Subscribe to the email edition of Town Talk and we'll deliver you the latest city news and notes every weekday at noon.
News and notes from around town:
• Soon, you will be able to walk down Massachusetts Street with a new golden glow about you. A tanning salon is set to become the newest addition to Massachusetts Street. The Tan Company, a growing franchise of salons, is moving into the ground floor space of the Travellers building at 831 Mass. Fans of the longtime travel agency of Travellers don’t have anything to worry about though. The agency is remaining open, but has moved all its operations to the second floor to make way for the new tanning salon.
“We think it is going to be the perfect type of business for the college town,” said Kent Houk of Travellers.
Houk said The Tan Company will be owned by a franchisee that also operates a store in the Kansas City area. The franchise started in St. Louis in the mid-1990s and now has about 70 locations in 13 states.
Of course, Houk is still open to helping you get a tan the old-fashioned way. A couple of tickets to the Caribbean usually does the trick.
• If you are having trouble finding your favorite stores in Downtown Lawrence, please share whatever you’re drinking with my wife. No seriously, help may be on the way. Downtown Lawrence Inc. has filed plans with City Hall to build an 8-foot-tall kiosk near the corner of Ninth and Mass. in front of the US Bank Tower. On one side the kiosk will have a map of downtown and a list of all businesses in the downtown district. No, you don’t have to be a member of Downtown Lawrence Inc. to be listed, although those businesses will be highlighted in bold font. On the other side of the kiosk will be an area where businesses can pay a small fee to post flyers and other advertisements. The fee will be used to help DLI maintain the kiosk. The project is getting a big assist from one of the downtown’s bigger developers. Downtown Lawrence Inc. director Cathy Hamilton approached Lawrence developer Doug Compton about using some of the left over brick he had on his multi-story building project at 901 N.H. for the kiosk. Compton told Hamilton that he could do better than that. He said he would have his construction company build the kiosk. Then he talked Lawrence-based Treanor Architects into designing the kiosk. The project still has to win approval from the Historic Resources folks at City Hall, but Hamilton hopes there will be a warm stretch this winter during which the project can be built.
• The holidays are nearing, so it is that time of year again. And no, I’m not talking about that time period when my wife wears the magnetic strip off our credit cards. (That started happening weeks ago.) Instead I’m talking about the time of year when the City Commission decides on whether to approve city bonuses — wait, scratch that — I mean longevity payments to city employees. Historically, the city in November decides whether to give a special, end-of-the-year paycheck to city employees who have five or more years of continuous full-time employment with the city. Commissioners will discuss that issue at their Tuesday evening meeting. City staff members are proposing that the program once again be funded, and at the same rate as in previous years. The proposed rate is $48 per year. So for an employee with 10 years of service, that means $480, before taxes. The city is estimating that the longevity payments will total a little more that $400,000 this year. That’s about 3.5 percent more than the city spent on the program last year. Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of city employees who have five or more years of service with the city is growing. In 2006, that number was 533. Today, it is 583.
There is no reason to believe that commissioners won’t approve the longevity payment on Tuesday. Commissioners have funded the payment through the depths of the recession, and the city’s budget this year doesn’t seem to be in any worse shape than it has been in past years. In fact, the city has funded the program for well over two decades. I believe that is why a couple of employee groups in the city have objected to my use of the term “bonus” to describe this program in the past. I’ve had city employees tell me that the program has been so consistently funded that they have now come to count on the end-of-year payment. So maybe they have a point there, although the dictionary definition of bonus fits this program pretty well. You can call it whatever you want. I know if I were city employee and I received the payment, I know what my wife would call it: Hers.