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News and notes from around town:
UPDATE: Well, there has been a screw-up. Everything you read here earlier about the Orient/Oh Boy Chicken, you should disregard. As I mentioned, I based my reporting off of an application made for a city drinking establishment license, and come to find out the address published by the city for that license was incorrect. The city's Website listed the location of the business as moving to 2112 W 25th Street, but that was incorrect.
Instead the license for The Orient/Oh Boy Chicken is for 1006 Mass. in the space formerly known as Southern Cuisine. We're not sure how the address ended up wrong on the city Web site that I accessed, but I take full responsibility for steering you in the wrong direction. I feel bad about it and apologize to all involved, especially the business. Town Talk tries to walk a line of being quick and accurate, and I ended up on the wrong side of that line today.
• As far as I know, it is not Oh Boy Chicken time at Lawrence City Hall, but it is Oh Boy Budget time. One of the annual budget chores is deciding how much city funding to award to various social service organizations in town.
There are always more requests than dollars, but this year that’s particularly the case. The Lawrence Community Shelter — the city’s lone homeless shelter — has asked for a significant increase in budgeted funds for 2013 as it moves into its new facility in southeastern Lawrence.
During the 2012 budget process, the shelter received $85,000 in operational funding from the city’s general fund and the special fund that houses liquor tax revenues. (It is called the Special Alcohol Fund, which once led me to bring a brandy snifter to City Hall. I was disappointed.)
For the 2013 budget, the shelter is seeking $149,000 in operational funds, or an increase of about 75 percent. Whether the shelter gets such an increase, though, seems very much in doubt. The city’s Social Service Funding Advisory Board met recently and is recommending the shelter receive $91,000 in operational funding from the general fund and special alcohol fund. That’s an increase of $6,000 instead of the $64,000 the shelter was seeking.
That recommendation will be delivered to city commissioners in early June. Commissioners will have the final say in how much money to include in the 2013 budget.
The request for an increase in shelter funding did not come as a surprise. If you remember, city commissioners in March approved a special $100,000 funding request for the shelter. Leaders of the shelter, at the time, painted a pretty serious picture about the shelter’s financial situation, with one even calling it a crisis.
Shelter board members reported if the shelter didn’t receive the special funding allocation, it would be cash broke for a period of time in 2012 while it was waiting for some other grant checks to arrive in the mail. At that time, shelter leaders alerted city commissioners that they would ask for a significantly larger amount of city funding in 2013 and beyond.
Commissioners approved the special $100,000 request, but didn’t commit to funding the future requests. It will be interesting to see what commissioners do on this one. It could certainly have implications on other social service agencies in town.
City staff members are operating under the assumption the city does not want to increase the total amount of money in the city budget dedicated to social service agencies. The city’s 2012 budget included about $860,000 in funding for social service agencies, and staff members are assuming that will be about the total amount dedicated to those agencies in 2013. That certainly has been the trend for the last several years. The shelter, however, has some strong supporters on the commission, so perhaps this is the year commissioners allow the social service funding pot to grow a bit.
If commissioners don’t grow the funding pot and decide to fund the shelter’s full request anyway, then other social service agencies will see their totals decline. It will be worth watching.
I think some social service agencies ought to prepare for a decline in city funding regardless. City staff members were still preparing the funding recommendation memo, so I haven’t seen the recommended funding totals for each agency yet. But staff members told me funding from the special alcohol fund was particularly tight this year. That likely will mean that agencies that don’t have a direct tie-in to alcohol abuse treatment will see a reduction in funding for 2012. We should find out more about those recommended funding levels in the next few days.
I’m not sure why that Special Alcohol Fund is under such strain. I believe liquor tax revenues have been fairly strong. If anything, the fund should receive an unbudgeted boost in 2012 related to the liquor sales that occurred during the Final Four celebration.
But the city only plans to provide $315,161 in funding to social service agencies from that fund. I did a little checking, and that is actually less than what the city spent from that fund in 2008, when it provided about $400,000 in funding to social service agencies.
The big difference with the fund these days is that the city takes about $250,000 off the top to fund the police department’s school resource officer program, which city officials contend helps prevent alcohol abuse by students.
If you are curious about what social service organizations do seek city funding, here’s a look at their 2013 requests. This first batch are general fund requests, which are funded through property and sales taxes:
— Ballard Community Center: $10,000
— Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence: $148,722
— Douglas County CASA: $25,000
— Health Care Access Pharmacy Program: $33,800
— Bert Nash Homeless Outreach Team: $172,326
— Lawrence Community Shelter Bus Pass Fund: $8,000
— Lawrence Community Shelter Operating Fund: $99,000
— The Salvation Army: $15,000
— Housing & Credit Counseling: $17,100
— Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging: $7,400
— Lawrence Children’s Choir: $14,000
— The Shelter Inc.: $32,000
— Van Go Mobile Arts: $35,000
— Warm Hearts: $6,000
This second batch is funded through the liquor tax revenues the city receives from the state:
— Big Brothers/Big Sisters: $29,500
— Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence: $106,278
— DCCCA: $41,004
— DCCCA First Step House: $27,660
— Four Winds Native Center: $38,500
— GaDugi Safe Center: $4,000
— Headquarters Inc.: $22,500
— Heartland Community Health Center: $58,000
— Lawrence Community Shelter: $50,000
— Van Go Mobile Arts: $44,000
— Willow Domestic Violence Center: $17,000.
• Sometimes the City Commission isn’t asked to grant money, but rather time. That has been the case lately when it comes to old houses that are falling into disrepair.
Last week the City Commission was asked to grant some time to two properties that are under consideration for city demolition. Commissioners ended up granting extra time for both of them, but it appears some commissioners are starting to lose patience.
The first property was 1106 R.I., which has been in the news for it old cache of Packard cars in the yard. Commissioners agreed to allow the property owners to have until mid-July to continue cleaning on the property and to conduct two auctions that are planned.
But the meeting also revealed that the Lawrence Preservation Alliance has made an offer to purchase the property. Details of the offer weren’t revealed, but LPA President Dennis Brown said the intention is to restore the house and the old barn and to use the property for a single-family use, rather than an apartment development. Brown also made it clear that his organization will “vigorously oppose” any plan that calls for the house or the barn to be demolished.
A representative of the Barland family — which owns the property — was at the meeting and said the family was considering offers on the property but had not ruled out keeping the house, which has been vacant since the 1980s.
But Commissioner Aron Cromwell took the somewhat unusual step of announcing that he thinks the property definitely ought to be sold to another party. He expressed frustration at how little had been done to maintain the old home and structures.
“I have no confidence in the ability of this property owner to rehabilitate the property,” Cromwell said during the meeting.
The second property is an early 1900s home at 1313 Haskell. Commissioners also gave 90 days to the owners to show significant progress on rehabilitating the property.
If you remember, the house previously was at the corner of 15th and Haskell and faced demolition in 2005 when a new housing development was planned for the intersection. But the house was spared after a plan was put together to move it down the street. The plan included a rehabilitation of the home, but the owner never pulled that off. Instead, it became a repository for a lot of junk.
In 2010, it looked like the house was destined to be demolished again, but a partnership that included longtime Brook Creek neighborhood advocates James Grauerholz and Michael Almon was formed to rehabilitate the house.
On Tuesday, however, commissioners were told that in the last two years the group has completed only about three of the 15 critical repairs that the city said would show a good faith effort that a rehabilitation of the property was going to occur.
Almon disputed that assessment, but a couple of city commissioners — Cromwell and Hugh Carter, in particular — were not pleased. Both commissioners said they were upset much work on the project had stopped while the group negotiated with a potential buyer. Commissioners said that showed a lack of understanding about how important it was for the property to be repaired as quickly as possible.
“Basically, I feel like the effort has not been made whatsoever to complete these tasks,” Cromwell said. “My confidence on the future of this project is low.”
Commissioners will consider in mid-July whether to order the demolition of the property. If it comes to that, it will be the end of a notable home in Lawrence. The multistory home was built in 1900 by Oliver Hanscom on ground that he homesteaded in 1854 as part of the second group of settlers to arrive in Lawrence.