News and notes from around town:
• Lawrence is getting quieter, slower, and more timely — at least that is one way to read the latest data about what types of tickets and fines the city issued in 2010.
The number of parking tickets issued at downtown meters dropped 14 percent in 2010. The number of noise violations in the city dropped 18 percent. And speeding ticket numbers increased slightly — 1.4 percent — but still remain at levels that are about half of what they were five years ago.
One number that hasn’t gone down is the amount of money the city collects from fines and tickets. The city’s Municipal Court had a good revenue year. Total collections increased by 14 percent to $4.06 million. That’s because city commissioners in late 2009, approved several fine increases — including a $12 increase for speeding tickets and other traffic offenses such as running a stop sign.
The City Commission also increased the fine for overtime parking at downtown meters from $2 to $3. The penalty for paying your ticket after the 10-day grace period also increased from $10 to $15. Those higher fines may explain some of the decrease in the number of parking violators, but the city also increased the number of hours people must pay a meter downtown. Previously, parking enforcement ended at 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Now, it ends at 6 p.m., and yet the number of tickets written went down.
The data on speeding tickets also are interesting. Simply put, the city issues a lot fewer speeding tickets than it used to. The city issued 5,312 speeding tickets in 2010. That is down from 8,071 tickets issued in 2006. The number of speeding tickets fell every year from 2006 to 2009, and then went up by 75 tickets in 2010.
In 2009, City Manager David Corliss said he didn’t think the decline was because motorists were speeding less, but rather that the city’s police force has had several vacant positions. We said at the time he expected ticket numbers to climb back up as staffing levels at the department increased.
Other numbers from the Municipal Court in 2010 include:
• In terms of non-traffic or parking offenses, theft continued to be the No. 1 offense prosecuted at Municipal Court. There were 444 theft cases, down from 454 in 2009.
• Minor in possession of alcohol cases spiked upward in 2010. The court prosecuted 392 minor in possession cases, up 46 percent from 2009 totals. But the numbers are still below 2006, 2007 and 2008 totals when more than 400 minor in possession citations were issued each year.
• Noise violations continued their steady downward trend. Tickets in that category have declined each of the last five years from 449 in 2006 to 189 in 2010.
• The top 10 traffic offenses in 2010 were: Speeding, 5,312; No insurance, 2,324; Seat Belt Violation, 1,293; Stop Sign Violation, 1,063; Expired Tag, 967; Driving while Suspended, 908; Operating under the Influence, 788; Red Light Violation, 693; Inattentive Driving, 631; No Valid Drivers License, 466.
• It appears one property that has been the subject of several Municipal Court violations is entering a new phase. The city confirmed that it has allowed private crews to begin removing production equipment from the Magna Gro International building at 600 E. 22nd St. If you are not familiar with Magna Gro — it was the site of a double fatality industrial accident last year — we’ve written a lot about it. The moving of equipment makes it clear that the site won’t reopen as Magna Gro — which makes a fertilizer type of product — at anytime in the foreseeable future. The city wasn’t entirely clear on whether the business had been sold, but a source tells me that the equipment is being moved to Western Kansas.
• Speaking of fertilizer, the rubble is beginning to pile up at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant along Kansas Highway 10. Last week, the old office building was demolished. On Monday morning, crews were demolishing the old gray security building that also was along K-10. As we previously reported, local contractor R.D. Johnson excavating was hired to clean up the Farmland property, which the city plans to convert into a business park.
• It is the time of year for campaign endorsements, and the Lawrence Board of Realtors has selected its slate of candidates for the Lawrence City Commission. The real estate group is endorsing Mike Machell, Hugh Carter and Mike Dever for the upcoming City Commission election. The group said it believes the three candidates “share our commitment and passion for increasing the prosperity and quality of life in this community through economic development and job growth.”
If you have a recognized group that normally makes City Commission endorsements, send them my way. I’ll pass them along through Town Talk.