Archive for Monday, June 18, 2012

Town Talk: Police Dept. needs total $42M and likely would require both sales and property tax increases; new report warns of homeless problems downtown once shelter leaves; tennis talk deferred

June 18, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• When it comes to shoring up the city’s police force and building a new headquarters for the department, it now looks like it will take both a sales tax and a property tax increase to get the job done.

At least that is a scenario being discussed at City Hall currently. City staff members have a funding scenario that would provide money for both a $30 million police headquarters building and to add 46 police officer positions over the next four years.

The city is now estimating it will take $42.1 million over a four-year period to shore up the Police Department. It now appears it will be difficult for the city to fund the police department facility through property taxes without the city violating its own debt policy that says per capita general obligation debt should not exceed $1,100 per person.

Instead, city staff members have put together a scenario that would create a new, temporary 1 percent sales tax plus raise property taxes to fund the build the facility and add the new police officers.

The sales tax would be a full 1 percent and would last for 14 months. Such a tax would generate about $32 million, the city currently estimates. In addition, the city would phase in a property tax increase of 4.7 mills over the next four years. While the sales tax increase would sunset, I don’t believe the property tax increase would.

An increase of 4.7 mills would amount to a $108 increase per year in taxes for a $200,000 home. I’ve seen recent city commissioners nearly sweat blood over property tax increases that amount to a few dollars a year, so this type of increase likely would involve a lot of hand-wringing.

City commissioners are scheduled to talk about all of this at a Tuesday afternoon study session. It will be interesting to see if a sales tax and property tax increase causes the Police Department project to get dropped quicker than a hot potato.

It also will be interesting to see if the Police Department needs get pitted against the proposed northwest Lawrence recreation center complex, which has strong momentum with commission currently. Recently, some city commissioners — the mayor in particular — have been talking about how the sales tax that would be used to pay for the recreation center must be used for recreation purposes.

Technically, that is not correct. City Manager David Corliss wrote the ballot language voters approved to create the 1 percent countywide sales tax back in the 1990s. The language was written in such a way that it can be used for any legitimate governmental purpose.

Now, a real argument can be made that the city has an unwritten contract with the voters that a lot of the money from the sales tax should be used for recreation projects. But I covered that election back in the 1990s, and the talk wasn’t all about recreation. In fact, the city used a portion of its share of the sales tax to help pay for the Community Health Building that houses the Health Department, Bert Nash and other agencies. In fact, one of the big reasons the city has some sales tax money it potentially can devote to a recreation center is because it is retiring the debt it took out for the Community Health Building.

• Well, let’s go for the trifecta of issues that make message board folks whine and moan — property tax increases, sales tax increases, and a homeless shelter issue.

A new City Hall report estimates there will be up to 100 homeless individuals and families who remain in Downtown Lawrence — and perhaps crowd existing public places — when the Lawrence Community Shelter moves to its new eastern Lawrence location later this year.

And the report by the city’s Homeless Issues Advisory Committee suggest the city begin having serious discussions about ensuring some core services remain downtown, such as restrooms, meal sites, laundry facilities, and communication services like telephones and Internet access.

The concern is that not only is the Lawrence Community Shelter moving its homeless shelter out of downtown, but it also will be ending its “drop-in center” services for the downtown.

In addition to the people who spend the night at the homeless shelter, the facility also provides a place for people to take care of some basic services during the day, or simply get out of the elements. Those services currently are available to people regardless of whether they are sleeping at the facility.

The new homeless shelter — which will be located next to the Douglas County Jail in far eastern Lawrence — won’t operate in such a manner. The new shelter, it is my understanding, will have stricter rules on who can be in the facility during the day. Specifically, the shelter will be limited to those people who are overnight guests who are receiving case management services from the shelter and are on a formal plan to exit homelessness.

There are certainly many people who use the shelter’s current drop-in center who aren’t part of such formal programs. The report speculates those folks will remain in Downtown Lawrence once the shelter moves. There also are other homeless individuals, the report suggests, who simply won’t want to be that far away from the downtown area. They also are expected to stay long after the shelter moves.

A third group to keep an eye on is homeless families. Members of the advisory committee said they’ve also heard members of homeless families may be reluctant to go to the new shelter because they don’t want their children sleeping in an emergency shelter situation. I know leaders of the Lawrence Community Shelter do want to serve the homeless families, and are designing the new facility to have separate spaces for families.

Regardless, the advisory committee says it has information suggesting homeless families are going to be a part of the downtown landscape during the days. The report notes the Family Promise organization during a 30-day period this spring received requests for housing from 40 different families.

The advisory board has begun discussing the issues with groups that may be impacted the most by the closing of the drop-in center. Specifically, board members have had discussions with leaders of the Lawrence Public Library and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which operates the community building. The Community Building, with its public shower facilities, and the library already have proven to be gathering places for the homeless, but the report suggests the numbers may increase once the drop-in center service is discontinued downtown.

This issue of what will happen downtown once the shelter leaves isn’t a new one. We reported on it back in May 2011 when City Commissioner Hugh Carter warned folks the new shelter wouldn’t solve the homeless problem downtown.

“I think some issues definitely could be worse for downtown,” Carter said back then. “The ones causing the biggest issues for downtown are the least likely ones to be at the new shelter. The plan going forward seems to leave them with nowhere to go for large portions of the day.”

But the issue hasn’t received much discussion at the City Commission level since that point. It will be interesting to see how commissioners react now. Moving the homeless out of downtown has been an important issue among several political circles in the community.

If this new report leads to a city discussion about creating some sort of downtown replacement for the drop-in center, there likely will be some downtown leaders dismayed.

Commissioners are scheduled to receive the report at their Tuesday evening meeting, but they aren’t scheduled to take any action on the issue.

• Speaking of not taking action, we surely must be talking of lights for Lawrence tennis courts. The city has struggled for years to come up with a plan to provide lighted tennis courts near Lawrence High, to replace the old Lawrence Tennis Center that was lost to new athletic field construction at the high school.

The project brought many concerns from neighbors, so commissioners ultimately backed off the plan. It appeared a new plan was on track for approval, which involved adding three new tennis courts at Free State High and providing lights for all eight courts.

The plan was up for approval at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, but now the item has been removed from the agenda. It has been deferred “indefinitely.” That’s usually a bad sign at City Hall, but I don’t have the details on what has caused this delay. I’ll ask around and try to report back later today on whether this project has simply hit a bump in the road or has fallen into a deep, deep pothole.

The project did come with a significant cost. As proposed, the school district would provide the land for the project, and the city would pick up the construction costs. The costs are estimated at $547,000.

UPDATE: I chatted with Mayor Bob Schumm recently, and he tells me the tennis plan was pulled after some concerns were expressed by Free State High soccer fans. Apparently, the area the school district has identified as an expansion area for the tennis courts is currently used as a warm-up area for some soccer teams.

Schumm tells me the idea of a tennis expansion at Free State may come back up in the future. He said staff members will look at whether is a way to slightly move the proposed expansion and more of the open field available for soccer purposes.


Hooligan_016 5 years, 8 months ago

"Well, let’s go for the trifecta of issues that make message board folks whine and moan — property tax increases, sales tax increases, and a homeless shelter issue."

I love you, Chad.

akuna 5 years, 8 months ago

I thought the trifecta was taxes, homelessness, and bicycles. Those three items tend to provoke the ire of lots of townies.

Catalano 5 years, 8 months ago

Wait! What about roundabouts? LJW needs to do another poll to find out what the trifecta really is!

Robert Schehrer 5 years, 8 months ago

To get around the $1,100 per person debt limit, why not just have a developer build the new police station and rent it back to the city. Isn't this the proposed plan for the new recreation center?

08Champs 5 years, 8 months ago

You shouldn't assume the Selfs don't "spread their wealth around town" - maybe just not in they way YOU would like, but they probably didn't know they needed to run it by you for approval.

Interview the homeless for the skinny about their "plans now and in the future?" Do I need to point out the obvious?

eel 5 years, 8 months ago

Downtown real estate / bussiness taxes have increased almost 50% in the last ten years by my calculations Current Bussiness Property tax for downtown bussiness/buildings is already to high! This cost is passed on to the customer that chooses to go out of town to spend their local money rather than going downtown to spend their hard earned money Downtown is Lawrence, and these cost are slowly killing it. No wonder people are alway complaining about the high prices Having lived here since the 5th grade('79)/ working downtown since '84, I'm militant when it comes to shopping local, but prices are getting out of hand! In the end I will still support local small buisnesses, but I just had to rant about the ever increasing taxes, sales and real estate

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 8 months ago

That happens when people overpay for properties and set rents accordingly high.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

Has we set the record yet for the most money ever spent by one City Commission? These people are out of control.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

they have to be over $100 million by now

-library -TIF giveaways to Compton -Rec Center -Police headquarters -Bowersock -Farmland Industries

Holy Mary, mother of God. What the hell did we elect?

Topple 5 years, 8 months ago

It's Lawrence's own little economic stimulus!

no_thanks 5 years, 8 months ago

The investment in the library will come back to haunt us, as it's useful life is waning (except for those who want to rent CD's and DVD's for free, except that it isn't free as it costs the taxpayers plenty). In a similar vein, I don't understand why a new police headquarters should cost so much. I'm all for expanding our police force and providing a new facility (as I am for giving the library a facelift), but $40MM+ is incomprehensible. Lets hope the City Commission will hold to the compact of not increasing per capita debt.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

How did I forget, $2 million for new trash carts and probably another $10 million for new trash trucks.

Ay Caramba. Who are these people?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 8 months ago

Ah, but Jack, you can customize the new trash carts. I opted for rose red in color and one that you can program to play the music of your choice as you wheel it out to the curb. Worth every penny.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

before Cramwell is done he have spent a quarter of a billion dollars. We have to get rid of this City Commission.

Catalano 5 years, 8 months ago

Doesn't commission races are non-partisan.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 8 months ago

gear up for the police state, coming soon to a city near you.

absolutelyridiculous 5 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm? And you all thought Brownback's plans are detrimental? Seriously folks...this is probably worse than what Sammy's doing.

No. Hell No. Put the For Sale sign in my yard No.

Here on Gilligan's Island!

GUMnNUTS 5 years, 8 months ago

46 more police officer positions. Wow!

Scott Morgan 5 years, 8 months ago

Isn't there a large unused mall area in North Lawrence? Looks like a perfect new police hdqts.

Lathrup 5 years, 8 months ago

What Wilber said! What strikes me is the real lack of need the entire populace has for a multi-million dollor sports center. We do need a good police force.

chzypoof1 5 years, 8 months ago

Homeless shelter issues - DUH

46 police officers - FOR WHAT?? Our population has not increased that much

MORE taxes - When is enough for people to get pissed off?


JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

46 police officer to man the cameras and fly the drones, duh!

James Findley 5 years, 8 months ago

Now why do we need a 32 m dollar police station? Didn't we just give them 200k for new assault rifles? This seems ridiculous to me.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

well why not ask, this City Commission can't spend it fast enough. The police just want their share before it's all gone.

Worst City Commission ever.

hipper_than_hip 5 years, 8 months ago

Actually we just fronted them the money to buy rifles. The rifles are owned by each officer and they payback the city thru a payroll deduction.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

didn't the city buy a tank? Or was that just on the wish list?

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

Forget retirees, Lawrence needs more drug dealers. They're the only ones that can afford the taxes in this looney bin.

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 8 months ago

Legalize drugs and the drug dealers become productive, tax paying citizens. The city wouldn't have to expand the police force in order to support the War On Drugs. End the War On Drugs. We should be reducing the police department's budget...along with other tax-dollar sucking institutions such as the judicial and prison systems. We The People! Should be spending tax dollars on infrastructure and education of our future citizenry. End the War On Drugs now.

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 8 months ago

"They must find it difficult, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority."

Stevi Scrivo Wisdom 5 years, 8 months ago

WOW there are people who cannot eat, people who have nowhere to sleep, people WHO TAXES ARE ALREADY TOO HIGH, and you want to build a 30 million dollar shop for the cops to sit and eat donuts and BS all day, they do not do their jobs they do not need a "newer" station. they are busting people for drugs yet there are still children missing, murders unsolved. You idiots!

James Findley 5 years, 8 months ago

I hear the police station on the west side is only half way filled.. AND FOR SOME REASON THEY WON'T EXPAND INTO THE OTHER HALF OF THE BUILDINGS OFFICES!!! This makes so much sense now. I bet it is so that they can have they're pretty new office. I'm fine with the new police officers but a new building to house them is simply excessive when we have space that isn't being used by them already.

chzypoof1 5 years, 8 months ago

Is there any type of political mechanism in a local government like our s for REPEALING all of them? My family can't afford to pay any more taxes to these morons. We can barely afford to eat/pay for we will pay another 1% of our money to the city. That will put us close to 10% for local taxes!!!!!!!

Come on people...WAKE UP....


JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

according to some of the dolts on this award winning website, you should just become a "businessman" and start slinging drugs. It's their idea of a self made success. Just hope they can find their way to the jury box through the purple haze hovering over them.

chzypoof1 5 years, 8 months ago

Unless I misunderstand the way everything else is done in this town, they don't need your support Cheezeburger. They can just raise our taxes. Come on, it's all for the common good right? Our population growth is stagnant, but we need 46 more cops????


JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

the 46 new officer are for "crowd control" so the city doesn't lose any more population. Duh!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

All examples of how growth industries pass along the costs of growth to taxpayers.

no_thanks 5 years, 8 months ago

The libray and rec center are growth industries?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

No, but the need for public services increases with increased population. But rather than having growth industries chip in along the way as they go about sprawling one way or another, they get corporate welfare to subsidize their profits (very little of which goes towards things like libraries, police stations, sewage treatment plants, etc. etc.)

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 months ago

Great points on the treatment plant and school bond issues. I'm sure we'll also hear about failing "infrastructure". They will top a quarter billion. What's that they say about drunken sailors?

sunchaser 5 years, 8 months ago

Recently my mortgage banker told me to start paying more into my escrow account to cover the taxes. I won't have enough in there come Dec. at the rate this city/county is going!

guppypunkhead 5 years, 8 months ago

Good thing we are enlarging the library, because I would bet that is where a lot of the homeless folks downtown will go instead of the drop-in center. They've got your bathrooms, public phone, internet access, comfy chairs, etc. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but wondering if this is the use the city people imagined when they decided to rebuild the library.

irvan moore 5 years, 8 months ago

i used to love this town but it's not the lawrence of yesterday, remember when you drove down the street and a cop waved to you because they knew you or somebody in your family? I miss Mike, Danny, Don, Steve, Susan, Ted, and yes, i even miss Carrol. thanks to all you guys

Topple 5 years, 8 months ago

I think the majority of military, police and firefighters don't make a lot of money for the work they do. However, that doesn't remove responsibility of those in-charge for excessive spending.

I spent four years in the Air Force and my squadron was reaching year-end for their budgetted funds. They had to use it or lose it, so they filled the building with high-end 40" flat-screen televisions and everyone got executive leather chairs that must have cost $250 a pop. Would hate to not have this money next year, so we better spend it frivilously!

somedude20 5 years, 8 months ago

So the folks at the city had NO idea when they were shoving this library crap down our throats that in a few years the police dept would need a major overhaul? Bullhorse!!!!! Lets count shall we, one new library, one new rec center, one new homeless hotel equals 3 new buildings that are LESS needed and LESS important than a sound police force and their needs. the police protect and keep us safe, the other junk does not but the city officials had no idea that the police would need this? BS, they knew! They decided to get the fun stuff through first because the tax payers would not OK all four things

Patricia Davis 5 years, 8 months ago

Time to revolt.This cram down is coming fast so that when the Brownbackistan tax shift hits the fan, we will already be committed to these generally worthless ideas.

Bill_Slu 5 years, 8 months ago

More cops to arrest the former homeowners that couldn't afford the taxes to support more cops. Makes sense.

Tar and feathers anyone?

Steve Jacob 5 years, 8 months ago

I can hear the commission now, the new rec center will be paid for by sales tax money that was voted on in 1994, and the new sales tax hike for police will just replace the sales tax that is expiring from the state. Crazy!

irvan moore 5 years, 8 months ago

i'd trade the library/parking/cromwell memorial for the police building but i really don't need both

Jake Hess 5 years, 8 months ago

Remember the last "temporary" sales tax increase of summer 2010? You know, the one that raised us to 8.85 percent? It's still here.... and set to expire in 2019. Now they want to pile on an extra 1 percent for 14 months? I don't buy it. Voice your opinon on the proposed police "HQ" and extra 46 officers. We cannot afford it!!!

somedude20 5 years, 8 months ago

You know damn well that the homeless will be stickin to downtown like gum on a sidewalk because there aint no money by the jail. When the homeless chateau was being proposed, everyone and their dead mother said, what a bad idea it was to have it so far away from downtown. First, unless we turn the EmpT into bumT, how will they get back and forth. Second, they will not be able to, um, "make" the kind of money that they are making by being downtown out in the jail. Third, booze...aint none (nun) of dem out by ye ole jail and these cats NEED to get their drink on. To those who helped make this episode of Extreem Bum Makeover, put it on your resume and enjoy that (meaningless) feeling of warmth in the cockles of your heart, cause that is all that we will get

John Hamm 5 years, 8 months ago

Police expenditure - NO Homeless - Did you expect all the homeless to leave downtown? NO What are you gonna do about it? Throw more money at them! Larryville?!

Bigdog66046 5 years, 8 months ago

I think they need to look at the river front mall for the police facility. Not sure on the square footage, But they could secure the lower part of the city owned parking garage there for the department, and have lots of space. and is alot cheaper than $30 million, and use the money saved for better equipment, And even buy abe and jakes if needed. Plus they would be close to downtown for staging on the next final 4 celebration!!

Dan Simons 5 years, 8 months ago

Riverfront, LLC has offered to sell the City of Lawrence the roughly 66,000 square foot building on the west end( next to city hall) of the Riverfront mall. The price is listed at $6 million with existing covered parking. Although I understand that I am not completely objective regarding this location, the City could re-purpose the building for the library and the new police station for less than 20 million plus up fit, all on city owned land.

bornherelongago 5 years, 8 months ago

I like the idea. Interesting that they had the opportunity to purchase a long time ago and didn't seize the day. You could keep all of the bad guys in the basement and have the public access and administrative up top. If you put the library there as well, there wouldn't be any down time during construction. Why hasn't the city looked at this option closer?

Dan Simons 5 years, 8 months ago

I got to believe a combo deal could save 15 or 20 million from the current wish list. That would cover a lot of taxes, plus you could sell the current library to a( hopeful) grocery store and get it on the tax roles. I just think it needs careful thought

William McCauley 5 years, 8 months ago

So Dan,

When are you going to run for a City commission seat?

This is not the first time you have spoke up with smart ideas on how to save the tax payers in town some major coin. You seem like a smart fella with some good ideas and with your name and political connections in this town, I'm pretty sure you could win very easy.

bornherelongago 5 years, 8 months ago

Any site you look at will have some inherent cost issues. What I like about Mr. Simons' proposal is that the city already owns the property, it's right next to City Hall, the city already rents space inside the property, the list goes on. Why wouldn't they take a serious look at it?

irvan moore 5 years, 8 months ago

yep, i'vebeen saying the same thing for the last couple of years, the problem is cromwell wouldn't get his parking garage/memorial/bridge to nowhere/eyesore

formergrocerybagger 5 years, 8 months ago

"The plan going forward seems to leave them with nowhere to go for large portions of the day.”

How about going to work for a large portion of the day?

William McCauley 5 years, 8 months ago

You people totaling up the "free money" give ways @ city hall, forget the 100.000 they gave to the new playhouse on the west side.... also didn't the county hand out 100K to them too?

cabmando 5 years, 8 months ago

Does anyone realize with a sales tax closing in on10PERCENT what that will do to our local economy? I'll tell you it will drive shopping and buying items away from our fair city, period

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 8 months ago

On my way home from the library I decided to go down Massachusetts Street. Between 8th Street an 12th street I encountered three homeless people who were asking for something. The first was a young woman in her early twenties holding a cardboard sign and looking very despondent. My heart went out to her. She said that she is four months pregnant, living in a tent and has to beg for food. Well, no, she doesn't. There is a church that serves breakfast, LINK for lunch or the Salvation Army, she can go to a food pantry, and she qualifies for food stamps and likely for cash since she is pregnant. Did I give her money? Yes. Was I scammed? No, because like Jane Marple I have known someone like her, but I helped her anyway simply because I thought it was the decent thing to do. What she uses the money for is her business. When it went from my hand to hers, it was no longer mine. The other were a pair, sitting on a bench near10th street. One was making noise on a guitar, I won't say playing it. I wish I had the nerve to say, man you play crappy music like that and expect to get paid for it. No. I saw one nod at me and they looked at each other and smiled. I just walked on by. They spoke to me, I just kept walking. I just had time to see guitar boy nod at a woman coming towards us. Sure enough she gave them money.

lunacydetector 5 years, 8 months ago

the 1% sales tax increase from the early 1990's, like '93-'94 sometime, had a sunset clause that was supposed to expire. of course a sitting city commission voted to turn a blind eye on the sunset clause.

never, never, never believe a politician when they say a sales tax will expire.

that 1% was supposed to pay for recreation and police. now, add another 1% to that.

it sounds like the new homeless shelter will remain ineffective dealing with the homeless situation least all the do-gooder liberals in town will feel like 'they' did something to help the homeless - on the backs of the citizens, but of course

Windemere 5 years, 8 months ago

Chad, re the tennis courts at FS high, the item was removed from agenda because people knowledgable about the schools soccer program contacted commissioners to inform them that the site being eyed for new courts has been used frequently for many years as practice space and pre game warmup space for boys and girls soccer. It was also pointed out that the courts at Free State seem to almost never be full.

Frightwig 5 years, 8 months ago

Why should a drop-in center be created for people who have no desire to enter the formal plan to exit homelessness? It would be cruel to enable those with self-destructive lifestyles. Rather than being coddled, they should be encouraged to pick themselves up and regain independence. The message should be firm but simple: Shape up or ship out.

Tomato 5 years, 8 months ago

It sure doesn't seem like the crime rate in Lawrence is rising. Why on earth do we need more police officers and a state of the art facility? You'd think we lived in New York City.

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