Archive for Monday, July 11, 2011

Town Talk: Little Caesars opens new restaurant, closes another; more fun with Lawrence gas prices; city softens stance on employees paying healthcare premium

July 11, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

• Pizza, pizza. Well, actually make that just one pizza. As we previously reported, Little Caesars pizza had filed plans to open a store at Sixth Street and Monterey Way in the shopping center adjacent to Hy-Vee. That store is now open. But the opening caused the company to close its other Lawrence store at Kasold Drive and Bob Billings Parkway. The new store, which is on the far northeast corner of the shopping center, does include what is becoming a new feature for pizza places — a drive-thru lane. I believe it is the type of drive-thru where you call ahead and then pick up your order. After all, with gas prices the way they are, you would have to be Donald Trump (is he still rich or just famous now) to sit with your car running while someone makes you a pizza. With the opening, the Hy-Vee shopping center now is pretty much full, except for one prime space just east of the grocer. That spot used to be filled by Pizza Street, the buffet restaurant that has been closed for a quite awhile now.

• Speaking of gas prices, who needs Vegas when you’ve got the Lawrence gasoline market? Lawrence gas prices have been a hot topic with readers for weeks now, and LJWorld reporter Christine Metz has been looking to find some answers. One article pointed out that Topeka is going through a price war, as several new stations have opened. (Geez, Topeka gets candy and “cheap” gas.) But I think it is safe to say we’re still trying to get a good explanation on several other fronts. I know that I’ve noticed several prices that have made me scratch my head. Here are three:

  1. I’m from the small Osage County town of Melvern. Late last month I was back in town to do some boating on beautiful Melvern Lake (really, it is a hidden gem in eastern Kansas). I put gas in my boat at the one and only gas station in town. And it is safe to say that this gas station is not part of some big conglomerate. It is a two-pump, full-service gas station. That’s right, the owner of the station — a man named Harley — comes out and pumps your gas. He’ll also give you updates on the NHRA drag racing season and cuss the hot weather, if you prompt him. During the winter, you can warm up around his wood stove. On the day that I filled up, gas at that little station was a nickel cheaper than the prevailing price in Lawrence. I’ve been buying gas in both towns for the last 20 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. What’s changed?
  2. On Friday, I was driving back to Lawrence via Emporia. Gasoline in Emporia was 10 cents per gallon cheaper than it was in Lawrence. Given our recent articles, that didn’t surprise me. I don’t know how this factors into Lawrence’s situation, but when it comes to the gas market, Lawrence is different from many other major cities in the state. Help me out here, because I’m not sure of this. Is Lawrence the largest city in the state that doesn’t have access off of a non-toll interstate highway? Interstate traffic and the thousands of vehicles it produces plays a major role in gas prices. I’m guessing because of the toll situation, Lawrence doesn’t get a ton of fill-ups from interstate travelers. It would be easier to just fill up in Kansas City or Topeka when you are off the toll road. How this factors into Lawrence’s gas prices, I’m not sure. I always thought more demand drove up prices. But maybe because of the lack of demand, Lawrence isn’t as competitive of a market as we think a city of 90,000 people (many of them students who don’t drive as much as non-students) should be. As I’ve said before, I understand supply and demand less and less each day.
  3. The last one happened yesterday. I put some gas in the F-150 at Eudora and paid $3.38 per gallon at the Kwik Shop. I travel six miles into Lawrence, and gas at the Kwik Shop at 23rd and Harper was $3.49 per gallon. Gas at all the stations on 23rd Street from Harper to Haskell was $3.49 to $3.53 per gallon. I know this was the situation from at least the afternoon to about 10 p.m., because I checked it more than once. (Don’t worry bosses, I’ll submit a mileage report.) So, to summarize, a town that has exactly two gas stations was selling gas 11 cents per gallon cheaper than the five stations that are located in what seems like should be one of the more competitive gas corridors in all of Lawrence. To top it off, two of the stations (Kwik Shop) are owned by the same corporation. I get gas in both towns quite regularly (see F-150), and normally the chances of gas being cheaper in Eudora are slim to none.

As I said, who needs Vegas?

• You’ll get a better idea of how big your property tax increase will be from Lawrence City Hall on Tuesday. Commissioners at their weekly meeting will set the maximum mill levy for the 2012 budget. This is one of the final steps before they actually approve the budget. I suspect they’ll set a maximum mill levy increase of around 3 mills and then will work to reduce that amount before they give final approval in mid-August. Compensation and healthcare for city employees is one topic that will be worth watching. As proposed, the mill levy is set to go up, in part, to help pay for about $535,000 in wage and compensation increases for city employees. Commissioners though are being asked to approve that expenditure without any explanation to the public of how those compensation increases will be administered. That’s because the city is still negotiating with the city’s police and fire unions. I would tell you how those negotiations are going and what the key issues are, but I can’t because they happen behind closed doors. State law gives the city the option to negotiate in that manner.

As for healthcare, we previously reported that the city manager was proposing to have city employees begin paying a premium for their healthcare. (Currently, employees don’t pay a premium for their coverage, although they do pay a premium to add their spouse or children to the plan.) City Manager David Corliss at one time was discussing a plan that would require employees to pay $11 per pay period for employee health insurance. But now, City Hall has backed away from that idea. Instead, the current proposal calls for a $5 per pay period (bi-weekly) premium. But the city also is proposing a system where all those premiums could be rebated back to the employee. If the employee agrees to fill out a detailed health assessment and if they sign a pledge to not smoke or agree to go to smoking cessation classes, they’ll get the $5 per pay-period premium rebated. It does look like deductibles will rise under certain scenarios for city employees. But the city also is proposing to create Health Re-imbursement accounts for city employees.

The city would put $250 into an HRA for each employee to use for medical care expenses, such as deductibles. The city also is proposing to spend about $165,000 per year to operate a “health clinic” that would be run by Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The clinic would allow employees to receive services related to “disease prevention and health management” without having to pay for deductibles and co-insurance. None of the health care items in the budget are being funded with increased property taxes. Instead, they would be paid for by using about $1.25 million in reserve funds that have accumulated in the city health care account. Previously, the top administrator for the city’s plan said she was uncomfortable spending down those reserve funds by that amount, but Corliss has included the spend-down in his recommended budget.


DRsmith 6 years, 10 months ago

Topeka is now getting in to the act. Saturday I saw prices range from $3.72 to $3.48.

lunacydetector 6 years, 10 months ago

little caesars has their pizza ready when you pull up if you get a pepperoni or cheese since they're only $5 bucks. perfect for an XXXL person like myself.....that's a medium at walmart's.

Shane Garrett 6 years, 10 months ago

Were are all the people who blamed George Bush for the hight gas prices?! So, I guess, by logic and all things being equal, this is your mama Obama's fault, right?!

TheStonesSuck 6 years, 10 months ago

Your post was just awful, one of the worst I've read.

uncleandyt 6 years, 10 months ago

Those people are still in Rush Limbaugh's over-funded imagination. So, I guess, by gum and all things divisible, we should trust that Rush knows what other people are thinking. He is not only a hungry, hungry knowledge gobbler. He has psychic powers.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years, 10 months ago

Gas prices were insane here on Friday! I went to get gas about 1PM, did a double-take b/c it had been $3.35 at 6AM and had jumped to $3.59! They must have just raised it, b/c one of the stations on 9th street still had $3.35, so I went there and right as I was pulling out they were changing the sign. By the time I went out again at 6PM, it was down to $3.49. That's an awful lot of large fluctuation for one day, and no real reason behind it that I can tell.

Sheryl Wiggins 6 years, 10 months ago

I was at the Presto station in N. Lawrence on Friday and it was $3.39 per gallon. When I went in to pay the cashier was trying to change it and I had to wait. It had gone up .25 cents while I was at the pump (that had never happened to me before) evidently she was having some difficulties b/c she was on the phone and kept going out to the pumps. Finally I was able to get my gasoline at the lower rate. But a .25 cent per gallon increase on a Friday afternoon seems, I don't know, rather drastic. Needless to say I will be making sure I fill up somewhere other than Lawrence from now on.

MyName 6 years, 10 months ago

Talk about the pot calling the kettle... oh nevermind.

infidel 6 years, 10 months ago

I also travel from Topeka to KC and other places every week. Last week, Lansing last week was .25 cheaper than Lawrence, when Tonganoxie is cheaper than Lawrence, something is wrong. I am done purchasing any more gas in this town when I have the option to buy it elsewhere.

irvan moore 6 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence gas station owners are getting rich with inflated prices, do a series on what they pay and what they sell for and compare it to surrounding towns.

CLARKKENT 6 years, 10 months ago


puddleglum 6 years, 10 months ago

everything is more expensive in Lawrence.

always has been, always will be.

lawrence water bill 12.60 water + 39 sewer= $51.60 / mo leavenworth water bill 20.40 water + 6 sewer= $26.40 / mo

neat, huh?

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Sewer rates are based on an average of 3 months during the winter, when people aren't watering their lawns.

Given your water usage, your rates should be lower - we use about the same amount of water, and pay about $22 for sewer charges.

I'd check with the city about it.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Unless you're simply failing to notice that you're also paying for trash and storm water service, which brings the bill up to your amount.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years, 10 months ago

Over $50 does seem high- my bill is usually about $12 water, total with everything else about $43.

brutus 6 years, 10 months ago

Gas prices seem to be obviously the result of collusion which is illegal. Why doesn't the law look into this?

KUGreenMachine 6 years, 10 months ago

I do think a little more research in to Little Ceasers would have been helpful. Their main motto, other than "pizza, pizza", is "hot and ready". This means, you do not need to call ahead. You drive up to the window, ask for a pizza and it's "hot and ready" to go. No wait or call ahead needed. Oh, and their pizzas are only $5. I suggest this guy try it out and give us an update. Ha.

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