More and more, it appears the policy of Lawrence city officials and city commissioners is to figure out ways to spend rather than to conserve money or at least to spend more than what might be necessary to attain the same results.
First came the $18 million library expansion at a time when library usage and design is undergoing major changes throughout the country. On top of the $18 million likely will be the cost for a temporary library annex for an estimated two years while the current facility is expanded and renovated.
Next came the proposed massive recreation project at the northwest corner of the city. No specific cost figures have been attached to the center, but it will be a major expense and will have a significant impact on downtown Lawrence.
About the same time, city officials announced they needed a new, larger police station plus additional officers. The estimated cost of the station ranges from $24 million to $30 million, although there are buildings, such as the vacated Sears store, that could be remodeled, renovated and converted into a fine police station with a large parking lot at a significantly lower cost than a new building. But why do something at a lower cost when taxpayers can be tagged with the added expense?
A few days ago, city officials suggested a tax or assessment be placed on downtown property owners to pay for another deck on the parking garage to be built adjacent to the new library.
It’s great news that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has approved the route to complete the South Lawrence Trafficway, but that project will involve substantial expense for the city such as work to connect Bob Billings Parkway to the trafficway and other similar projects on the road’s eastern leg.
Although not an immediate need, city officials will be working on plans for a new sewer treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River, at a cost of up to $50 million.
Another project will be the development of the 400-plus acres at the former Farmland Industries site on the city’s east side.
It would seem Lawrence officials should be acutely aware and sensitive to the growing number of cities across the country that find themselves in serious financial condition due to unwise spending and shortsighted bargaining with municipal employees for wage and fringe benefits. Some of these cities are facing bankruptcy, and knowledgeable observers suggest far more municipalities may consider a similar strategy to address their financial crises.
It is understandable that Lawrence city officials and residents want the best for the city, but, at the same time, with Lawrence showing one of the slowest growth rates among the state’s larger cities and with few prospects for new major retailers or manufacturing plants or other projects that would increase the city’s tax revenues, it would seem prudent for city officials to be more careful in giving almost automatic approval to major expenditures and/or commitments for city funding.
At what time do these officials think it might be wise to ask local residents, taxpayers, for their approval to raise taxes to pay for the numerous costly projects on the table?