News and notes from around town:
• A glitch has arisen in the efforts of Plastikon Industries to win public incentives to locate a new manufacturing plant in the East Hills Business Park. The California-based company is resubmitting its application to the city because it inadvertently overstated the average wage that would be paid at the new plant. Previously the company estimated the average annual salary near $58,000. Now, the company is estimating that it will be $46,875. The reason for the change is that the company had included benefits such as 401k, medical, dental, and vacation benefits in its original estimate. The city typically asks for those costs to be broken out of the wage estimate when evaluating a request for incentives.
Matthew Gough, a Lawrence attorney who recently discovered the error after being hired by Plastikon to assist them in completing the incentive process, said the error was not intentional.
“Although not as high paying as originally believed, these are still good jobs for Lawrence,” Gough said in a letter to the city.
Previously the company also had said no job at the plant would have a starting wage less than $30,000. That number has now been revised downward to $25,500. The previous $30,000 number also had included benefits.
The project already has won approval from the city’s Public Incentives Review Committee, but it is now expected to receive a second hearing by that group to consider the new information.
The company is asking for about $63,000 in job training grant money that would be paid jointly by the city and county over a five-year period. The company is not seeking a property tax abatement. It is seeking more substantial incentives from the state and the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
• City police officers soon may have more ability to arrest people for violating laws like aggressive panhandling and noise ordinances. A new report out of City Hall is recommending that city commissioners exempt Lawrence from a state law that limits when people can be arrested for a municipal offense.
When it comes to municipal laws — basically laws that are on the city’s books but not the state’s books — police officers are limited in their ability to arrest a violator without a warrant unless one of four conditions are met: the person refuses to sign the ticket consenting to show up in court; the person is unable to produce identification; the person is not a resident of Kansas (that’s because you can’t extradite someone from another state on a municipal offense); or the police officer has probable cause that the person will cause physical harm if not arrested immediately.
Scott Miller, an attorney for the city, said that can make it difficult for the police to arrest an individual who keeps violating the same municipal law over and over again. He cited the city’s noise ordinance and the city’s aggressive panhandling ordinance as situations where broader authority may be helpful.
For example, an aggressive panhandler (see the link for the legal definition) can be given multiple tickets but cannot be arrested unless one of the four conditions is met.
“That frustrates people who keep calling in the complaints, and it frustrates police officers who keep dealing with the same complaints,” Miller said.
Under the new law, police officers still would have legal standards that would have to be met to make an arrest, but they would be the same standards that apply to regular state laws.
“The number of arrests that I would expect to occur as the result of these changes is really, really small,” Miller said. “But in some particularly egregious situations, this could be helpful.”
City commissioners have not yet decided when they may consider approving the change.
• City commissioners are now ready to sign a new contract with Hamm Quarries that will continue to allow the city to dump its trash at the Hamm landfill in Jefferson County for the next three years. The new contract, as previously reported, raises the city’s rate by 3.5 percent and includes an annual 3.5 increase each year.
City staff members are recommending approval of the contract after they investigated moving the city’s service to the Deffenbaugh landfill in Johnson County. Deffenbaugh offered a per ton price to the city that is about 28 percent less than Hamm’s, but the city said the extra 35 miles city trash truck would have to travel to dump their loads would eliminate any savings. The city estimated the extra travel would increase costs by at least $53,000 to $95,000 per month.
The city already has raised it trash rates to account for this year’s increase from Hamm. City commissioners are expected to approve the contract at their Tuesday meeting.