News and notes from around town:
• There are days that you beg for a bouncy house. Parents of young children know what I mean. The kids are bouncing off the walls of your house, tugging on your pant legs and just generally acting like hyenas who have hijacked a sugar shipment. You need one of those big inflatable bouncy houses to let them burn off their energy before they burn off your last shred of sanity.
Evidently, I’m not the only one who has wished for a bouncy house before. A Lawrence couple is in the process of opening up a business that is all about bouncy houses and other inflatables.
Jump 4 Joy plans to open later this month at Steve’s Place, the reception hall that is near 31st and Louisiana. The business will have four, large inflatables — a bouncy house, a slide, an obstacle course, and one that combines several of those elements. The business will be open on Sundays for birthday parties and other groups that want to rent the whole facility. It also will be open on Mondays to the general public.
“I’ve just always felt like there has been a need for more things for kids to do in Lawrence,” said owner Tiffany Ellis, who is a mother of five and operator of a daycare business.
Ellis, who is opening the business with her husband, said they hope the business goes well enough that they’ll be able to move into a space of their own rather than sharing with Steve’s Place, which will continue to offer reception space for weddings and other events. (Obviously not at the same time the bouncy houses are in there. Though, that could liven up a wedding reception.)
Plans call for the business to open for parties on March 20 and to the public on March 21. Monday rates will be $5 for an hour-and-a-half jumping session. Adults — at least those who aren’t jumping — enter free.
• People interested in the future of the Lawrence Community Shelter should mark their calendars for Tuesday evening. City commissioners will consider extending the homeless shelter’s permit to operate at 10th and Kentucky streets for another year. Commissioners also will consider expanding the year-round occupancy of the building to 82 people, up from 57.
City commissioners have known for a long time that they would have to consider an extension of the shelter’s operating permit. But they had hoped they would be doing so under different circumstances. The shelter has been in the process of raising money to relocate to a vacant warehouse near the Douglas County Jail. But the shelter received an unfavorable ruling from a Douglas County district judge regarding covenants at that site, which has all but killed the shelter’s plans to move to the warehouse. Shelter leaders have reopened their search for a new space, and have reiterated that they don’t see the current location as a long-term solution. But they want the permit extension so they can keep the current shelter open while they look for a new location.
The expanded occupancy is a slightly different twist. Currently, the building can serve 82 people during cold winter months, but has been limited to 57 people from April through September. Shelter officials are arguing that they’ve proven that the 82 number can work safely, so they want to have that ability year-round. Some neighbors have argued the expanded occupancy only will put more stress on a neighborhood that isn’t designed to accommodate a homeless shelter.
Planning commissioners last month recommended approval of both the permit extension and the expanded occupancy on a 6-1 vote. At that meeting, shelter supporters significantly outnumbered neighbors who are concerned about the facility. We’ll see if that’s how it plays out Tuesday evening.
• Giant hot dog alert. You know that big ugly, long tank that has sat along Kansas Highway 10 at the former Farmland Industries site? Take a good look at it because it soon will be gone. City Manager David Corliss has dubbed it the giant hot dog because of its shape and its brown and bubbly appearance. (Actually, crews recently sanded it and painted it green, which is the sign of a hot dog you want to steer clear of.) A company, Linde LLC, has agreed to buy the tank and is scheduled to haul it off the site on March 15. The city is receiving $10,000 for the tank.
• The city, though, recently got even better financial news on the Farmland clean-up project. Originally the city had thought there was some asbestos contained in boiler house part of the plant that will be torn down. Bids included $180,000 to remove that asbestos. But City Commissioner Mike Dever — who is an environmental consultant by trade — questioned that figure. He said it looked like the city was making a pretty big assumption about the amount of asbestos at the boilers. He convinced commissioners to pull the asbestos portion of the bid from the contract. Instead, the city hired an asbestos firm to test the site. The results: There is no asbestos at the boiler site, and the city won’t have to spend any additional money as part of the boiler’s removal.
• City officials have started analyzing the recently released Census data, and haven’t yet ruled out filing an appeal of the city’s population totals. The city and the Census have frequently disagreed on population totals. The city successfully challenged a couple of population estimates during the last decade. But this is a different deal. The Census numbers are based on an actual count rather than a mathematical formula. But, there still is an appeal process if the city can show that the Census did not accurately reflect the total number of housing units in the city.
The city’s planning staff is looking at several parts of the city where the Census is showing a significant decline in the number of housing units. In particular, the area including and surrounding the university shows a loss of more than 750 housing units over the decade. The city is trying to determine whether it agrees with that number. Here’s a report that has a couple of interesting maps (scroll all the way to the end) that show which areas gained or lost housing units and population, according to the Census.