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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

nativeson 2 years, 8 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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irvan moore 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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motoadventure 2 years, 8 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.

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Onlyifitsadryshelter 2 years, 8 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?

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esteshawk 2 years, 8 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?

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nativeson 2 years, 8 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.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 8 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.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 8 months ago

Anyone care to comment and list owners that have sold to the county and city? Are there any reoccuring names?

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irvan moore 2 years, 8 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.

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Sigmund 2 years, 8 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.

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Sigmund 2 years, 8 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.

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Floyd Craig 2 years, 8 months ago

how often with the cops n the dcfm be calld to the new place they r calld at least once every day for some kind of problem so why move them out there n have the law n the medics travel farther to treat tghem n cost us money

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blue73harley 2 years, 8 months ago

Taxpayer money seems to be unlimited at all levels of government these days...sigh

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TJ_in_Lawrence 2 years, 8 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.

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MacHeath 2 years, 8 months ago

They better build a big one. We are all going to be living there, if they keep raising the mil levy.

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skinny 2 years, 8 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!!

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Jean Robart 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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Stacy Napier 2 years, 8 months ago

You all wouldn't be so happy if the county bought several houses in your neighborhood just to take over the homeowners assoc and vote in something you didn't want.

I have a real problem when government buys property just so they can control the area around it.

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larrybill 2 years, 8 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

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 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.

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irvan moore 2 years, 8 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.

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 8 months ago

Another sneaky deal by the county just like East Hills business park , paid for by the taxpayers. Even Weinaug wouldn't dare comment about who the players and winners financially have been in that deal that was initiated over 30 years ago, it cost the county taxpayers $750,000 to acquire the land almost a 1/3 of a century ago, not to ever know how much the city pumped into the project. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ And the jobs created and the buildings built did not lower the mill levy ever.

What is going to be the real taxation on this property in question?

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Arthur McElhenie 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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bornherelongago 2 years, 8 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.

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youngjayhawk 2 years, 8 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!

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Frightwig 2 years, 8 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.

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nativeson 2 years, 8 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.

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Multidisciplinary 2 years, 8 months ago

OK Craig, Good. Now that that's settled, how about them wrecker fee limits? (Don't jack with my Hillcrest Wrecker!)

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Bob Forer 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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oletimer 2 years, 8 months ago

Okay. The state is broke. I thought the city was broke. Yet they are going to buy land out in the middle of nowhere, to have a place for the homeless? REALLY? These folks need to go and play in washington. They have the same silly ideas. What is up with having a homeless shelter out in the country anyway? Who is going to pay for transporting them back and forth. Anyone give any thought to that? I doubt it. Thinking does not appear to be a option in Lawrence government. Why not build something at the old farmland. At least they will have something out there.

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irvan moore 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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bornherelongago 2 years, 8 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.

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OonlyBonly 2 years, 8 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."

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Bassetlover 2 years, 8 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Stacy Napier 2 years, 8 months ago

No one has a problem with government coming in and forcing citizen board members to resign control of there own property?

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

Sounds a little like Germany. We will put in control who we want so that we get the desired outcome.

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bd 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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motoadventure 2 years, 8 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!'

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LHS56 2 years, 8 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.

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Kim Murphree 2 years, 8 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!

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bd 2 years, 8 months ago

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

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Kim Murphree 2 years, 8 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!

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NotASquishHead 2 years, 8 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!

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