Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lawrence City Commission candidates weigh options for downtown homeless shelter

Hugh Carter answers three questions about his campaign for the Lawrence City Commission.

March 19, 2011

Advertisement

2011 Lawrence City Commission election

Our special section for the 2011 Lawrence City Commission election has videos, live chats, stories, a straw poll and a candidate selector to help you choose which candidate you're voting for.

When it comes to downtown Lawrence, there’s plenty to talk about these days in regard to a host of projects that are happening or are on the drawing board.

For example: an $18 million expansion of the Lawrence Public Library; a $10 million, seven-story office, retail and residential building that is under construction at Ninth and New Hampshire streets; and a proposal to turn a city-owned parking lot near Ninth and Vermont streets into a mixed-use building that might house a long-discussed downtown grocery.

But there’s also a project that’s not happening and that creates a lot of talk, too. The Lawrence Community Shelter had hoped to be on its way to moving from its downtown location at 10th and Kentucky streets to a new site near the Douglas County Jail. But a recent court ruling in Douglas County District Court has dashed those plans and has sent shelter and City Hall leaders trying to figure out what is next.

The topic is sure to be one that the next commission will consider. Here’s a look at what the five candidates vying for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission are saying about the shelter issue and other downtown topics.

Sven Alstrom

Like the rest of the candidates in the field, Alstrom, a Lawrence architect, said he doesn’t think the shelter’s current location is a good one. Shelter leaders also have conceded that.

But Alstrom is the only candidate in the field who said he would consider keeping it in downtown if an appropriate site were found.

Alstrom also is the candidate who most often has suggested that the shelter should be split into two separate locations: one for homeless families with children and another for those without.

“I think separating the children from the ne’er-do-wells is a good idea,” Alstrom said.

He also said the city and the shelter need to be open to locations they haven’t yet explored. He said he would want to explore whether there is a closed or partially closed school that could be used to serve as a shelter.

On other issues, Alstrom:

• Would insist on the city being paid fair market value for any city parking lots that developers may want to redevelop. He also wants any redevelopments to provide at least the same number of public spots as are available currently.

• Wants to study ways to provide incentives, such as tax rebates, for downtown property owners to divide their buildings and create smaller retail spaces that could be accessed from the alleys of downtown. He said the smaller back-room shops could serve as low cost startup locations for retailers and would provide the city an incentive to clean up the alleys.

• Is open to the idea of adding another level of parking to the proposed parking garage for the Lawrence Public Library and also would consider adding a transit hub to the project. But he said his support for both items would hinge on further cost estimates and design issues.

• Would support the city taking over ownership of the Santa Fe Depot building just east of downtown even if the city isn’t able to acquire grant money to pay for about $600,000 worth of needed repairs.

“It is a lot less risk and exposure than the Farmland site,” Alstrom said, referring to a cleanup project the city has undertaken at a former fertilizer plant on the east side of town. “And this a project connected to transportation. With gas prices entering a whole new era, how much longer will it be before we have to start taking the train more?”

Hugh Carter

Carter, a Lawrence financial adviser, believes the city needs to use its permitting process for the homeless shelter to ensure that it stays motivated to move from its current location. City commissioners last Tuesday agreed to extend the shelter’s operating permit for a year to give shelter leaders more time to look for a site. Carter said he would have lobbied for a shorter extension.

“I might be inclined to go a little shorter than a year to hold their feet to the fire and make sure we’re getting some good reports on it,” Carter said.

Carter said he wants to create a sense of urgency for the project but said he’s not sure what additional steps the City Commission can take to help the shelter find a new site.

“I’m not sure what resources we have at our disposal to help them in this situation,” Carter said. “I know it is hard. There is not an island to put this on. It needs to be accessible to serve its purpose.”

On other issues, Carter:

• Said he would “welcome” the opportunity to review plans to redevelop downtown parking lots but said any proposal would have to ensure that the public doesn’t lose parking spaces in the deal. He said he would review incentive requests for such projects on a case-by-case basis.

• Would be hesitant to add parking to the proposed library garage, if it would cause the total cost of the library project to exceed $18 million. But he said he wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility.

• Wants more information about the Santa Fe Depot project but said he is not certain that he would be “willing to take the risk” of acquiring the property without first having grant money to rehabilitate it.

Mike Dever

Dever, the owner of a Lawrence-based environmental consulting firm and the lone incumbent in the race, cast one of three votes on the current commission to extend the shelter’s operating permit for a year. He said he now wants to look at whether the city can become “more aggressive” in helping the shelter find a new location.

“We have asked the shelter leaders to do what they can to find another site, and so far we’ve reached an impasse,” Dever said. “That may mean the city and the county will need to help them find a solution.”

Dever also was one of three to vote to increase the shelter’s year-round occupancy from 57 to 81. The shelter had been operating at the 81 level during the winter but was forced to use the smaller occupancy total during warm weather months.

“We have seen the shelter can operate at the increased occupancy,” Dever said. “The other option is for people to sleep wherever they can find a place to lie down, and I’m not convinced they are going to be able to find a place to sleep inside.”

On other issues, Dever:

• Said he wants more information about how any additional parking or a transit hub at the library project would be funded before “we get too far along with it.”

• Is “open” to proposals from the private sector to redevelop city-owned parking lots because he believes increasing density and living units will be important to downtown’s future. But he would want at least the same number of public parking spaces to be provided in any new project.

• Said he would be cautious on offering incentives for downtown development. He said he understands vertical construction can be more expensive, which might justify an incentive, but he also said the amenities that already exist downtown should be considered an incentive as well.

• Believes the Santa Fe Depot building has great potential but is concerned that working out a “graceful” transition of ownership of the building will be difficult.

Mike Machell

Machell, a human resources manager for an Overland Park company, said he may have opted to renew the shelter’s permit for less than a year in order to create a “driving force” for the shelter to make progress on finding a new site. He also said he wants the city and the shelter to work closely together on the project but doesn’t believe the city should take over the process.

“I definitely think the City Commission and the Planning Department need to partner on this, but I don’t know that it is the city’s responsibility to find the right spot for the shelter,” Machell said.

But he said he isn’t questioning the need for a shelter in the community.

“I don’t like to make value judgments on why people are homeless,” Machell said. “We are a caring community, and we want to do right by people. The problem is not going to go away. We need to address it, but downtown is not the right location.”

On other issues, Machell:

• Said he’s supportive of considering adding new parking and a transit hub to the library project because it likely would be cheaper to do it now than later. But Machell, who is the chairman of the city’s Library Board, said the review process would need to involve a lot of public input.

• Said he wants to develop a cost-benefit model to evaluate any future requests to redevelop city-owned parking lots. He said he would consider such projects if it could be clearly shown the city was “gaining more than it was giving.”

• Believes the city should not take over the Santa Fe Depot at this point. He said he likes the potential of the building but is concerned about taking over ownership of the building before grant money can be secured. He’s also concerned about possible environmental liability issues the city could be assuming.

“I think putting a lot of resources into the depot would be going down the wrong track right now,” Machell said.

Bob Schumm

Schumm, a downtown restaurant owner and former Lawrence mayor, said downtown is a “very poor fit” for a homeless shelter. He also said he thinks the city’s efforts to help the shelter find a new location haven’t always been up to par.

“The city can take more of a leadership role in helping the Lawrence Community Shelter,” Schumm said. “I think that has been lacking in the past. There has been friction between the city and the shelter at times. The responsibility of providing a shelter has fallen on the shelter’s shoulders, but it is really not their problem. It is a community problem.”

Schumm also said he wants to take another look to see if the legal issues surrounding the proposed site near the Douglas County Jail can be resolved.

On other issues, Schumm:

• Said he doesn’t think the library site is large enough to accommodate a possible transit hub, but he does want to explore ways to add more parking to the library project.

• Believes redevelopment of city parking lots could help downtown by increasing its density and number of living units. But he said the city would either need to be paid well for the use of the property or be assured that it would gain a significant number of new parking spaces out of any deal.

• Wants the Santa Fe Depot to become an important public building but would have to take a “hard look” at taking over ownership of the building without first having grant money to pay for the repairs.

• Wants the city to more consistently use police officer foot patrols downtown.

“We go through phases of having foot patrol and then we don’t see them for long periods of time,” Schumm said. “When the foot patrol is out, people just feel safe.”

Comments

irvan moore 3 years, 10 months ago

downtown is "a very poor fit" for a homeless shelter? neighborhoods or industrial areas are better?

BruceWayne 3 years, 10 months ago

"ne’er-do-wells"...really? pot meet kettle.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

Alstrom also is the candidate who most often has suggested that the shelter should be split into two separate locations: one for homeless families with children and another for those without.

“I think separating the children from the ne’er-do-wells is a good idea,” Alstrom said.

---Good thinking. The children have no say in their current situation. Put this at the top of the list.

Alstrom Would insist on the city being paid fair market value for any city parking lots that developers may want to redevelop. He also wants any redevelopments to provide at least the same number of public spots as are available currently. --- GOOD THINKING I definitely agree! --- Absolutely taxpayers deserve to have these facts with long and intense discussion at city commission meetings. Not enough information comes out of city commission meetings.

Alstrom - Would support the city taking over ownership of the Santa Fe Depot building just east of downtown even if the city isn’t able to acquire grant money to pay for about $600,000 worth of needed repairs.

“It is a lot less risk and exposure than the Farmland site,” Alstrom said, referring to a cleanup project the city has undertaken at a former fertilizer plant on the east side of town. “And this a project connected to transportation. With gas prices entering a whole new era, how much longer will it be before we have to start taking the train more?” ---- More GOOD Thinking. Commuter train service between Topeka and Kansas City is on the horizon. A lot of our federal tax dollars will be spent making it work - let our federal tax dollars work for US!

Schumm = Believes redevelopment of city parking lots could help downtown by increasing its density and number of living units. But he said the city would either need to be paid well for the use of the property or be assured that it would gain a significant number of new parking spaces out of any deal. ---- Absolutely we taxpayers should be paid well!!! Again Absolutely taxpayers deserve to have these facts with long and intense discussion at city commission meetings. Not enough information comes out of city commission meetings.

Wants the Santa Fe Depot to become an important public building but would have to take a “hard look” at taking over ownership of the building without first having grant money to pay for the repairs. --- Hey Bob commuter trains are the wave of the future which will require federal tax dollars. Between Topeka and Kansas City let our federal tax dollars work for US.

• Wants the city to more consistently use police officer foot patrols downtown. --- why not!!!

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

Machell

Said he’s supportive of considering adding new parking and a transit hub to the library project because it likely would be cheaper to do it now than later. But Machell, who is the chairman of the city’s Library Board, said the review process would need to involve a lot of public input. ---- Absolutely!

• Said he wants to develop a cost-benefit model to evaluate any future requests to redevelop city-owned parking lots. He said he would consider such projects if it could be clearly shown the city was “gaining more than it was giving.” --- Absolutely taxpayers deserve to have these facts with long and intense discussions at city commission meetings. Not enough information comes out of city commission meetings.

Dever:

• Said he wants more information about how any additional parking or a transit hub at the library project would be funded before “we get too far along with it.” GOOD THINKING

• Is “open” to proposals from the private sector to redevelop city-owned parking lots because he believes increasing density and living units will be important to downtown’s future. But he would want at least the same number of public parking spaces to be provided in any new project. TAXPAYERS should be paid handsomely for THEIR property! Taxpayers should have the RIGHT to VOTE on taxpayer property re-development.

• Said he would be cautious on offering incentives for downtown development. He said he understands vertical construction can be more expensive, which might justify an incentive, but (((he also said the amenities that already exist downtown should be considered an incentive as well. --- absolutely - good thinking!!)))) TAXPAYERS should be paid handsomely for THEIR property! Taxpayers should have the RIGHT to VOTE on taxpayer property re-development.

• Believes the Santa Fe Depot building has great potential but is concerned that working out a “graceful” transition of ownership of the building will be difficult.

Again commuter train service is the wave of the future. Give the feds a reason to spend OUR tax dollars on the Topeka - Lawrence - JOCO/KCMO metro region.

===================================================================

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

Taxpayers -

Absolutely taxpayers deserve to have facts with long and intense discussions at city commission meetings. Not enough information comes out of city commission meetings.

No more tax dollar parking give aways please!!!

TAXPAYERS should be paid handsomely for THEIR property! Taxpayers should have the RIGHT to VOTE on taxpayer property re-development. No exceptions!

jumpin_catfish 3 years, 10 months ago

I might be wrong but this is a representative government and we elected these folks to make decisions not kick the can down the road or punt to the "taxpayers". City Commission should do their job.

As for these CC wanbees, this is just bah, bah, bah to me but I do agree downtown is NOT the place for a shelter.

skinny 3 years, 10 months ago

Maybe the City Commissioners will take the hint, the citizens of Lawrence do not want a homeless shelter in their town, period!

geekin_topekan 3 years, 10 months ago

Do not mistake the homeless for the homeless shelter. 'No shelter' means more in the parks, under porches, in the library, KU halls, benches and bushes. Many have family histories tied to Lawrence that go back for generations and are not going anywhere.

Here;s an idea: Why don't those who can't handle the idea of serving their fellow American, leave? If you are from here, you know what your town is like. If you are not from here, I am guessing that you came for the quality of life and wish to change Lawrence to fit your definition of quality.

Either way, if you don't like it, be gone. If your tax dollars is all you have to defend your position, keep it, we don;t need you or your money that bad.. We will find a way to trudge onward w/out yer sorry arse.

TheBigW 3 years, 10 months ago

Merrill says: "Again commuter train service is the wave of the future. Give the feds a reason to spend OUR tax dollars on the Topeka - Lawrence - joco/kcmo metro region."

Put down the crack pipe and step back from the keyboard already! We'll see commuter trains as the wave of the future after Kansas makes old maryjane legal, so yea in the future all right, like what 50 years or so? And what about all those federal tax dollars in highway funds... and let's not forget the city is currently trying to request 13.5 million tax dollars for more airport improvements http://www.lawrence.airportstudy.com/section_lwc_mp/, but yea commuter trains are ranking right up there on the top of the list and have you seen the lines of people waiting to hop those trains down at the station, can't even hardly get parking.

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 10 months ago

FTW. However, don't forget that Merrill - in true class warfare form - is against anything for the airport because, you know, only those terrible rich people have ties to general aviation. Commuter train is the wave of the past, old man.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 10 months ago

Don't forget that Sven has been banned from this forum a dozen times for his inability to follow the TOS. The lad has issues. He was only reinstated to give him a chance to discuss his run for elective office. He's not taken advantage of that opportunity since March 3. We've been told that his account will be disappeareded again if he loses the election. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

monkeyhawk 3 years, 10 months ago

"Alstrom also is the candidate who most often has suggested that the shelter should be split into two separate locations..."

Perfect - can't have two libraries but multiple bum housing is terrific. merrill and the band of bozos never cease to amuse.

merrill I don't think people are laughing with you when you endorse the michelin man.

igby 3 years, 10 months ago

Rock the vote! You don't have to vote for 3. You can vote for one! . Which one? A new one! Rock the vote!

LadyButterfly 3 years, 10 months ago

I think it would make sense to use a closed school building for a homeless shelter rather than the downtown. What else would we use the closed building for, really? I like the idea of seperating homeless people with children from those without children. That makes sense. With regard to people complaining about the homeless shelter, I think the people who volunteer and work there do a lot of good work. I think many of the homeless people would not be homeless, if they had jobs. I would like to see the programs in Lawrence geared more towards helping people who are able to work to find jobs. I hate for those 20-year-olds who are perfectly capable to lose hope and faith in the themselves when they could and should be working. I think we need to give them hope.

LadyJ 3 years, 10 months ago

Why would an elementary school have showers? I've been there before, never saw showers. Besides it's not ADA compliant.

LadyJ 3 years, 10 months ago

LadyJ (anonymous) replies… Why would an elementary school have showers? I've been there before, never saw showers. Besides it's not ADA compliant.

FlintlockRifle 3 years, 10 months ago

To my way of thinking the "homeless" should have to do something to earn say a " chip" to stay in the "hotel" there are lots of things for the fit and able to do in the area, pick up trash, clean snow off sidewalks, mow grass for tthe elderly, etc.

TheBigW 3 years, 10 months ago

I'll tell you why that would never work in one word...... Lawyers! Some ambulance chasing lawyer would sue if the drunken bums slipped on the snow and ice while cleaning off the the snow or even if they did something stupid like lifted up the running mower and cut off their hand, maybe strain their back picking up the trash to earn their keep.... And that is why you'll never see any such earn your cot work program for the homeless around here.

And beside that who would want to expose the elderly to most of those bums, you'd end up reading about some old person killed by homeless person or ripped off for the next bottle.

igby 3 years, 10 months ago

In Japan, they have these pods like hotel rooms that are like the pay toilets back in the 70's. They are self cleaning and are state of the arts with high tech energy effientcy and low maintainence. Hundreds of them are installed in buildings and they are hooked up and used and the pod is perfect for controlling the spread of sickness. The shelter is plague harboring bask of every sickness waiting to happen. It will cause a public health crisis sooner or later.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.