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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

Kontum1972 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 8 months ago

So, Mr. Bradford of the school board says that all of the USD buildlngs have people in them. How's about Mr. Bradford , getting rid of some of the people in those buildings but since that wouldn't be fair, how about this very clever idea:

As kids, my siblings and I had bunkbeds, we utilized a sleeping porch into a bedroom. Big deal!

No one, even Mr. Bradford can convince the public that the school district does not have space, with no fees incurred. As for janitorial service for SRS office space, guess what, the employees can mop and broom.

k67 is right on spot. These services and costs are going to start falling on the communities the problems are in. Is SRS a problem? No, I didn't say that. I have said repeatedly that my great grandmother went to a poor farm and had asked the county for some money after her husband died. She was granted money, but the county couldn't give it to her, the county was BROKE. Next year she got $10, went to the poor farm and her youngest four children were placed out on the orphan train.

So, if anyone wants to tell me I don't know what I am talking about, get ahold of me.

Lawrence, Douglas County has it easy. The SRS workers need to get with the program and the school district, Weinaug and the city commission get busy with what they have been hired and / or elected to do. Get back to work!

Who is going to drive the workers at the Mass St Dillons to Leavenworth or Topeka? Is Weinaug and Mr. Bradford and the city commission going to take up those workers cause?

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sciencegeek 2 years, 8 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.

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distant_voice 2 years, 8 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.

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nytemayr 2 years, 8 months ago

What about the Centennial grade school building?

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Alceste 2 years, 8 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.....

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Benjamin Roberts 2 years, 8 months ago

The school board is acting to stop the closure of an SRS office - a closure that has been presented as a cost saving measure due to a budget shortfall - even though they used the same tactic for the same reason (Centennial, Wakarusa).

Perhaps the school board knows that the reason given for closing a building may not be the real reason?

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Stain 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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k67 2 years, 8 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.

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4getabouit 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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Lana Christie-Hayes 2 years, 8 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"!!

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LHS56 2 years, 8 months ago

Thank you Mike for calling a meeting.

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JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 8 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?

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Benjamin Roberts 2 years, 8 months ago

"The meeting was not open to the public."

Mark, Do you have a list of elected officials that were at the meeting?

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 8 months ago

Is the school board going to help the employees at Dillons on Mass Street who may have to drive to Leavenworth or Topeka?

Is Dr. Doll willing to pick up some aging dying WWII Vet and drive them 100 miles roundtrip to a VA hospital?

Lawrence has had it easy. The SRS employees need to "man or woman" up and be happy they are employed.

By the end of the year they may be really happy to drive to Overland Park. As for Dr. Doll and the school district, take some of the empty space in your buildings which have already been funded and maintained by taxpayers and use that space for SRS office space. No Rent!

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JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 8 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."

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skinny 2 years, 8 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!

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 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.

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