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Archive for Monday, March 7, 2011

Town Talk: City revenue from Municipal Court increases $550k; Magna Gro moving out; Farmland buildings coming down; Realtors endorse city candidates

March 7, 2011

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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.

Crews on Monday, March 7, 2011 demolish a building at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant in Lawrence.

Crews on Monday, March 7, 2011 demolish a building at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant in Lawrence.

• 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.

Comments

LJ Whirled 3 years, 9 months ago

RE - Parking Tickets. It seems that there must be a better way of managing the parking downtown rather than fining the customers. I'd like to see a little creativity thrown that direction. There have been a number of times where we have gone downtown, walked up to a store we were headed to, stopped in at another on the way back, ended up spending a few hundred dollars just to come back to the car and find that we had won the chance to pay a few more bucks. It's not a big enough deal to keep us away, but an irritation that leaves a little bad taste in the mouth, and a little feeling of being unwelcome. Don't know what else to do, other than expanding the Off-Mass parking and making it a free-for-all, but I don't like paying fines for being a good customer.

Eride 3 years, 9 months ago

Parking fees are common in any relatively high density area. I guess you have never been to any other city's downtown besides Lawrence? In fact, the parking cost (and definitely the cost of parking tickets) are by far the lowest I have seen anywhere else.

If you can't afford to throw a few quarters in a meter when you are going out to spend "a few hundred dollars" then your problem lies elsewhere. Besides, there are also a plentiful amount of free two-hour parking lots as well as free parking on the top floor of the parking garage (which I have never seen full).

Bottom line: The cost of the meters is inexpensive by any standard, there are plenty of free options to park, and even if you do choose to be irresponsible and end up garnering a ticket the cost of the ticket is also inexpensive by any standard.

You sound like a lazy, whiner.

formerfarmer 3 years, 9 months ago

Why did you not include the number of parking tickets written? If you figure the amount of money being brought into city coffers, you will see that parking meters don't regulate or manage parking, they only generate a large amount of revenue.

pinecreek 3 years, 9 months ago

RE: Lawrence Board of Realtors--thanks for helping me to choose who not to vote for. Good to know who's in your pocket. Unfortunately we only have 5 total candidates to choose from, so at least one of your guys will win this year. Depressing state of the city right now.

irvan moore 3 years, 9 months ago

i hope my realtor is reading this, you're fired!

Jeremy 3 years, 9 months ago

If I were a cop why would I go out and bust my hump to write a bunch of tickets? For what? To earn revenue for the city when Corliss is cutting wages and benefits for workers?

Who cares about apathy? Please...

JustNoticed 3 years, 9 months ago

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.” Thanks, I was wondering who not to vote for.

cowboy 3 years, 9 months ago

LJW ,

Can you get the number of tickets and the total monthly revenue generated by the Kasold speed trap. Seems to me they have about paid for that road with the work zone fines handed out.

Having had to make my contribution already I have noticed the following :

  1. prevention is not the practice by LPD , they place themselves hidden , well into the work zone area
  2. The city has bothered to bring a speed reading machine that tells the driver how fast they are going , but have it located in the middle of the zone and usually turned off.

I have to go thru this thing most every day unfortunately and can attest they are making a fortune off this work zone. I'm all for safety but the effort is simply revenuing not prevention.

rousseau108 3 years, 9 months ago

If you drive through this area everyday then it shoud be no surprise what the speed limit is. Why should the cops have to be overly visible when running radar? Seems to me that it is a better deterrent for people to not know where a cop might be running radar, thus encouraging them to always drive safely, not just when they can see the cop up ahead.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

Who knows where Sawyer's hauling his junk, but they at least deserve a warning.

Anybody know where it's headed?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"The real estate group is endorsing Mike Machell, Hugh Carter and Mike Dever"

I bet Sawyer's already submitted an abatement proposal with these three "business friendly" dudes.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Vote Bob Schumm Vote Sven Alstrom

Both of these individuals have excellent viewpoints on tax incentives and local economic growth.

Neither appear prepared to give the farm away and it is likely these two will be the low end spenders which says to me neither are in the pockets necessarily of the largest and only special interest group locally. This group known as Lawrence Board of Realtors speaks for the large developers who BTW are frequently asking for OUR tax dollars to finance:

  1. free parking for their tenants and employees

  2. $100 million sewage treatment plant for new neighborhoods that Lawrence,Kansas cannot afford:

If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive we might not be in a budget crunch. With increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

  1. the $20 million USD 497 sports project known as PLAY and a tax dollar increase at a time when our elementary schools are in need of serious maintenance: *http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/oct/how_should_school_district_pay_20_million_maintena/

*http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

This election is a lot about how taxpayers are left out of very large tax dollar spending decisions at all levels of local government.

For instance the $100 million dollar sewage plant should be approved by the voters because local special interests are driving the issue for their own personal profiteering.

Do taxpayers want to spend $100,000,000(million) that will only bring on more new tax dollar expenses? No I say this is reckless spending

There is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/18/free_lunch_how_the_wealthiest_americans http://www.uua.org/events/generalassembly/2008/commonthreads/115777.shtml

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Again this election is a lot about how taxpayers are left out of very large tax dollar spending decisions at all levels of local government.

NOT necessary city growth is the result of of subsidies paid for by the local taxpayer. These range from the obvious to the obscure and include big projects-like the billions we spend on new roads for new neighborhoods and the tax-breaks that give new business a leg up that is KILLING downtown.

We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving new development that is killing downtown.

How we subsidize the Lawrence Board of Realtors who speak for the large developers who BTW are frequently asking for OUR tax dollars to finance: : building new and wider roads building schools on the fringe extending sewer and water lines to not necessary development extending emergency services to the fringe * direct pay-outs to developers - for example developers of the new building at 9th and New Hampshire are demanding taxpayers furnish their tenants with parking spaces built with our tax dollars. Why are we taxpayers being forced to pick up that tab?

MISTERTibbs 3 years, 9 months ago

Merill endorses Schumm and Sven, BOR endorses the other three. What to do? What to do?

purplesage 3 years, 9 months ago

So they got the road projects finsished on W. 6th and on Kasold where the local Barney Fife's sat and used a xerox machine to keep up with the number of tickets being written in the construction worker free construction zones. Wonder if that affected it any?

somedude20 3 years, 9 months ago

i hear the secrets that you keep when you're talking in your sleep

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