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Archive for Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lawrence city, school board leaders joining county commissioners in effort to fight SRS office closure

August 2, 2011

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Representatives from three local governments are joining forces to fight a proposed closure of the SRS office in Lawrence.

Several elected officials from the Lawrence City Commission and the Lawrence school board joined their top administrators for a working meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Douglas County Courthouse.

They met at the invitation of County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, who gathered the officials with County Administrator Craig Weinaug to explore options for convincing the state to keep the Social and Rehabilitation Services location up and running in Lawrence.

The meeting was not open to the public.

“We wanted to get all of the representatives of the local governments together to talk about the variety of alternatives that we see — that we’ve been discussing,” said Gaughan, a Democrat. “This was an opportunity to get other local governments involved and engaged in an issue that has significant — will have a significant — impact on our community.

“We, the County Commission, have been in discussions with our attorney about a variety of different alternatives that might be used to address this. Before we take any further steps, it’s important for us to reach out to the other governing bodies.”

Officials declined to discuss specifics of possibilities, but SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. previously has described the announced closure as a cost-cutting move, one expected to save the state $400,000 a year, most of it in rent. About half of the amount is paid by the federal government.

Just what the three local governments could do to convince Siedlecki — or his boss, Gov. Sam Brownback — to keep SRS operations in Lawrence remains unclear, but the city, county and school district do work together in other matters. They team up to approve applications for tax breaks by various businesses; the city and county jointly finance planning, plus fire and medical services; and the school district welcomes city police officers — school resource officers — at its two high schools and four middle schools.

Working together to save a state office targeted for closure may pose a challenge, but officials with all three governments say they’re willing to try.

“Our objective is to keep the office open, so we’re not taking anything off of the table,” Gaughan said. “If we can meet our goal, to keep the office open, that’s the measure of our success. How we get there? We still have to work that out.”

Potential options span from monetary to real estate and beyond, said Vanessa Sanburn, a school board member who attended the meeting Tuesday afternoon.

While the district is severely limited — “by statute” — in its ability to contribute financially, she said, there’s no doubt that the local governments must work together to make such an important initiative work.

“As big of a deal as this is, it falls to all three governing bodies,” said Sanburn, who considers SRS programs and services as key for many students to receive the educations they both need and deserve. “Certainly, we can’t pay for it (SRS). We can’t adopt SRS as an umbrella under the school district. But we do need to have SRS ... to do our job.”

Mark Bradford, board president, said he already had heard from constituents interested in having the district solve the “rent problem” by offering an empty school building for use by SRS. The district allows the Boys and Girls Club, for example, to use the former East Heights School for $1 a year.

One problem: “We don’t have any empty buildings,” said Bradford, who also attended the meeting. “We would have to kick somebody out of something. All the buildings have people in them.”

David Corliss, Lawrence city manager, said that the city certainly was interested in exploring possibilities for retaining SRS services in town.

“We’re going to continue to look at options and alternatives in discussing this issue with SRS,” he said.

Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Cut all special interest subsidies going to the real estate industry. Those folks have plenty of money.

Then consider diverting the secret sales tax revenue to the SRS situation rather than into the pockets of local developers. Let's talk community responsibility over pork barrel tax revenue.

Now we have a dedicated revenue stream for SRS. Problem solved.

Kerry Putthoff 3 years, 4 months ago

I think, no, I know that most of the nation is sick to death of the government taking our money and freely distributing it a will! I don't mind a hand up, but these hand out programs have to stop! In order for the government to "give something" they have to first "take something" from someone else! As far as most are concerned they could close every one of the "SRS" offices and it would not be a minute too soon! IF there is a need or a purpose then the private sector will step in. I can show you countless cases of people receiving "SRS" money that are fully capable of working and supporting themselves, they are just too lazy to do so! We are all tired of having our hard earned bucks ripped from our hands by the well meaning welfare society types. If it is so important to these people, then why don't they start funding it themselves! Go get another job yourself and give that money the first person you see that doesn't want to work and support themselves or their family. As for the person in the article in the wheelchair, she practices proper nutrition and is incapable of working.... Really! Can't we all see that all we are doing here is enabling, not helping. Teach a person to fish

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

"i can show you countless people who can't support themselves without srs assistance - many more than can. "

Really?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 4 months ago

" I can show you countless cases of people receiving "SRS" money that are fully capable of working and supporting themselves, they are just too lazy to do so!"

I really doubt that. So much so, that I'll just flat out call you a liar.

Are there people abusing the system? Certainly. But the fact is most of the vast majority of those receiving aid need it. And you are just plain wrong if you think the private sector could meet those needs. Not that you really care.

Crazy_Larry 3 years, 4 months ago

Such compassion! No problem with corporate welfare, I assume, since you didn't mention it once. No problem with the billions of tax dollars given away to other countries in foreigh aid either, I assume. What about agricultural subsidies? That's welfare too. You're more concerned that poor people are getting a few dollars and cheap health care. I bet you'd call yourself a christian too. Pitiful...real frickin' pitiful.

skinny 3 years, 4 months ago

Talk about being greedy! People out in western Kansas drive an hour and a half to an SRS office and you guys are crying about driving 30 minutes! Talk about a bunch of cry babies! Everybody wanting something for nothing!

pittstatebb 3 years, 4 months ago

Some things to consider: 1) Lawrence is the 6th largest city in the state 2) Douglas county has the 5th largest population in the state 3) Douglas county has the 2nd highest percentage of its population living in poverty in the state 4) Western Kansas as a whole has less poverty than Eastern Kansas both in percentages and in numbers 5) The savings are turning out to be very small to negative if you consider the new staff that has just been announced

http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/povertyrates/PovListpct.asp?Longname=Kansas&ST=KS&SF=4D

eagle1a 3 years, 4 months ago

So really what you are saying is people in Lawrence are more important than people in Western Kansas.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 4 months ago

Not at all. It means that the solution does not solve the problem that you are trying to fix. If closing the office ends up costing as much or more to provide services to folks who need it, then it's a mistake. If it turns out that you can save the money and provide services better by keeping it open, then it's also a mistake to close.

These are reasonable approaches to pursue that have nothing to do with folks in Western Kansas, and in fact are also valid things to approach with ANY proposed closure, regardless of where it is in the state.

Liberty275 3 years, 4 months ago

No, it just means we have more and more vocal poverty advocates in the middle of our cornfield.

pittstatebb 3 years, 4 months ago

Actually I would have suggested closing other smaller offices (like the one in Miami county) and firing staff. That would save more money and effect less people getting services. The Miami County ofice is closer to Ottawa than the Douglas County Office and only 6 miles farther to the OP office than Douglas County's office.

deec 3 years, 4 months ago

People in western Kansas also think nothing of driving an hour an half to shop at big box stores and eat at Olive Garden. I lived in Hays 4 years and people were always jotting over to Salina (90 miles away) to hit Target, chain restaurants, the strip club, etc. Are the citizens of the other communities rallying around to save their local office? If not, that doesn't mean Lawrence residents, whose office serves 10,000 people as opposed to a few hundred, shouldn't stand up for the less fortunate in their community.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

right on deec! @ skinny~I think I detect a green glimmer in your eyes!

Catalano 3 years, 4 months ago

You are heartless and cruel and know nothing about being an SRS client. So STFU.

droppinplates 3 years, 4 months ago

Haha...you are heartless and cruel so STFU! Really?!?! Do you represent SRS or it's clients? Are you a client?

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't understand why local governments should fund the operations of a state government. I applaud the efforts of our local officials to maintain a critical service for fellow members of our community. However, these are state services that needed to be provided by the state. Regardless of political leanings of Lawrence as a community, the State of Kansas has an obligation to provide services to people residing in Kansas at the same level they provide those services elsewhere. It makes no sense to me that a county with 100,000 residents would not have a state office, but an adjacent county with a fraction of that number would keep an office. Also, I think Marie Antoinette would be proud. "If they can't ride the bus to Ottawa, let them drive their Cadillacs."

Ken Lassman 3 years, 4 months ago

That's an easy one to answer: coordination of services, quality of life and recruiting businesses to town are all affected by the decision to close the local SRS office. If the state is so hard up on getting revenues and cannot come up with a better solution than closing the local SRS offices and doesn't even bother to involve local government in that decision, then it darn well becomes an issue of local government, one which they'd be foolish not to try to solve.

Just sitting back and accepting this sloppy solution is a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I expect more of local government than that, and am beginning to expect this kind of shoddy thinking from the state, so am proud that local officials are taking the initiative to come up with a better solution.

ResQd 3 years, 4 months ago

I totally agree! Let's get moving on this mess and find a free or dirt cheap building for the SRS office and it does not have to be fancy. You are wasting your time arguing with a done deal. I have a better idea, make some offices in the new 18million dollar library, I'm sure there will be alot of unneeded space.

Catalano 3 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

mfagan 3 years, 4 months ago

I wasn't in the meeting, but it's my understanding that these elected officials were there: Mike Gaughan, Douglas County Commission Mark Bradford and Vanessa Sanburn, Lawrence school board Bob Schumm, Lawrence City Commission That's all in compliance with the open meetings rules, BTW. If two county commissioners attended, or if three school board members attended, or if three city commissioners attended, then it would have been required to be an open meeting. - Mark Fagan

Tracy Rogers 3 years, 4 months ago

No, three school board members is OK, but four would be a violation of open meetings act. That just changed a year or so ago.

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 4 months ago

I presume that residents of Baldwin City, Lecompton and Eudora might also use SRS services and when they need SRS assistance it is likely they have used the Lawrence office. Has anyone thought to invite the three other cities within Douglas County to join the party?

LHS56 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you Mike for calling a meeting.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

I am glad to hear that these other communities, our state and local reps, and the school board, are coming together with the solid goal to save the Lawrence office. ("Our objective is to keep the office open.."). I do hope to see some hard-core, viable options and/or legal battles come out of these meetings to shove in the faces of Brownback and Seidlecki. I look forward to hearing what some of those proposed options are and that Brownback(wards) will feel the heat and be obliged to actually meet with our representatives hear and actually consider their proposals. I applaud the efforts put in by our local leaders to keep the Lawrence office open. As for those that call it "whining" because the people of Lawrence have raised their voices to contest the abhorrent actions of this administration, I would just say, I'm sorry that your communities don't have either the desire or the community support that you need to do the same. No matter what the outcome, Lawrencians have stood up for the less fortunate, against government self-serving policies, and together for solutions. That's something I love about where I was born and will always call "home"!!

4getabouit 3 years, 4 months ago

This effort will fail. It's not about money. It's about power.

k67 3 years, 4 months ago

Is it possible that Brownback knew that this would be our reaction to the closure, and that it's all part of his plan to make local units of government shoulder more of the financial responsibility for state expenditures? Does anyone else have a sense that, if Lawrence/DG County steps forward to house the local SRS office, it will have a domino effect, and soon, localities throughout KS will be expected to take on all kinds of expenses to ensure that their constituents have equal access to state programs in general? As much as I want to see those in our county who need SRS services continue to be able to access them, I am very concerned about the broader implications of a decision to provide the state with free space.

verity 3 years, 4 months ago

You might be right---then again you might be giving Brownback credit for being smarter than he is. It does seem like either way he wins.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 4 months ago

Why doesn't the owner of the SRS building reduce the rent he charges the state? That rental fee seems exorbitant.

jafs 3 years, 4 months ago

They might have, if given the opportunity to do so.

But, I've heard that Independence Inc. offered office space at $150/month. For 6 offices, that would be $900/month. If we were paying $300,000/yr., that works out to $25,000/month. So $900/month is a savings of $24,100/month. They turned them down.

Also, given other expenditures, and the fact that the federal government paid $200,000/yr., we aren't going to save any money with this closure at all.

Alceste 3 years, 4 months ago

What a perfect place for Brownback & Co. to begin, than good ole "progressive" Lawrence, Kansas? These grandstanding local do-gooder "leaders" are doing exactly what Brownback is wanting to do: Transfer to local entities the responsibilties that belong with the state. The spectre of a return back to "local county welfare offices" is onerous.

After the city and/or county pays the rent, the next thing to come will be the utilities and supplies; after the supplies, it's off to the races with paying the wages of the people who work in the "local" office.

It's back to the county poor farm system we go. I suppose in some ways we'll have us a world class county welfare system here in great old Douglas county and we can thumb our collective noses at the rest of the state.....bragging how OUR poor farm is the best in the state, if not the Nation.....and that OUR poor folk are a more productive type of poor folk, making a better widgit....or whatever we determine our poor farm is going to produce......than anywhere else. Ah, this IS the best of all possible worlds.

However, Alceste asserts this problem requires a solution "crafted" by the state's legislature. Them "legislators" are too busy fussing about their own money and nickle and dime bull butter to watch the real show that Brownback scripted a couple of years back. The closure of the Lawrence SRS office is but the tip of the Iceberg, buddy. Buckled in? That rough ride is coming......just as Nixon did to the Nation with Community Development Block Grants ("Locals know what's best, afterall..."), Brownback is going to do again: Give dimes to the locals when the state had been giving dollars which is going to compel the locals to either raise taxes and provide the services locally, or do without. Which side are you on? It's the legislature, stupid, to paraphrase James Carville.....

nytemayr 3 years, 4 months ago

What about the Centennial grade school building?

Irenaku 3 years, 4 months ago

I believe that is being used for the Lawrence Virtual School, as well as being a satellite building for JCCC.

notanota 3 years, 4 months ago

It's also probably too small. But they're closing other schools.

Don Whiteley 3 years, 4 months ago

Across the state of Kansas, there are hundreds of towns and cities and thousands of people who deal with the SRS just fine without having access to an office in their town. Why is it that Lawrence residents feel compelled to have an office right in their city when there are three SRS offices within 30 miles.

I want to help the poor and needy who need this service, but I see nothing which separates the needy in Lawrence from the thousands of others spread across Kansas. This is an adjustment, not a disaster; and it's time we quite whining about it.

gudpoynt 3 years, 4 months ago

How about thinking of it like this instead:

Say out in W. Kansas, 1,000 recipients of service from SRS have to drive an average of 30 miles to get to the nearest office. That's 30,000 person miles.

Say in Lawrence, we have 8,000 recipients of service, and as long as the office is in town, the average distance is 10 miles. That's 80,000 person miles.

Now say the Lawrence office closes, and for those same 8,000 recipients, the new average is 30 miles. That's a total of 240,000 person miles, an increase of 160,000 (200%).

In terms of person miles, that would be the same as adding 6,333 people to that same western KS service area that previously served only 1,000 (an increase of 533% in cases served). Or alternatively, it would be like closing the office for those 1,000 western Kansans, and increasing the avg driving distance to the nearest office to 190 miles.

Total person miles can be seen as a metric for total demand. The higher the number of total person miles, then higher the demand for a closer SRS office, either because: a) the number of miles driven by those served have is sufficiently far, or b) the number of those served sufficiently large

So if a similar additional burden were being placed on those out in western Kansas, I'd be willing to bet that there would be a similar amount of demand to keep their existing SRS office open.

(NOTE: I pulled these numbers out of wazoo, but I don't think they are too far fetched. Feel free to apply actual figures.)

gudpoynt 3 years, 4 months ago

Or, try thinking about it like this.... a slightly simpler rebuttal:

Just because a service is insufficient in one area, doesn't mean that we should adopt insufficient service in our area.

sciencegeek 3 years, 4 months ago

What a waste of time and effort! Don't you get it yet? This administration doesn't care about what anyone else says. The last thing they;'ll ever do is change their mind. The only logic is what they conjure up to push their agenda, and the rest of us be damned. As far as they're concerned, the last time they listened to the voters was the election, and since then they have been completely deaf to them.

Want to know what to expect? Read up on the John Birch Society.

Kontum1972 3 years, 4 months ago

this is like an ice-pick to the forehead.....!

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