News and notes from around town:
• Yeah, give me a large sub, a coffee with cream and a gallon of washer fluid to go. That’s a bit of a new concept for drive-thrus, but it is one that has found its way to West Sixth Street. The Zarco 66 station at Sixth and Florida streets has traded its drive-thru car wash for a new type of convenience store drive-thru. Zarco officials this week added a Sandbar Sub Shop and a Scooters Coffeehouse to the store, and a drive-thru window where the car wash once was located.
Owner Scott Zaremba said the drive-thru has him excited. People can order anything the store stocks through the drive-thru. So that means a package of cigarettes, a magazine, a king-size Snickers or, well, you get the picture.
“We’re in a very competitive marketplace, so we’re trying to do everything we can to make it more convenient for the customers,” Zaremba said.
The changes also continue a trend by Zarco to expand the Sandbar Sub Shop idea. This is the second Sandbar Sub location in Lawrence — the Zarco on 23rd Street has one — and Zarco operates two in Ottawa as well. Zaremba and Peach Madl, a founder of the famed Sandbar tavern in downtown Lawrence, created the concept two years ago. The sub shop revolves around an island theme, meaning there is a lot of Jimmy Buffett music. The shops also have gotten into the breakfast business recently. That ties in well with the Scooters coffeehouse concept. Zaremba bought into that franchise about three years ago.
• No, Zaremba didn’t have any inside information about what gasoline prices are likely to do in the near future. Zaremba said his best guess is that they’ll continue to make no sense.
“It is pretty frustrating because I don’t think fuel should be this high by any stretch of the imagination,” Zaremba said. “Traders are manipulating the market again, in my opinion. Demand is down but prices are up. That makes no sense in the supply-and-demand world. It has been several years now that we really haven’t been tied to supply and demand.”
Zaremba, like many gas station operators, says his stores make more money when gas prices are low. As gas prices rise, the profit margin generally gets squeezed, plus people are less likely to buy gas in large quantities.
• Gas prices have you bummed? Take the bus. If you do, though, beware that route changes may be on the way. The city will be hosting a series of meetings this month to discuss proposed changes to six transit routes.
The largest changes seemingly will affect North Lawrence and Haskell Indian Nations University.
First, North Lawrence: The city plans to change the frequency of service along North Lawrence’s Route 4 from 40 minutes to 60 minutes. But the city is also lengthening the route so that it will provide service to the Ninth and Iowa area and to The Merc.
Transit Director Robert Nugent said the city had been struggling with ways to provide bus service to the popular grocery store, and extending the North Lawrence route, which goes through downtown, seemed the most logical.
“Route 4 has had some problems with ridership,” Nugent said. “We are trying to find ways to get more ridership on that route.”
Nugent previously had proposed making the North Lawrence route a flex-service route, meaning that it would only run regular schedules during the morning and evening rush hours. Other times of the day, people along the route would have to call and schedule a time for the bus to pick them up. That type of system currently is being used for the transit route that serves the area between downtown and the industrial park that includes the Kmart Distribution Center and others.
As for changes to Haskell Indian Nations University: The city is proposing to reduce the number of transit routes that serve Haskell from two to one. Under the plan, Route 1 no longer would go through Haskell’s campus. Route 5, which basically runs along 23rd Street and South Iowa Street, would continue to service the university.
By dropping Haskell from Route 1, the city will be able to expand the route to serve the Prairie Park neighborhood. Specifically the new Route 1 would travel on Harper to 27th Street and would travel along 27th Street over to Haskell Avenue. The frequency of service also would improve from 40 minutes currently to 30 minutes.
Nugent said the transit system wants to find new riders in Prairie Park. But he said the change may cause some riders who are trying to get to Haskell’s campus to make an extra transfer.
More minor changes also are proposed for routes 3, 5, 10 and 11.
The city plans to have four informational meetings about the proposed changes. They are set for:
• 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Lawrence Visitor’s Center, 402 N. Second St.;
• 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Douglas County Fairgrounds Building 21, 2120 Harper St.;
• 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Feb. 25 at Lawrence Transit offices, 933 N.H.
• 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.
• The city of Eudora is getting more aggressive in trying to attract new development and businesses.
City Administrator John Harrenstein told me the city has agreed to cut its development fees in half in 2011 in an effort to spur more construction. For a $180,000 home, that will mean a reduction in fees of about $4,700. The city’s also offering some fee reductions for new commercial construction. Fees for a $2.5 million commercial building would be reduced by about $5,100.
The city also is offering a new grant program for existing downtown Eudora businesses or new businesses that want to locate in downtown. The city plans to award up to five grants of up to $5,000 each to help businesses expand or move to downtown Eudora. Businesses interested in applying for a grant should call Eudora City Hall at 542-4111.
Those two programs are in addition to the city and the Eudora school district teaming up to accept proposals to redevelop the former Nottingham Elementary and Laws Field site that is along Kansas Highway 10. As previously reported in Town Talk, the deadline for developers to submit those proposals is March 15.