News and notes from around town:
• Perhaps you saw in Thursday’s J-W that the county is working to buy another piece of property near the Douglas County Jail and near the proposed site for the expanded Lawrence Community Shelter. The county is finalizing a $250,000 offer to buy a vacant lot from Printing Solutions in the Franklin Business Park. If you remember, the county in July approved a deal to buy property from a group led by Lawrence businessman Steve Glass, who was legally objecting to a plan by the homeless shelter to move into a vacant warehouse in the Franklin Business Park. By buying out Glass’ group, the county gets control of the business’ park’s board, which rules on covenant issues. Questions over those covenants are what had thrown a monkey wrench into the shelter’s plans. The county’s deal reopened the door for the shelter to move its shelter from downtown to the business park — with one big caveat. The shelter still needs to finalize a deal with the owner of the vacant warehouse — which is a group led by Lawrence businessman Tim Keller. The shelter once had a contract to purchase that property but it expired during all the legal wrangling. I talked with shelter director Loring Henderson recently, and he said negotiations with the building’s owners are going well. He declined to say, however, whether the shelter has successfully put the building under contract.
“We’re definitely in negotiations and things are moving ahead in a good way,” Henderson said.
The shelter needs for the plan to work out. Its permit to operate at its 10th and Kentucky location expires next spring. Early last spring when the permit was extended by the Lawrence City Commission, it was done so on only a 3-2 vote. The shelter likely won’t have a problem getting the permit extended again, if shelter leaders can tell commissioners that they’re well on their way to moving to the Franklin Park location.
As for county leaders, they admit that part of the reason they’re moving ahead with the land purchases now is to help clear a path for the shelter. But the longer term reasons for the land deals are to acquire property for a new public works facility. Plans for that facility haven’t yet been finalized. Also, there’s no word yet on whether the county has reached a deal with the owner of Hillcrest Wrecker, which owns property near the proposed homeless shelter site. The county previously had said it would offer to buy the Hillcrest site for its 2011 appraised value of $572,720.
• Motorists along the city’s unofficial East Lawrence Trafficway — that would be Connecticut Street — may have noticed construction work underway on one of the commercial buildings along the corridor. As we previously reported a banquet hall is going into the vacant space at Seventh and Connecticut streets, next to the Habitat Re-Store. Now, a few more details have emerged. The new business will be called The W Banquet Hall and will be run by Teresa Wolff. The business is marketing the space for events ranging from 50 to 285 people, with an emphasis on weddings, wedding receptions, birthday and holiday parties and other such events. The banquet hall lets you choose your own caterer or provide the food yourself. It looks like prices range from $100 to $500 for the building’s small room that accommodates up to 50 guests. The large room for up to 285 guests has prices that range from $700 to $1,700, depending on the day of the week. The facility plans to open later this year. One detail I haven’t heard is how the business will provide parking for large events. There is a vacant lot next to the facility, but my understanding is that it is under different ownership and it is not improved to city parking lot standards. I had heard earlier that the business was making arrangements with some other nearby businesses to use their lots since most large events will happen after normal business hours. I’ve got a call into Wolff, but haven’t heard back yet.
UPDATE: I did talk to Wolff, who is a local hair stylists ("I see lots of brides," she said) and a former small event planner. Wolff hopes to have a grand opening in late October or early November. As far as parking goes, the banquet hall does have agreements with three areas businesses that will allow parking in their lots, and the banquet hall will provide a shuttle for an additional charge. But Wolff said she anticipates most people will take care of parking on their own. She said one of the reasons she chose the location is because it is close to downtown, where lots of weddings take place.
• It ain’t easy being purple. I have new numbers that show that. A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how the Kansas State Athletic Department’s official online K-State store doesn’t charge consumers a sales tax. A few folks thought that was odd, given that Kansas State is a state-supported institution that relies on taxes to a degree.
But one other thing that I found odd is how much business K-State says it does through its online store. For the last year, sales totaled only $131,539. I wondered how that compared to the sales totals for Kansas University’s official online merchandise store. KU Athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony didn’t immediately have the numbers, but he got them for me. He says that last year’s sales totaled about $708,000. KU’s online store does charge sales tax, by the way. But, the real point here, is that KU’s sales totals are more than 5 times higher than K-State’s. Wow. But, you know, it is purple. (Easy Wildcats, I’m just having some fun. And yes, football season is coming up.)
As for the sales tax issue, it still looks like K-State and the Florida-based vendor that runs the site for the athletic department are not charging sales tax. (That is what it appears on the site, although I haven’t completed another purchase yet. The one $9 K-State tote bag that I bought for the original article was enough for me. You don’t pay sales tax, but I did pay $6.95 in shipping and handling for a canvas grocery bag.) The state’s department of revenue said previously that it had turned the matter over to its audit department, but now it says it can not comment on matters that are under investigation. I’ll check back with K-State in the near future to see if they have any further comment.