News and notes from around town:
• Look for some changes at the Lawrence Auto Plaza along South Iowa Street. The Briggs Auto Group has struck a deal to take over the location currently occupied by Enterprise Rent-A-Car at 2233 W. 29th Terrace. Briggs plans to move its Subaru dealership to the site by July, said John Pate, a general manager for Briggs. Currently, Briggs Subaru shares space with the Briggs Nissan dealership, which is across the street from the new site. Pate said its deal with Subaru called for the brand to have its own unique location.
Plans filed with the city call for Briggs to add on 1,700 square feet to the existing 7,500-square-foot building on the site to house a showroom and a full-line service department. Pate said the new building also will require several new sales and service positions to be hired.
Enterprise will be staying in the area. According to plans filed with the city, it will move to the former Jack Ellena Honda location at 2957 Four Wheel Drive, which is just around the corner from its current location. Interior remodeling of that location already has begun.
• Bigger news may be coming out of Briggs in the near future. Pate said the company still very much believes it will be allowed to re-open a Chrysler dealership in Lawrence. In October, Briggs bought the former Jim Clark Motors dealership at 2121 W. 29th Terrace, which had been the long-time Chrysler dealership for the city. But Jim Clark lost the dealership as part of the restructuring Chrysler did at the national level when it filed for bankruptcy protection. Briggs, though, was confident that Chrysler could be convinced to allow a dealership to reopen in Lawrence. Pate said Briggs is still optimistic about that. The company is in discussions with Chrysler and hopes to be able to make an announcement within a month. The former Jim Clark location would be a prime candidate to house the new dealership. Currently, Briggs uses the former Jim Clark site for used car sales.
• A big question on the minds of city commission and school board candidates is what type of voter turnout will the upcoming election produce. There has been some thought that voters may come out to the polls in larger numbers than in past years because of all the talk about school consolidation. Particularly there has been some thought that the issue would bring out more east side voters, since the schools being discussed as consolidation targets are east side facilities. If the east side turns out to vote in the upcoming election, that would be a departure from past years. The last two city/school elections have had a heavy west side influence.
Well, it is still early, but advanced voting totals suggest that scenario is possible. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew said the number of advanced voters through Monday was double the amount during the same time period in 2009. But, the numbers are still very small. The county has had 58 advanced ballots cast thus far. The numbers traditionally start to pick up significantly after spring break. That’s when we should get an indication of whether voters are more engaged this year.
Turnout has been pretty dismal the past two city/school elections. In the 2009 election, turnout was 14 percent. In 2007 it was 19 percent.
Advanced voting started on March 16. It runs through noon on April 4. The election is April 5. Shew’s office will have special advanced voting hours on April 2. Advanced voting locations will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, at the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence, the Baldwin City Fire Station, Eudora City Hall and Lecompton City Hall.