Archive for Friday, July 27, 2012

Town Talk: Douglas County clerk to issue voter photo ID cards; details on possible Self donation to recreation center; city to present rare ‘key to the city’; weekly land transfers

July 27, 2012


News and notes from around town:

• Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew has announced this morning that his office will begin issuing special voter identification cards in response to concerns that a new state voter ID law may make it difficult for some people to vote.

Shew’s office has set up a system to produce valid photo identification cards so people do not have to go through the states’ Division of Motor Vehicles, which also issues a free identification card but has seen its offices plagued by long lines recently.

Shew said the card available from the Douglas County Clerk’s office will be available to any registered voter in Douglas County who does not already have a valid photo identification, such as a driver’s license.

People seeking a free photo ID card will have to provide one of the various forms of “residency documents” spelled in federal law. Those can include a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, payroll check or other government document that shows a name and address.

The Douglas County Voter ID will be available at the County Clerk’s office at 11th and Massachusetts, but Shew said the system also is designed to be mobile. That will allow his office to go to nursing homes and other group living environments where residents may not be able to travel to the clerk’s office easily.

Shew’s office will begin issuing the cards on Monday. The state’s primary election is set for Aug. 7.

• There has been a lot of talk recently about a proposed recreation complex in northwest Lawrence, but one topic that hasn’t gotten as much talk lately is whether KU basketball coach Bill Self’s foundation is still planning to make a donation to the project.

Well, city officials tell me that there are still good signs that Self’s Assists Foundation is interested in making a significant donation to the project, perhaps $1 million or more.

But it now appears any donation from Self’s foundation is not scheduled to go to the city, but rather to a non-profit foundation established by Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel and his family. Fritzel long has been identified as a key private partner in bringing this recreation complex to fruition.

City Manager David Corliss told me the current thinking is that any donation from the Assists Foundation would be channeled to Fritzel’s foundation to offset the significant donation his family is making toward the project.

As way of a reminder, what Fritzel has proposed is to carry the financing costs of the recreation center. It gets a little complicated but here is how that works: The city will pay Fritzel’s foundation $1.2 million a year over a 20 year period. At the end of the 20-year period, the city will own the 172,000 square foot recreation center/fieldhouse.

If the city were to take that same $1.2 million a year and try to build a recreation center on its own, it could likely build about a $16 million building. You might say, but, $1.2 million multiplied by 20 is $24 million. To which, city officials would say: You don’t know bankers.

In order for the city to build this size of project on its own, it would have go into debt. Based on current interest rates, it is estimated that $16 million of the city’s $24 million worth of payments could be devoted to principal, while the remaining $8 million would go to interest and bond issuance costs. Thus, a $16 million building is the tops the city could do.

Under the proposed scenario, Fritzel would take out the debt to build the project. The city would pay Fritzel back through a lease-purchase agreement: The $1.2 million a year for 20 years.

At this point, you may be scratching your head as you try to figure out what the advantage is to the city in this deal. Either way, the city is paying $24 million.

The advantage is the city believes it is going to get a building that is worth more than $16 million. The city’s mantra throughout has been this partnership will allow the city to get a building that is bigger and better than what the city could build on its own. Right now, that is just a belief, but the city is working to attach hard numbers to the idea.

John Wilkins, an architect with GouldEvans who has been hired by the city, told me he is confident the building will have a construction value above $16 million. I expect he’ll have a more specific number to present to city commissioners by their Aug. 7 meeting.

That number will be a key one in evaluating how good of a deal this public-private partnership is for the city. Basically the difference between that number and $16 million is the donation Fritzel is making to the project. Now that equation likely will include factoring in the value of any donation from Self that will go to Fritzel’s foundation.

It also will be interesting to see if there are other revenue opportunities that will go to Fritzel rather than the city. The one I have heard mentioned most often is naming rights. Will the name of the center be sold? What about naming of individual courts or rooms in the center? Where does that revenue go? I don’t know the answer to those yet.

But one question that has been floating out there seems to be getting cleared up. Some people expressed nervousness about whether the city actually would be getting a good deal on this project, given that Fritzel’s main business is in construction. It had been assumed that Fritzel’s construction company would be the general contractor on this project.

It appears that is no longer the case. Corliss and Fritzel both told me that Fritzel’s company won’t build the project. Instead, the city and Fritzel’s foundation will mutually agree on a builder for the project.

Commissioners will next meet about the project on Aug. 7. That meeting also should include a report from a consultant who is working to calculate the potential economic impact the center could have on the community. I don’t expect any final action to be taken at the Aug. 7 meeting, but all signs are indicating commissioners remain very positive about the project.

• File this away in the category of something I haven’t seen before in my nearly 18 years of covering Lawrence City Hall: The city is giving an individual a “key to the city.”

The lucky recipient is Dimitra Pitsikou, a Greek citizen who has been instrumental in fostering a Sister Cities relationship between Iniades Greece and Lawrence.

As we previously reported, a delegation from Lawrence — including Mayor Bob Schumm and Commissioner Mike Dever — are in Iniades this week to recognize the Sister Cities event. (In case you are worried, the delegation is paying its own way.)

I asked Corliss, who has been in Lawrence City Hall longer than I have, whether he ever remembers a key to the city being given before. He doesn’t, so it appear Pitsikou will have quite a collectible now.

• File this under the category of another week, another set of land transfers from the Douglas County Register of Deeds office. Nothing too much of note here, other than the city of Lawrence has finalized its purchase of a industrial building at 1050 E. 11th Street from Bo Killough. The city plans to use the building to replace the smaller parks and recreation shop building at 11th and Haskell that was lost to a fire earlier this year. The city had insurance proceeds to help cover the $394,250 purchase price of the building.

Click here to see the full list of land transfers for the week ending July 23.


irvan moore 3 years ago

so in plain english the donation the city was going to get that made it necessary to hurry the project because they might decide to danate elsewhere isn't going to the city?

gccs14r 3 years ago

Maybe the city should save up for the rec center and pay cash for it.

somebodynew 3 years ago

Thank you again, Jamie Shew !!! Here is an elected official going above and beyond what is "required" to do and is actually finding ways to help those he serves.

Shame (but not surprising) the guy from the State couldn't do anything like this, since he was the one who pushed all this thru in a hurry even though he was warned the DMV system wasn't ready.

Way to go Jamie !!!!

classclown 3 years ago

How will Jamie Shrew know that the person he is giving a photo ID to is really the person named and not a deceased relative? Or a neighbor that the person seeking the ID knows will not bother to vote?

Just curious.

somebodynew 3 years ago

classclown - "People seeking a free photo ID card will have to provide one of the various forms of “residency documents” spelled in federal law."

It seems to me his office will be checking the documents the law requires, he is just making it a whole lot more convienent for people. I know that is a foreign concept for a government agency, but it does sound like he is just trying to help - not circumvent any requirements.

But yes, what you say could happen, but then it could happen at any place providing the ID cards. Which maybe points out a fallacy in the law itself ??

classclown 3 years ago

City Manager David Corliss told me the current thinking is that any donation from the Assists Foundation would be channeled to Fritzel’s foundation to offset the significant donation his family is making toward the project.

As way of a reminder, what Fritzel has proposed is to carry the financing costs of the recreation center. It gets a little complicated but here is how that works: The city will pay Fritzel’s foundation $1.2 million a year over a 20 year period. At the end of the 20-year period, the city will own the 172,000 square foot recreation center/fieldhouse.


If you're expecting to get payed back, it's not a donation.

Chad Lawhorn 3 years ago

If you read a little further in the article, I note that the city now says Fritzel's company won't be the contractor for the building. It will be a contractor mutually agreed upon by the city and Fritzel.

Bigdog66046 3 years ago

was at the DMV today around noon. I was in and finished within 20 minutes. No major lines, so no problems!

somebodynew 3 years ago

I don't think they were paying for everything, but maybe doing the maintenance. Keep in mind this article is talking about Bill Self's Foundation - NOT KU itself. Two different groups.

Chad Lawhorn 3 years ago

KU will pay for the construction and maintenance of the track and field stadium and the soccer stadium, which they will own. (The city will own the ground those facilities sit upon.) The recreation/fieldhouse facility is owned by the city. KU doesn't pay anything for it.

flyin_squirrel 3 years ago

I am not sure on this but I don't think it is about loan terms but rather the amount of debt the city has on its books. By getting Fritzel to get the loan, it will not show up on the city's books even though they are making payments on it.

Someone correct me if I am wrong, but the city's current financial rating will fall if their debt goes over a certain percentage (compared to the taxes it collects). It is a way for them to have the project proceed without having it appear on their balance sheet.

Chad Lawhorn 3 years ago

When I have posed that question, the answer has been that Thomas doesn't expect to get a better interest rate than the city does. None of this makes sense for the city, unless the construction cost of the building as proposed is more than the $16 million the city says it could afford to do on its own. The city believes that will be the case, but we haven't yet seen that number. I suspect the city will have a good estimate of the construction cost of the building come Aug. 7. As far as why Thomas wants to do this, he hasn't yet agreed to go on the record with me about his motivation. But what I've been told is that he simply wants to make a donation to the community. Think of the donation this way: For $24 million the city would get a building that costs $16 million to construct. (The other $8 million is interest costs.) But with Fritzel's proposal the city is going to get a $16 million building plus $X that with interest costs will cost $24 million plus $X. We don't know the value of the $X yet, but Fritzel will donate the $X to the cause. Now, it appears that donation could be offset some by donations from other groups, such as Self's foundation. It is complicated, so I hope that helps.

stacyfraga 3 years ago

Wonder how donors to Bill Self’s Assists Foundation feel about the channeling of their donation funds to Self’s friend Thomas Fritzel’s Foundation.

flyin_squirrel 3 years ago

Can I use this ID card to get into bars or buy liquor? Since it is a legal ID issued by the state, I would think so...

pace 2 years, 12 months ago

It would be a legal ID for voting, issued by the County. If you are referring to a different story, it was not clear from your odd remark.

Patricia Davis 3 years ago

Let Fritzel assume the risk and make the profit and leave us taxpayers out of it. Certainly hope a law suit erupts from this pile of horse manure.

pace 3 years ago

I am impressed that Jamie Shew has stepped up to the plate to protect the voters. Thrilled there is this alternative. Will the "county" Voter ID card comply with the legal language spelled out in Kobach's law? When will this program start? I would rather see effort to protect our vote rather than government effort to depress voting.

pace 3 years ago

too bad Fritzel is soliciting "donation" to beef up his "partnership". I give to charities, ones I know, not developers. I have nothing against development, but plenty against welfare for the rich, now we are suppose to donate as well as watch our tax money go toward their dreams.

stacyfraga 2 years, 12 months ago

Self’s Assists Foundation donors listed as “Friends of Assists” Thomas Fritzel, Andy Fritzel, Tim Fritzel, and Gene Fritzel Construction may agree it’s a good use of the Assists funds.

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