s) were complicit. Dependent on the financial institutions for their fees, they gave excessively good ratings to these risky investments. Perhaps not fraud in the legal sense, but certainly misleading.

During the 1990s, the government made tax law changes that contributed to the emergence of the housing bubble. With the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, a couple could gain up to $500,000 selling their home without any capital gains tax liability (half that for a single person). Previously, capital gains taxes could be avoided only if the proceeds were used to buy another home or if the seller was over 55 (and a couple could then avoid taxes only on the first $250,000). So buying and then selling houses became a more profitable operation.

And, yes, substantial fraud was involved. For example, mortgage companies and banks used deceit to get people to take on mortgages when there was no possibility that the borrowers would be able to meet the payments. Not only was this fraud, but this fraud depended on government authorities ignoring their regulatory responsibilities.

So, no, a bubble and a Ponzi scheme are not the same. But they have elements in common. Usually, however, the losers in a Ponzi scheme are simply the direct investors, the schemer’s marks. A bubble like the housing bubble can wreak havoc on all of us. (And it did and could do it again!! - me)

Arthur MacEwan is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a Dollars & Sense Associate.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

I, for one, am very concerned about preserving the historic Dillon's area. I believe this project needs to have a long impact study followed by a public vote. Will Dillons seek taxpayer financing? How does this plan fit with current zoning rules and the economic plan? What about noise and light pollution from the expanded store? Will the new jobs pay a living wage? What about the impact on the wetlands? Will there be increased opportunities for minorities? As Merrill has suggested repeatedly, do we need more retail space when retail is so oversold? What about traffic patterns in that area? How much is the CEO paid relative to the employees? Will there be a T stop? What about a monorail depot? Is there any way to bring in groceries by train to avoid the truck congestion? Has anyone thought about the children? Aren't there enough locally owned stores... does Lawrence really need another chain? What about the Bush family ties to the trucking industry? Has anyone done an impact statement on the practice of professional lawn services and how the CO2 released changes the housing market? I would like to see some answers before a study group is formed in anticipation of a vote.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

America Is Over Stored

This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space. But the occupants haven't materialized.

The carnage in retail hasn't been this bad since an anarchist bombed Chicago's Haymarket Square in 1886. In January, Liz Claiborne said it would shutter 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008; Ann Taylor announced that 117 of its 921 stores would be closed over the next three years, and Talbots axed the Talbots Men's and Talbots Kids concepts and 22 Talbots stores. (Those muffled screams you hear are Connecticut preppies trying to suppress their rage.) Even Starbucks has scaled back its yearlong saturation-bombing campaign.

Blame that exhausted marathon runner, the American consumer. Fueled by cheap credit instead of PowerGel, she looked great at Mile 16, but bonked at Mile 23 and is now crawling to the finish line. Sales fell in December, putting the cap on a miserable Christmas season. Last week the government reported that retail sales rose 3.9 percent between January 2007 and January 2008.

But back out inflation and sales of gasoline, and retail sales fell in real terms in the past year. Clearly, demand is down.

And supply is up. This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space—from McStrip malls built near new McMansions, to hip new boutiques in the ground floors of hip new Miami condo buildings. But as is the case with those McMansions and condos, the occupants for new retail space haven't materialized.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the national retail-vacancy rate rose for the 11th straight quarter to 7.5 percent—the highest level since 1996, according to research firm Reis, Inc.

With new projects coming online—34 million square feet of retail space will be completed in 2008—the rate is expected to spike further to 8 percent. In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored.


gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

So then I can assume you will be fighting against the new Dillons store?

Also, why are you so pro-tax if the tax base in Lawrence is so troubled? Perhaps, given the information you have outlined, we should have another vote on the library?

kernal 7 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, folks, but we voted for a new library instead of keeping the basics going. Will need to transport your own sewage to Topeka. Or, perhaps we can go back to outhouses. We could also fine people more for littering to keep all that trash from getting in the river, say $1,000 per offense. That should go over well. There's all kinds of innovative solutions we should be able to come up with.

There's the local business that picks up your dog's poop out of your yard, perhaps that could be extended to people poop. We could all compost our left over table scraps, sans meat and the like, and save money on fertilizer and eliminate sewage going down our garbage disposals. I'm sure some of you have much more innovative ideas that I do!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Economic Growth:

Can The Arts Save Your Small Town?

by Joanne Steele on August 3, 2010

Last weekend I had one of those serendipitous happenings that keep my belief in magic alive.

Phoenixville First Fridays feature live music, open studios and gallery showings.

The topic of our monthly Revitalization Team meeting was to be art as an economic development tool. Who should appear at my info table at our small town summer festival but an expert in art towns!

Joe McArdle is a resident of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, a former steel town that revitalized itself by attracting artists and selling itself as an art town. They’ve been at it for years with great success.

Here are some of Joe’s sage suggestions:

  1. Start small to grow big.

It’s common these days for small towns to get excited about something and go for a big grant, or try to raise taxes to pay for something before thinking it through and doing the requisite planning.

Douglas County, Kansas is in an uproar about raising property taxes to pay for heritage enhancements to attract tourists.

Better to grow into something that to try to go big and fail.

  1. Don’t ask left brain people to do right brain work Artists are notoriously bad at marketing themselves. That’s not always true, of course, but something that a community can offer, to help artists do what they do best – make art.

In Joe’s home, Phoenixville, old vacant buildings were turned into arts incubators, with small low cost studio spaces created for working artists. The storefront is devoted to displaying their work.

Monthly art walks and arts events are put on by the town to attract potential buyers from nearby urban centers. Phoenixville was marketing itself as an art town.

  1. Give visitors a reason besides art to come to your town. Joe stressed that the best way to draw arts patrons, besides good art, is good food. Attracting good restaurants gives urbanites a reason to make your small town their getaway destination.

This is vastly oversimplified, but the core to Phoenixville’s success is:

* Working slowly to build success.

* Nurturing artists by giving them great space and good marketing

* Giving visitors multiple reasons to plan a getaway to your art town – good food, good art, regular events and activities.

Here’s another post that might interest you: Use Your Existing Arts and Cultural Assets to Build your Rural Tourism Destination

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

Has Green Stopped Giving?

NEW YORK ( -- Green marketing, a movement so hot that not even a deep recession could kill it, is starting to show signs of consumer revolt. At the very least, it's a signal that green alone isn't enough of a marketing proposition; at most, it could signal consumers simply aren't buying the benefits of environmentally positioned products and brands.

In recent months, sales have begun to slow in categories such as green cleaners and grow in not-so-sustainable ones like bottled water as shoppers decide they may not be worth the tradeoff. And a September study showed big swings in the number of consumers who believe environmentally friendly alternatives are too expensive, don't work as well as other products and aren't actually better for the environment -- all of which seem to add up to what Timothy Kenyon, director of the GfK Roper Green Gauge study calls "green fatigue." Take bottled water, long the nemesis of environmentalists. It was on track for another 52 weeks of decline but rallied nationally last quarter as sales rose 4%, according to SymphonyIRI, leaving it flat. Meanwhile, water-filtration devices saw years of double- and high-single-digit sales growth (including a double-digit sales hike in the first half of 2010) turn into a sales decline last quarter, according to IRI data from Deutsche Bank. Then there's Frito-Lay, which last month pulled its compostable SunChips after complaints about how noisy they were. Greener cleaners, which had been one of the hottest trends in household products in recent years, also show signs of a shakeout. Clorox Co. Chief Operating Officer Larry Peiros attributed disappointing top-line results in a Nov. 3 conference call to a decline in the natural cleaning segment. "We remain," he said, "in the No. 1 share position, but we're declining pretty much along with the category." Measured sales of Clorox Green Works are actually up 5% for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 3, according to SymphonyIRI, thanks to the brand's launch into detergents last year. But that comes after a 17% average price reduction from the initial detergent introduction. And other, older Green Works products saw a 15% falloff in sales for the year, according to IRI data from the 52 weeks ended Oct. 3. SC Johnson's "Nature's Source" has also seen a loss of shelf space and prominence at some retailers this year.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

A $90 -$100 million dollar sewer plant without a vote = special interest big government pork barrel!!!

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy.

The representatives form an independent ruling body (for an election period) charged with the responsibility of acting in the people's interest, but not as their proxy representatives not necessarily always according to their wishes, but with enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances. It is often contrasted with direct democracy, where representatives are absent or are limited in power as proxy representatives.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 7 months ago

$2mill sure could save some lives if applied to a mental health ward.

... and somebody with a cut-and-paste fetish could take room #1!

so, Merrill is Lawrence's version of George Soros?

Merrill actually wants collapse to happen here too?

public vote for sewer plant but shove health care takeover down our throats.

and ... here's some of Merrill's other wacky whirlybirds: if we all lived in caves, it would be better for the environment. broken streets are good because they are passive traffic calming devices.

mandated rolling power outages should be set up to force energy conservation.

that the current financial crisis somehow is republican/GWB caused, overlooking Barney Frank et al who demonstrably caused the housing credit collapse.

he also encourages: nude hiking; nude biking; nude gardening.

... a real thinker that Merrill.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

No, there is a big difference between Merrill and Soros. Soros has his own money and finances his ideas with his money. Merrill does not have money. Merrill pushes the government to tax the middle-class to finance his ideas.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Put both the trafficway and new sewage treatment to a vote with real numbers attached. Show taxpayers some respect!

It appears the thought that a $200-$300 million taxpayer financed trafficway may have a chance makes government officials excited and want to begin blowing our tax dollars on pork barrel projects. Is the proposed sewage treatment plant and the trafficway being paid for by executives from the builders and real estate community? After all this is group requesting both projects? Taxpayers certainly are not requesting additional responsibility.

Developers are very expensive budget items. They in turn sponsor expensive requests and want big government to pick up the tab. Now we have tons of new development which is not paying back the community aka no economic growth. Something went wrong. Taxpayers got economic displacement instead.

Higher taxes and user fees are financing what the expanded tax base is failing to do. This is not economic growth. This is you and me paying for what should be paying for itself

What do new roads bring with them? Development and more cars…..seldom long time relief from traffic congestion. More roads bring more traffic,higher taxes and air pollution = known facts.

With increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.

Lawrence,Kansas could keep plenty of people employed fixing existing streets and sidewalks. Why add more streets, sidewalks,sewer lines,water lines,fire trucks,police cars,public schools and snow removal to our list of expenses?

Maybe taxpayers don't want these projects on their tables. No one except except a few local movers and shakers are predicting the economy picking up anytime soon. Certainly not with 11 million out of jobs.

Put both the trafficway and new sewage treatment to vote. Show taxpayers some respect!

After all far less expensive projects were were forced to a vote and rightfully so. Our public transportation system,road repairs and the library are perfect examples.

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 7 months ago

Trafficway was voted on, and approved by a larger majority than the library, many years ago.

Maybe we should file a lawsuit against tthe city to stop the library. Let the lawyers earn their share of the 18 million slush fund shoved down our throats.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 7 months ago

Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy.

The representatives form an independent ruling body (for an election period) charged with the responsibility of acting in the people's interest, but not as their proxy representatives not necessarily always according to their wishes, but with enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances. It is often contrasted with direct democracy, where representatives are absent or are limited in power as proxy representatives.

Why do you have a hard time with this concept? Further, I'm certain there are plenty of people who didn't want to pay for the new library, the T or your other faux-progressive projects. Why do you burden the working class with those projects?

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