News and notes from around town:
• Snow is not yet in the air, but it is on the minds of City Hall leaders. A new report details what efforts the city is taking to keep up with expected snow-plowing operations this winter.
Step one will be to hope that Mother Nature is kinder to the city this year. Last winter, 42.45 inches of snow fell on the city, including a Christmas Eve blizzard. That caused the city to spend $700,000 on snow-removal operations, over $400,000 more than normal.
City crews will stock up like another big winter is on the way, even though some long-range forecasts are predicting a milder season. The city will start with 4,000 tons of salt on hand and another 1,000 tons on a hold order. The city used about 4,900 tons of salt last year. The city also will have 1,000 tons of sand and 2,500 tons of a salt-sand mix. The city used about 3,700 tons of sand last winter.
The city also is releasing its map that shows which streets will be priority one and priority two streets in terms of plowing and treating. As in years past, the city’s policy will be to not plow streets until three inches of snow have fallen. But the city will continue to pre-treat streets ahead of a storm in hopes of reducing the amount of snow that accumulates on the roads.
A copy of the priority street map is on this page. Click on the map to make it larger.
• City Hall computer types also are working to make it possible for residents to go online to see which city streets already have been treated or plowed.
The city is developing an online GIS mapping program that will show which streets in the city have been treated, which streets have been plowed and which streets still remain to be worked.
Thus far, the program is still in the test mode and is not yet available to be accessed by the public. Assistant Public Works Director Mark Thiel said the city would like to have the site available to the public this winter, but it will depend on how the system ends up working. The program is not fully automated because the city’s snow-plow trucks are not equipped with GIS units. That means city supervisors will click a computer switch to change the status of the map as crews call in to report that a street is done.
“We want to make sure we’re providing good information before we open it up to the public,” Thiel said. “But our goal is definitely to have a city website that allows a citizen to wake up on a morning with three inches of snow on the ground and be able to figure out the best route to get to work.”
• A project to build a new hydroelectric power plant on the north bank of the Kansas River continues to march through City Hall.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are scheduled to approve a low-cost lease that will allow Bowersock to build the power plant on ground owned by the city. The lease will allow Bowersock to lease the property immediately between the north end of the Bowersock Dam and the Kansas River levee for $10 a year through 2077. City staff members have proposed the low-cost lease as a way to support the $20 million project.
The project is not yet a certainty. The Lawrence-based company has found a buyer for its power, but now is seeking buyers for about $23 million in bonds that must be issued to finance the project. The city is playing a major role in that process as well. The city will issue the bonds as industrial revenue bonds, which will allow the project to receive more favorable financing terms. The city, however, will not assume any responsibility to repay the bonds. Commissioners will hold the public hearing on the bond issue Tuesday evening.
• Regular customers of the Presto convenience stores in Lawrence may notice some changes next month. The Presto convenience store chain — which in Lawrence operates at 602 W. Ninth St., 1802 W. 23rd St., and 2330 Iowa — has been sold to North Carolina-based The Pantry Inc.
The company operates the Kangaroo chain of convenience stores throughout the southeast, but a company official said the Presto brand name will remain in Lawrence for the time being. The merchandise mix for the stores, however, is expected to change some when the deal becomes final on Dec. 1. The Pantry bought all 47 stores from Presto, which operated in Kansas and Missouri.
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