News and notes from around town:
• If you read the University Daily Kansan, you might be thinking that the Lawrence Community Shelter has solved its problem of finding a new location for a homeless shelter. It hasn’t. The student-run newspaper put an article on its website on Thursday that the shelter had found a new location near 23rd and Harper streets, although it never identified the specific location. The article even included an architectural blueprint for a floorplan for the new shelter and a related job-training facility. But that blueprint wasn’t for anything new. Instead, that’s a blueprint that the shelter drew up when it was hoping to move to the former Don’s Steakhouse building, which is near 23rd and Harper streets.
But shelter leaders withdrew those plans in January of 2010 after neighborhood opposition became very strong. At that point, the shelter began focusing on moving to a vacant warehouse near the Douglas County Jail. A Douglas County District Court ruling has since caused those plans to be scrapped, but shelter director Loring Henderson said that doesn’t mean the shelter is looking to go back to the former Don’s Steakhouse site.
“Absolutely, we’re not interested in that site,” Henderson said. “Unequivocally, there is no interest there.”
Henderson said the shelter is not yet close to filing any plans for any location. He said shelter leaders are evaluating sites. He also said that unlike in past searches there are now more commercial property owners willing to work with the shelter on a possible location. That might be a sign that commercial property owners are convinced the shelter can raise the money to make the project financially viable.
But Henderson said the shelter has not made an offer on any property. He declined to identify any sites that the shelter is examining.
“I have no idea where the (UDK) got what they are talking about,” Henderson said. “The article is totally erroneous, unfortunately.”
An attempt to reach the editor of the Kansan wasn't immediately successful.
• A few people have asked me more details regarding a story I wrote last weekend about a Shelby 350 GT that was found in a storage shed of a Lawrence apartment complex. Specifically, some people have wanted to know how a Houston attorney now controls a Lawrence apartment complex.
As I mentioned briefly in the article, it stems from a Texas lawsuit that alleges Rex Veech Youngquist, Gail S. Youngquist, Greggory Clinton Sander and a company called Lease Rollover Operations Inc. improperly drilled oil wells in Texas. The case alleged that the parties drilled the wells and then did not properly plug them or clean them up. A Travis County, Texas, court in February 2010 found against the parties and ordered payment of $300,000 in civil penalties, $292,689 in reimbursement of plugging costs, and $11,266.99 in other cleanup costs.
In March of 2010, the court then set about collecting the money. The court appointed Peter Pratt, the Houston attorney, a receiver in the case. That means that Pratt has the authority “to seize all non-exempt property of the defendants.” That included the Villa 26 apartment complex at 2859 Four Wheel Drive, which was jointly owned by Rex and Gail Youngquist, who are father and daughter. It also ended up including the Shelby, which was owned by Gail.
Pratt said the plans are to sell the apartment complex, but that has become complicated by a bankruptcy filing by Rex Youngquist. That has put any sale of the apartment complex on hold, but Pratt still believes a sale is likely.
In talking with the Pratt, it sounds like the case had many twists and turns, including that Rex Youngquist was in Peru for a good part of the case.
Mr. Youngquist has been part of a few twists and turns here in Douglas County, as well. As we’ve previously reported, in 2006 he attempted to obtain $11 million from the city and the county for allegedly dumping debris from the old downtown Kansas River bridges on his property. The issue was particularly odd because he attempted to get the money from the city and the county through an obscure legal practice not used much since the 19th century.
Youngquist also lost a ruling in Douglas County District Court in 2005 when it was found that the managers of the Villa 26 Townhomes, which he owns, declined to rent to an interracial couple.
• For people who find themselves in the situation of paying a Lawrence parking ticket with a credit card, there may be good news. Lawrence Municipal Court is planning to switch to a new credit card vendor that will charge a much smaller “convenience fee” for paying via credit card. Currently, a $15 parking meter ticket incurs at $10 service fee. With the new vendor, a $15 meter ticket would incur an 88 cent service fee.
Under the current vendor, the city also is not able to take credit payments from people who want to pay the court building. Instead, all credit card payments must be done online. The new vendor will allow the city to accept credit cards from people who want to pay at the Municipal Court building.
City commissioners are scheduled to approve the new vendor at their Tuesday evening meeting. The city also is looking to find a new credit card vendor that will charge smaller service fees for its utility billing division. That issue is still being researched. Why not just use this new vendor, you ask? Well, this vendor — Justice Systems — specializes in court payment systems, and actually is allowing Lawrence to be part of a pilot program to test their newest system.