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Archive for Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Douglas County commissioners considering land purchase for consolidated public works operation — opening door to homeless shelter relocation

Leaders at the Lawrence Community Shelter are once again looking at a vacant warehouse building at 3701 E. 25th St. A deal by the county to purchase the property adjacent to the warehouse has reopened the possibility for the shelter to relocate there.

Leaders at the Lawrence Community Shelter are once again looking at a vacant warehouse building at 3701 E. 25th St. A deal by the county to purchase the property adjacent to the warehouse has reopened the possibility for the shelter to relocate there.

July 26, 2011, 2:52 p.m. Updated July 26, 2011, 4:47 p.m.

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Douglas County leaders plan to acquire land that will house a consolidated Public Works complex and also allow the downtown homeless shelter to relocate.

The property included in the county’s plan covers 34 acres east of Douglas County Jail, 3601 E. 25th St.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug has worked on the plan with the support of county commissioners.

“One project allows another, serendipitously, to move forward,” Commissioner Nancy Thellman said Tuesday.

Shelter relocation

The other project is the relocation of the Lawrence Community Shelter. The acquisition of the property will make Douglas County the majority land owner covered by the Declaration of Protective Covenants. That committee recently ruled that the convenants on the property prohibited a homeless shelter on the site. Legal efforts by the homeless shelter to have that decision reversed weren’t successful, throwing the shelter’s relocation plans into disarray.

With the county in control, the members of the Covenant’s Board of Trustees would be asked to resign. County commissioners would then appoint new members to the board, Weinaug said.

“Given what the interests of the county are, we have reason to believe that the people who would be appointed to that would look upon that favorably,” Weinaug said of the homeless shelter relocation.

Weinaug said the homeless shelter would still need to purchase the land for which it holds a conditional-use permit. While Weinaug said the property owners were willing sellers, the decision rests with those parties.

Shelter director Loring Henderson said he would discuss with his board soon whether to restart negotiations to purchase the building from a local group led by Lawrence businessman Tim Keller.

“We are extraordinarily appreciative of what the county has done,” Henderson said. “They have been generous and supportive and creative to help resolve a situation that really is a communitywide issue. This is a community issue and they have taken a community position.”

Land acquisitions

The county would fund the purchase with state gas tax reimbursements, which total just below the $1.196 million purchasing price for the county property.

Lawrence businessman Steve Glass — who heads the ownership group of the property — confirmed that he’s reached a deal in principle with the county on the 34-acre site. But Glass, who has vigorously opposed efforts to locate a homeless shelter near his property, declined to comment further on the deal.

The county also is offering to purchase the property of two additional landowners near the proposed homeless shelter site. Additional funding for the acquisition of adjacent property — including Taylor Property and Printing Solutions Property, which includes Hillcrest Wrecker — would come from the county’s budgeted funds for capital improvement. The county will offer to purchase the additional land at its 2011 county-appraised values of $572,720 and $250,000, respectively.

Jerry Taylor — an owner of Hillcrest Wrecker, which is just across the street from the proposed homeless shelter site — said he hasn’t made any decisions about whether he’ll accept the county’s offer. He said he still has concerns about whether a homeless shelter will be disruptive to the business park.

“But I think the county is treating us fair,” Taylor said. “At least I feel like we have options now. Before I didn’t feel like I had any.”

Building not imminent

Regardless of whether the two additional properties are purchased, the sale of the future Public Works property and control of the covenants would shift to the county. From there, the timeline for building a Public Works facility is unknown.

“We have no immediate plans to build a Public Works facility next month or even next year,” Weinaug said. “We will be working toward planning that facility and determining when we’d be building one.”

The shelter’s timeline is not as lenient because of grant deadlines that expire this fall. Weinaug said there is an urgency for the shelter to move forward.

“It gives them a way to make the (conditional-use permit) usable,” he said. “It provides a means for resolving this community issue that has been a struggle for this community for the past three years or so.”

The Community Shelter is now at 10th and Kentucky streets. The shelter’s city permit to operate at the location — which has drawn complaints from neighbors — expires in April. Henderson said even if a deal is struck to buy the building at Franklin Park Circle, he is uncertain that the shelter could be moved into the new facility by April.

“But we understand that when April comes we have to be able to tell the community where we are going,” Henderson said.

Potential complex

Shelter leaders in July 2010 received the necessary permits from city commissioners to operate a 125-bed shelter at 3701 Franklin Park Circle. But then the covenant issues came on the property, which is a vacant warehouse. After the convenant issues were not resolved, the shelter let its option to purchase the building expire.

In addition to the larger sleeping area, the new shelter also would have space to separate individuals from homeless families, and the building has about 9,000 square feet that can be used for a jobs training program, Henderson said.

Thellman, who was a motivator in seeing the plan through, said the project is a logical step for the county. She also noted that should the shelter relocate near the jail, it may be able to use the facility’s re-entry program, made easier by shared populations and services.

“This creates a complex that we can grow into,” she said.

The item is scheduled to appear on the county commission agenda for 6:35 p.m. today at the Douglas County Courthouse.

Comments

NotASquishHead 3 years, 4 months ago

Wow! Let me get this comment party started! This is some serious big government take over... Someone must have been studying Corliss' playbook on anti-ethical treatment of citizens and employees. Just force a head and fire them all!

Kim Murphree 3 years, 4 months ago

Great news!! Way to go County leaders!! Way to show some real leadership! Hopefully, those who are homeless will now have the ability to move into job programs and get off the streets. Well done, well done!

bd 3 years, 4 months ago

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

Kim Murphree 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you, Commissioner Nancy Thellman--logical, excellent, solution to the homeless shelter issue. Shared programs and facilities. I know Loring Henderson will do a great job given some room to actually implement the programs he knows how to run--that is a win win for this entire community. I challenge everyone to give this a chance and to be part of this solution!

LHS56 3 years, 4 months ago

Now if the County leaders would purchase the SRS building and lease them to the State for one dollar a year it would be a win win win.

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 4 months ago

One can only purchase a building if it is for sale. Is the building for sale?

Crazy_Larry 3 years, 4 months ago

Ahhh, this is the government we're talking about...Two words for you: Eminent Domain.

motoadventure 3 years, 4 months ago

"The acquisition of the property will make Douglas County the majority land owner...

With the county in control, the members of the Covenant’s Board of Trustees would be asked to resign. County commissioners would then appoint new members to the board, Weinaug said."

I LOLed. If drama is what you thrive on, this is going to get good.

Sadly, I kept reading and saw that they want to spend 1.2 million in tax dollars on a power play. $35,000 an acre....

Then there are the other properties, so it would be just shy of $2 million spent. All to prove who's king of the hill. That's just depressing.

There is always a solution, and this issue has been going on entirely too long, but it gripes me when the answer is 'throw more money at it!'

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

The land will be put to use. Parking cash in real estate long term isn't a bad solution.

I expect that the property values will drop when the shelter opens, but this is a better solution than any other I've seen out there.

Government can park property on its books for very, very long periods of time. Not a bad investment given a 50 year horizon.

esteshawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Because no money will solve everything?

bd 3 years, 4 months ago

Its amazing when someone speaks the truth and is censored! Has the "occupants" ever painted or cleaned up?? nice picture !

motoadventure 3 years, 4 months ago

They won't resign control of their own property, they just wouldn't have a say in what other property owners do. The county is just playing hardball within the system that these board members are using to their advantage.

It boils down to the question of whether one property owner can prevent their neighbor from doing something simply because they disagree with it.

It'd be fitting if the county took control and then used that power to dissolve the covenant, if that's even possible.

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

Reference to National Socialism - Automatic loss of argument. -1 for notwhatyouthink.

Bassetlover 3 years, 4 months ago

You've earned yet another jewel in your crown, Nancy Thellman! You have our respect and admiration for helping make this possible. The move to a new location is long overdue and this seems like an ideal solution. Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Hamm 3 years, 4 months ago

Another "Good 'Ol Boy" deal but at least they're honest enough to admit it up front. Absurd! "We have ways of making you vote for us or at least of making you abstain."

bornherelongago 3 years, 4 months ago

This is a good solution. The county needed the ground and PDO needed to sell...and the shelter needs to get out of downtown into a better facility. Win, win, win.

irvan moore 3 years, 4 months ago

wow, thelman and wienaug the great humanitarians screwing a neighborhood of taxpayers, nice way to get around the covenents, shame on you.

Frightwig 3 years, 4 months ago

Transporting them back and forth from what? Why do you feel that they need to have transportation provided? It's within a couple miles walking distance to stores and the parole office.

esteshawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Not the city, the COUNTY. That may be a small difference, but it shows your ignorance. And the county wouldn't pay for the shelter, only for the public works building. and consolidating those is a money saver.

obamasocks 3 years, 4 months ago

It does seem odd to me...having the shelter so far removed from any of the business hubs of Lawrence is only going to encourage the homeless to sleep on the streets. I think its a great idea, but the location makes it totally impractical.

Bob Forer 3 years, 4 months ago

First impression: sounds like a very good idea. Will be interesting to see how it pans out.

nativeson 3 years, 4 months ago

Absolute disaster. Having a shelter owned by a government entity has unimagined problems. The potential liability that will be taken on by each and every taxpayer of Douglas County is signficant. How does the County propose to oversee the Shelter? The Shelter leadership has great heart, but a willingness to violate City code to accomodate the need.

Now the County has stepped into the vast mire of holes in social services funding. The resources of the County are like pebbles of sand thrown into the ocean. This has the potential to become the one largest driver for increasing costs for the County with a commission that has been willing to raise the mill levy 20% over the last 5 years.

Craig Weinaug 3 years, 4 months ago

The County will not own the shelter, nor will we have any financial or management responsibility for operating the shelter. Our transaction merely enables the homeless organization to locate where they already have a CUP approval. Craig

bornherelongago 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you Mr. Weinaug. You have done a great service to Douglas County. Bravo!

bornherelongago 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you Mr. Weinaug. You have done a great service to Douglas County. Bravo!

bornherelongago 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you Mr. Weinaug. You have done a great service to Douglas County. Bravo!

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Good job Craig!... Long overdue! It appears to me that this HAS been well thought out, and it is a huge step in helping families and those often forgotten! KUDOS from me!

Terry Jacobsen 3 years, 4 months ago

Gee Mr. Wienaug, are you and I going to negotiate this deal on the pages of the journal world? It would have been nice to get a call from someone at the county making me an offer on my property, instead if reading it in the paper

nativeson 3 years, 4 months ago

Wait and see. It is incumbent upon the Shelter to raise the necessary funds. I will wager in 5 years the County will have a substancial annual commitment to the Shelter.

Kim Murphree 3 years, 4 months ago

I'll take that wager because the Shelter board is raising private donations and the staff is working on grants---this will be a capital campaign by a board made up of business owners throughout the community, so understand that this plan has the support of many business people who have worked hard for a very long time---knowing first hand the conditions at the shelter and the excellence of the staff--and the potential of this service to help people get their lives back in order. Thank you Craig!!! Thank you, Nancy Thellman and the Commissioners...well done.

Frightwig 3 years, 4 months ago

Some questions: Will this be a dry shelter or will it foster alcoholism? Will its inhabitants be required to help with shelter cleaning and upkeep or will they be dependent on church volunteers for manual labor? Will there be a limited length of stay? How often will shelter inhabitants be required to meet with a job counselor?

Research needs to be done with some of the nation's more successful transitional shelters to make sure this new facility will actually help people and to make sure it doesn't become a drunken playhouse.

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

Who cares? The shelter is privately funded. Anywhere is better than their existing site. Too bad we can't put it on the other side of Clinton Lake. The further away from residential neighborhoods (with kids) the better.

youngjayhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Excellent plan, win-win for all! Congrats to the county commission for their progressive thinking and solution to this problem that has plagued our community for years. Impressive!

Terry Jacobsen 3 years, 4 months ago

How do you figure it's a win for me? I have been paying on that land for 4 years, snd thru are barely going to give me what I paid for it. Do you know how many thousands of dollars in interest I have paid for the ground and I'll get none of that back.

It's not a win-win when someone loses. Not to mention that no one from the county has even talked to me or made any offer what-so-ever. How would you like to hear about someone buying your property by reading it on the paper?

guess_again 3 years, 4 months ago

Big whoop. How is that different from buying a house. And you don't have to sell.

verity 3 years, 4 months ago

So . . . they haven't talked to you or made you an offer on your land, yet you know that they are going to give you barely what you paid for it?

verity 3 years, 4 months ago

Sorry, I reread the article and see the offer is there. However, like guess_again said, you don't have to sell at that price.

bornherelongago 3 years, 4 months ago

FRIGHTWIG, YOU NEED TO GET UP TO SPEED. These questions along with others were answered when the shelter got the SUP for the Franklin site. Go back and read the PC and CC meeting minutes. They've been trying to relocate for more than 4 years. This site makes sense.

Haiku_Cuckoo 3 years, 4 months ago

Im curious about these questions too. Please post the answers or supply a link to a site where the answers may be found. Thanks.

Arthur McElhenie 3 years, 4 months ago

Re: the photo. Were any commenters present when the church painted the building? Did the residents of the shelter help?

irvan moore 3 years, 4 months ago

it will be interesting to see if this will pass with the usual 2 votes or if all 3 commissioners vote for it.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 4 months ago

Steve Glass sold USD 497 75 unimproved acres at $23,000 per acre. Not a real bargain.

This does not seem to be a real bargain when values are still dropping.

The bright side Loring has a place to go. We can hope all else falls into place.

larrybill 3 years, 4 months ago

H@LY CRAP! WILL IT NEVER END. WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THE HOMELESS NEED A BETTER PLACE THATS BIGGER WITH MORE ACTIVITIES TO KEEP THEM OCCUPIED DURING THE DAY INSTEAD OF FINDING A G@D D@$M JOB. Last I checked we dont have the money for the teachers or schools that are educating our future. Now our leaders have found money to buy land, move offices and waste more time on pointless activities. Now that the city lost the battle to get rid of the eyesore downtown the county feels the need to buy the land and bully the people around that voted it NOT IN MY BACK YARD. I know another good piece of land out by Walmart on 6th.

    Sounds like the elected officials are wanting to improve the place they may be at the end of thier term.  Just a thought.  Why are these people in office trying so hard to spend our tax dollar?  Shouldn't they be coming up with ways to generate more money by offering deals to big buisness or keeping our current buisnesses here.  (hese are serious times we need serious people to run our counties and cities.) This makes me wonder where we found and how we decided to elect people that think like those responsible for ENRON and AIG  (I guess it could just be that nancy learned her theories of economics from them.)

The majority of these people are down luck vagerants that have already been givin at least one chance and failed.  (Most of which arent even from our county.)  So why are we wanting to attract more people by offering a larger place with more beds.  I thought the city wanted to get rid of the pan handlers.  Do they not know that this will only attract more.  Hell I own a old rusted out van that I dont drive any more.  (I should donate it to the shelter so they can drop off and pick up the homeless pan handlers.)  What a waste of public money and polital power.

LarryBilll

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

Um, what jobs. They have no job skills, poor health and mental problems.

I've tried to hire them for putting out flyers in the past. They couldn't even do that. One guys knee swelled up the size of a cantalope due to all of the walking.

With Social Security Disability taking 3+ years to pay out, what are folks without family to do when they get hurt? What about the guys who are just nuts? The state hospitals are closed, the CLO type community living organizations are swamped. Where do they go?

What does a guy whos line job is now in China do? Without job skills, training, education or savings?

Seriously, lets give them a place to go, dry out, get some skills and get on their feet.

We can't leave people to starve in the streets. Hell, we don't even allow DOGS and CATS to starve in the streets. At least they have the Humane Society.

larrybill 3 years, 4 months ago

I dont have a problem helping people in my community. Its the people that come from surronding communuiteis that suck up my tax dollar because there are so many bleeding harts in lawrence. If we sent the outsiders packing then the shelter downtown would be more than ample. I to have insight on the homeless in the work place. I have hired 11 homeless people over the last 9 years in lawrence. All of them were homeless as a result of there own doing. They didnt loose jobs to china or have medical problems they just made stupid choices like getting high at work. Then getting fired and thinking their to good to work at walmart or mcdonalds.. People dont starve in the streets. They go to the salvation army, a church at haskell, the current homeless shelter just to name a few. I do help out the humane society in lawrence and have delt with the director on several occasions. I just dont want to continue helping people that dont help them selve. There are more important thing we should be worried about than this matter like schools, police and fire upgrades, fixing pot holes, and finishing one wasteful project in east lawrence before we take on another(farmland).

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

They are offering to buy everyone out. Take it and leave, or keep it and stay. I am glad they are giving owners the choice. The don't have to.

larrybill 3 years, 4 months ago

Ive attend every meeting they have had about this matter. I have never been givin the oppertunity to have the city buy my property. When did this happen and how do I get them to buy my house??

Jean Robart 3 years, 4 months ago

shouldn't the homeless be in some kind of close proximity to services other than the public works department?

ResQd 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree! Won't they be walking on the side of the highway if they need to get somewhere?

skinny 3 years, 4 months ago

Why is the County getting involved in this issue now????

How about let's NOT!!

There is no money available the way it is now!!

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, that extra $26/year is going to put me out of house and home. I am going to starve and have to live in the dog house.

Oh, and by the way, the City LOWERED the levy in 2006 by 1.6 mils. The non-voter-approved portion of the increase is 1.1 mils, so........the mil has actually gone down over the past 5 years.

Get a sense of perspective.

larrybill 3 years, 4 months ago

I might be wrong butI thought the school tax went down thay year because of loans we had settled. Its not just the $26 for the tax increase its the increase in insurance costs because breakins and property damanges go up. so now thats an increase of $75 a year. That a steak diner. So now the homeless people and supports are costing me a steak diner. That is evan more depressing.

Terry Jacobsen 3 years, 4 months ago

You know what is funny. I own Printing Solutions and I haven't been contacted by the county. Nice way to find out about "a deal" of this magnitude.

guess_again 3 years, 4 months ago

So what? Your feelings are hurt. They obviously had planned to give you a fair offer up-front because they knew you would whine regardless. There is no requirement that they tell you or negotiate with you before announcing this potential plan.

Terry Jacobsen 3 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, well how about they announce in the paper that they are buying your house from you at a price that you will lose money at, and you can take it or leave it, but if you decide to stay, they are going to put a residential halfway house with 124 beds next door to you. Of course you will say that you wouldn't care, but that is bull and you know it.

d_prowess 3 years, 4 months ago

How we do know you are even who you say you are? You could use your name and not be anonymous.

Terry Jacobsen 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't think that I'm actually anonymous. There are only two owners at Printing Solutions and only one of us has the initials of TJ. If that is at all important to you.

ljwhirled 3 years, 4 months ago

All they are doing is moving money from one pocket (cash) to another pocket (real estate).

Since the value of cash DECREASES over time due to inflation, and real estate GAINS VALUE over time (in general), they are simply making a long term investment.

On a 50 year time horizon, this makes complete sense.

Plus+ no more homeless shelter at 10th and Vermont. That place is a stain on our community and needs to either be drastically scaled up (adding another 15,000 to 30,000 square feet) or moved. I am glad they are moving.

larrybill 3 years, 4 months ago

Nothing is set in stone yet. I will fight it this time also. For the price the city is paying they could invest in the future of our young people and hire more teachers or start having feild trips again in the schools. If it was all about the wise investment they could purchase land in north lawrence were it is cheaper and nobody cares if a few more homeless people hang around stealing things.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

ljwhirled (anonymous) replies… "All they are doing is moving money from one pocket (cash) to another pocket (real estate)."

Despite your believe in the the ever rising value of real estate, last I heard Lawrence was a bit strapped for cash and despite a mil levy increase of 1.9 mils;

  • $300,000 reduction in what the city spends each year to replace aging fire equipment despite the infrastructure sales tax voters approved in 2008 and the city agreed to spend about $500,000 of sales tax money each year to purchase new fire equipment.

  • A permanent $200,000 reduction in parks and recreation funding. The memo says the cut would “substantially limit the ability of the Parks and Recreation Department and the city as a whole to take on new projects."

This isn't a kind-hearted gesture of support for the homeless, its another cash strapped City of Lawrence to use tax payer money way to benefit a handful of downtown landlords.

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

Should have read, "This isn't a kind-hearted gesture of support for the homeless, its nothing more that another way for cash strapped City of Lawrence to use tax payer money to benefit a handful of downtown landlords."

Sigmund 3 years, 4 months ago

ljwhirled (anonymous) replies… "Yeah, that extra $26/year is going to put me out of house and home."

True, but that is $26/year you won't be spending with local businesses. Now multiply that by 32,761 housing units and that is $851,786 that will be sucked out of the private Lawrence economy.

irvan moore 3 years, 4 months ago

so glass is against a homeless shelter by his property but happy to sell his property at top dollar (which he can't get from anyone else) to the county so they can help the shelter do an end run on the property owners.

lunacydetector 3 years, 4 months ago

shouldn't the county see what happens with the s.r.s. recipients after s.r.s. closes and they all move closer to their check? this is putting the cart before the horse.

nativeson 3 years, 4 months ago

This is simply bad policy. It is a noble cause, but the outcome will be an entanglement that will never be dislodged. Also, to buy land for a stated purpose that may or may not ever be executed in order to accomplish another agenda borders on misallocation of dollars meant for capital investment.

Is a public works consolidation necessary? Is there operating cost benefits that can be demonstrated by the County Administrator? If not, then it is not appropriate to use gas tax dollars to fund a social services objective. Very problematic.

For those who say the Shelter raised private funds, they are correct. However, look at how much the City of Lawrence chips in to the Shelter's operating budget annually. It is significant. So, there is a public/private "partnership" now being forged with the County as well as the City that will encumber resources far into the future. These dollars are committed either directly or indirectly without a sufficient level of accountability about outcomes.

esteshawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Man, you people can't even read without your distrust of government filtering the facts. The county would purchase land for the PW operation. That would make them the majority land owner, and would allow them to change the covenants.

The homeless shelter would then be able to buy and use property - not the county.

By the county purchasing the property, the public works operations would be in one location - that means better operations at a lower rate. But somehow, in Kansas World, this is bad?

Onlyifitsadryshelter 3 years, 4 months ago

A few reporting questions because this doesn't make sense to me.... 1) Did the reporter approach the current owner of the site to find out if a deal is in the works? 2) Is the assertion that the Shelter will be moving one that the reporter set forth or one that an individual set forth? 3) Is the county buying this property in order to allow the Shelter to move, or is the county buying this property and then the Shelter will be able to move there as well? 4) Did the Shelter inform the LJWORLD that they would be able to move as a result of the county buying property, or did the LJW inform the shelter that they would be able to move as a result of said land acquisition?

Onlyifitsadryshelter 3 years, 4 months ago

Oh wait NEVERMIND! I now see that all of these questions WERE answered in the original article, reading the ridiculous comments above just confused me! :)

motoadventure 3 years, 4 months ago

I guess the main question I'm left with is what the 2011 county-appraised value for the 34 acre plot is. If they're only offering appraisal value for the other two, they better be doing the same on the large plot.

irvan moore 3 years, 4 months ago

the headline says considering but they talk like it's a done deal

nativeson 3 years, 4 months ago

The majority will support this proposal. I trust government, but when policy is bad it is bad. The land purchase encumbers funds that could be otherwise deployed for projects that will actually be built in the next few years. Instead, it will be used to build a facility (maybe) in an undisclosed time frame with no proof that operating costs will be reduced. Does the County have a budget item for the building of the facility? Will it ever?

It also removes property from the tax roles. So, the City and school district lose tax revenue from this purchase.

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