Archive for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Town Talk: First Watch to reopen July 1; glass recycling program recommended for city; rental regulations may stiffen

June 21, 2011


News and notes from around town:

• Independence Day will come early for me. I’ve gotten word that the popular south Iowa Street restaurant First Watch will reopen on July 1, meaning that I’ll be free of the frequent questions about the restaurant’s future. As we’ve reported several times, the restaurant — 2540 Iowa St. — closed in late February as the store transitioned from being owned by a local franchisee to becoming a corporate-owned store. While making that transition, First Watch leaders decided to remodel as well. As a result, the store will be the company’s first to use a new interior design prototype that will feature all new furniture, a few “community tables,” and modern plateware and flatware. But don’t worry, the changes don’t extend to the menu. The restaurant, which is known for its breakfast and brunches, will remain the same.

Another change at the restaurant will be in its dining room. The company is naming the dining room in the memory of Todd Babington. Babington became one of the company’s original franchisees when he opened the Lawrence store in 1997. Babington sold the franchise back to the company earlier this year because of health concerns. Babington died in early May. In addition, the company is planning an “Omelet Day” where all proceeds from the sale of omelets will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, an organization that was important to Babington. A date for that event hasn’t been set.

• You might have noticed in today’s Journal-World that city commissioners will receive a recommendation to increase monthly trash rates by 39 cents per month to $14.94. Well, if everything goes according to plan, that new rate will buy you a new city service. City Manager David Corliss has confirmed that he plans to recommend a new glass recycling program be included in the city’s 2012 budget.

No, it won’t be a curbside glass recycling program. Instead, it will be a plan that has been lobbied for by Mayor Aron Cromwell. The city will install four glass collection bins across the city. City crews then will empty the bins twice a week and take the glass to an as yet undetermined bunker area on city property. Kansas City-based Ripple Glass then would pay to transport the glass from the city's site to Ripple's facility, which uses the bottles to make fiberglass insulation.

There’s no word yet on where the four bins will be placed. Those locations probably will go a long way in determining whether the project is a success. There already is a fair amount of glass recycling that occurs in the city. People can take glass to the Wal-Mart Community Recycling Center and the 12th and Haskell Bargain Center. Several of the smaller curbside recycling companies also accept glass, although market leader Deffenbaugh Industries does not. So, the question becomes whether the four new bins will get enough new people to start recycling glass in order to cover the city’s costs? The city is estimating start-up costs of about $30,000 and then monthly operating costs of about $600.

But there’s certainly potential for it to be a money-saving operation for the city. The EPA estimates that about 5 percent of all the waste a city produces is glass. If Lawrence could get the bulk of that glass recycled, it would save the city on tipping fees at the area landfill. If that were true for Lawrence, that would mean about 3,100 tons of glass. Based on current landfill costs, the city pays a little more than $70,000 per year to dump that glass in a landfill. There’s some thought, though, that glass may be more prevalent in Lawrence. In case you hadn’t noticed, lots of beer comes in glass bottles. If you dare, go look in a Dumpster in a downtown alley behind a drinking establishment. I wouldn’t be surprised that one of the four bins will be in the downtown area where bars would be encouraged to use it.

• One other thing we do a lot of in Lawrence: Rent our houses to college students. City commissioners at their meeting tonight will talk about putting more teeth into regulations that govern that activity. Currently, no more than three unrelated people are supposed to live in a single-family home. No more than four unrelated people are supposed to live in a multi-family zoned property. But neighbors long have complained that regulation is rarely enforced. The city says the ordinance is difficult to enforce, and we had an article last September that highlighted to what extreme some landlords will go to get around the ordinance.

What city commissioners will discuss tonight are ways to punish landlords who repeatedly ignore the regulation. Since 2005, according to city records, there have been 19 addresses that have been investigated multiple times for violating the code. In addition there have been eight property owners who have had at least three cases of non-compliance investigated. In total, those eight property owners generated 22 percent of all the cases investigated since 2005. (Yes, I’m curious who the eight are. I’ll ask the city to provide that information.)

So, one idea is to make it tougher for problem property owners to register their properties with the city’s rental registration program. Single-family homes that are used as rentals must be registered with the city. Mayor Cromwell told me that some cities have taken the approach that properties with multiple violations can’t be registered with the city for a certain time period. That would mean the properties couldn’t be legally rented. Cromwell said he wants to at least consider the idea.

“It seems like in the current system the tenants end up getting punished the most,” Cromwell said. “They get evicted when we discover the violation, but the landlords may just try to do it again and see if they can get away with it. This would be an attempt to get more at the root of the problem.”

In a town where the rental business is major business, it will be interesting to watch how far this idea goes.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall.


Vinny1 6 years, 11 months ago

Still waiting on Vermont St. BBQ. Anymore word on when/if they are still re-opening?

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 11 months ago

I don't have a date for you, but they have pulled a building permit, which is always a good sign. Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

kinder_world 6 years, 11 months ago

So I am going to be charged more to recycle, but I have to take my glass to special bins, using my gas and my time and pay more for it. I already recycle my glass at Walmart without this additional charge. Does anyone else see a problem with??? This was another one of Cromwell's ideas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

It's not clear from this article why the rates are going up, and it would appear that if this appreciably increases the amount of glass that gets recycled, it'll save the city (and taxpayers) money spent on tipping fees rather quickly-- much more than will be spent on this recycling initiative.

And while Wal-Mart may remain the most convenient place to recycle glass for you, there will now be other locations much more convenient for thousands of other people-- especially people like me who don't ever go to Wal-Mart.

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I don't want people to think that your rates wouldn't be going up if the recycling program wasn't being implemented. The city's trash service has been struggling financially with rising fuel costs and rising landfill costs. Those are the two main drivers in the rate increase. The glass program, from my analysis, has little to do with the rate increase. I was just pointing out that it looks like there will be a new glass recycling operation. It will be interesting to see, however, whether enough new people take up glass recycling as a result to make this pay off for the city. Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

Heard through the grapevine that when applying for a job at First Watch, they require applicants to promise to adhere to the Ten Commandments. Making that a requirement for a job has just got to be against the law.
I'd be curious if others had that experience or if they had heard similar stories.

gatekeeper 6 years, 11 months ago

About 12 years ago I took a job in Lenexa and after I was already hired and working, my boss took me to lunch and informed me that all of her employees had to act as good Catholics if they wanted to continue working for her. This was not the company's policy, just hers. When we got back to work, I found her boss and handed over my stuff, told him what I was told and walked out and never looked back.

Doesn't surprise me that places try to pull this stuff. Especially in a bad economy when many will do anything for a job.

average 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm not exactly how the whole "but the seventh day is a Sabbath day, you shall not do any work" commandment is supposed to work out for employees of a restaurant that's open 7-days-a-week at 7 AM. A whole shift of Jews and SDAs, maybe?

Or, maybe they've got some other commandments I'm not familiar with.

shutterbug433 6 years, 11 months ago

The "ten commandments" you are referring to are not from the bible, but rather their own ten commandments of customer service for their servers. First Watch does not push any type of religion on employees, just good service!

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 11 months ago

I suppose that would be true, if all glass in the city ends up getting recycled. But I don't think that is realistic. The big question is how much more glass will get recycled? And, see my post above, I don't think the price increase has much of anything to do with the glass program. Sorry if I didn't make that clear in the article. Thanks, Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

Skeptical 6 years, 11 months ago

With respect to the rental ordinance, where did the number 3 come from? If someone has a 5 bedroom house, they could only rent it to 3 people?

pizzapete 6 years, 11 months ago

That's the basic idea, unless they can find a couple of related people to rent the other 2 or three bedrooms. Landlords, however, just put three people on the lease and look the other way when renting a large house to more than the number allowed by the ordinance.

I've often wondered if this ordinance wasn't pushed through by a couple of developers who needed to find more renters for their overbuilt apartment complexes in the far West of the city?

tiredoflawrence 6 years, 11 months ago

Chad is there anymore news about when the quiznos on iowa is reopening. Saw some signs out front today that said comming soon.

Sara Garlick 6 years, 11 months ago

If the city wants less glass in the landfill, give an incentive to bars & restaurants. That would make more sense than raising the utility rate. I recycle my own glass on my own dime. At the Recycling Center on haskell they asked for your name & address, so why doesn't the city wave that increase for the people who already recycle? I don't want to be taxed more because other people are lazy!

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