Archive for Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Town Talk: Cramming at City Hall; library flier with utility bills; update on overcrowded houses

October 27, 2010, 11:17 a.m. Updated October 27, 2010, 1:17 p.m.


• City leaders have been getting crammed. A new report from City Auditor Michael Eglinski found that the city is paying about $200 a month on its phone bills for services it didn’t sign up for or does not want. The practice is known in the phone industry as “cramming.”

The services show up under terms such as voice message monthly fee, webhosting service, PC tech or efax monthly service. The fees are placed on the bill by third-party providers, not the actual telephone service provider. Eglinski said the third party providers often are able to put the charges on the bill because they’ve gotten someone in City Hall to sign up for what sounds like an ubiquitous offer, or they offer a service for free that then converts into a paid service unless the city specifically opts out of the program.

City Manager David Corliss said the city is in the process of having the fees removed from the bill, and also is having meetings with department managers to ensure they are on the lookout for cramming practices. Eglinski said the city may want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

• A Lawrence landlord that was the subject of a Journal-World article on over-occupancy of homes is still attracting attention at City Hall. Since the article ran on Lawrence landlord Serina Hearn, the city has confirmed that it is reviewing six of Hearn’s properties for possible code violations. Four of the cases involve whether too many unrelated people are living in the home, while two others are related to other zoning issues, said Scott McCullough, director of planning.

The Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority also confirmed that it is reviewing whether Hearn’s properties are still eligible to be part of the Section 8 housing program. Director Barbara Huppee said there is a provision in the federal regulations that calls for Section 8 providers to comply with all local codes and ordinances. Hearn has disputed that her properties are out of compliance.

• Candidates in races across the area on Tuesday filed reports showing how much money they’ve collected in donations. One race that was absent, though, was the bond issue for the Lawrence Public Library. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said that’s because of an oddity in state law. Campaign organizations that are advocating for the support or defeat of a special question have until the end of the year to file their finance reports. In other words, groups like the Vote Yes for the Library campaign are not required to show their list of contributors prior to the election.

But Brad Finkeldei, treasurer of the Vote Yes for the Library group, said he did have information he could share. Thus far, the group has collected $20,733. The largest donations have been $2,500 from the Friends of the Library group and $3,500 from the Lawrence Public Library Foundation. A PDF list of all donors accompanies this article.

Related document

Vote Yes for the Library donor list ( .PDF )

• Also on the library front, City Hall leaders gave more details about a library bond flier that was included in October’s city utility bills.

Megan Gilliland, communications coordinator for the city, said the one-third sheet of paper was placed in utility bills at the expense of the Lawrence Public Library. The library paid $600 for the printing of the flier. The city’s mailing costs were not increased because the one-third sheet did not push the billings into a new weight category.

Gilliland said the city felt comfortable placing the flier in with utility bills because it was deemed an educational piece, not one advocating for the passage of the $18 million bond issue. The flier provided a summary of what the expansion would include, but did not ask residents to vote for the project. It did include sections titled: Why is this project needed? and What happens if the referendum does not pass?

Gilliland said the Vote Yes for the Library group did not provide any of the funding for the mailing. She also said the mailing was consistent with an information flier that was inserted in utility bills during the 2008 election season when infrastructure and sales tax questions were on the ballot.

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Kash_Encarri 7 years, 7 months ago

"Megan Gilliland, communications coordinator for the city, said the one-third sheet of paper was placed in utility bills at the expense of the Lawrence Public Library. The library paid $600 for the printing of the flier. "

SO, basically we the taxpayers paid $600 to promote to - excuse me, to educate - us all on an issue that benefits the organization that so graciously spent our $600 in the first place. What a crock!!


chzypoof1 7 years, 7 months ago

This is TOTAL crap....So my taxes, through the library, paid for this slip of paper for something I don't "educate" people about a bond that they shouldn't pay for...


shorttrees 7 years, 7 months ago

What part of B R O K E do these people and our city not get?? The economy stinks, there are few jobs available, taxes are going to skyrocket after Jan. 1st, and prices on food, utilities and everything else continue to go up--but let's add on to the library! And another parking garage, yippee!

C'mon Lawrence, pull your heads out of ... take off the rose-colored glasses and quit the intoxicating substances. Reality check time.

Frank A Janzen 7 years, 7 months ago

Come on, get out and vote. This is an important chance to improve our wonderful city by bringing our public library up to the standards that every other similar city already has. We are ashamed of the current state of our library. Let's fix it!! Vote YES.

Kash_Encarri 7 years, 7 months ago

"We are ashamed of the current state of our library."

Got a mouse in your pocket there frank? Which library board member are you? If you are employed at the library, what have you done to make it a better environment so you won't be ashamed?

I will agree with you on one thing - get out and vote.

I however will be voting NO, and I would encourage everyone else to do the same. This proposal is too large and too expensive. The parking garage may be needed during the summer, but will most likely be under-utilized at other times of the year except by the folks from the Eldridge. Don't believe me, look at the other two parking garages downtown. It is rare to find them at more than 50% capacity any time, any day.

local_support 7 years, 7 months ago

What's liberal about the library? Books? Wait, it must be the taxes. Liberals love taxes.

acg 7 years, 7 months ago

I dropped a book off at the library last week for a friend who left it in my car. It was the first time I had been in there in about 20 years. I took a few minutes to look around and I have to say I saw nothing there to be ashamed of. Could it use an update? Sure! Can we afford it? No! We all want the best of everything, but unfortunately we also have to be fiscally responsible. That's a mind set that more people need to put themselves in right now. Our fiscal irresponsiblity as a nation, consumerism and wanting everything to be new and shiny is a big part of what got us in this mess in the first place. Sinking 18 mil into a new library isn't a good move right now. Maybe we should just be happy with what we have and be glad to have it at this point.

HalsteadHawk 7 years, 7 months ago

So, exactly how long has City Hall been "getting crammed"? One month? Two months? A year? 5 years?

Who is in charge of reviewing these bills before they are paid and why are they still employed?

As a dutiful taxpayer I feel like I'm "getting crammed" by the incompetence at City Hall. I'm starting to get a little raw...

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