Archive for Friday, October 5, 2012

Town Talk: City seeks to ban Chinese lanterns; Iwig Dairy store keeping eye open for new location; Zarco 66 owner deep in ethanol debate; electric car charging station for downtown

October 5, 2012


Subscribe to the Town Talk email edition

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:

• The recent presidential debate has drawn attention to a couple of threats facing America: a large yellow bird on the loose and the excessive borrowing from the Chinese that allows this bird to roam free.

I have a particular interest in the second part (more on that another day), but I am amazed that another Chinese threat to America isn’t receiving tons of headlines: Chinese lanterns.

Surely you are aware of Chinese lanterns. They basically are a miniature, paper version of a hot air balloon, fueled by an open flame that burns inside the paper sack-like contraption.

Or, another way to describe them, is that they are the Chinese Air Force. The U.S. invests in Stealth Bombers, and the Chinese invest in paper lanterns. At least that is what I was convinced of this July 4 as several of them flew over my house, leaving me to worry about whether one would land in my extremely dry weed patch formerly known as a yard.

Evidently, city of Lawrence leaders have become wise to this Chinese plot. Well, maybe they haven’t adopted that exact position, but they are looking to outlaw Chinese lanterns. (They actually call them aerial luminaries, but they commonly are marketed as Chinese lanterns at fireworks stands.)

Fire Chief Mark Bradford has expressed concern that the lanterns are a fire hazard. He notes that the flames on the lanterns can easily burn for 15 minutes and that in dry, windy conditions (also known as summer in Kansas) they create a real fire hazard.

So city commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will be asked to pass an ordinance banning aerial luminaries in the city. Lawrence already has a ban on most fireworks, but aerial luminaries aren’t considered a firework.

According to a city memo, Wichita, Derby, McPherson, Emporia and Kansas City already have bans on the aerial luminaries.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.

• You know what a flaming, flying luminary really could interfere with? Your plans to drink a fresh glass of milk underneath your gazebo that sits atop your roof.

If you are confused, perhaps you haven’t driven through the intersection of 19th and Mass. lately. There is a gazebo atop the roof of the two-story commercial building that houses the Iwig Dairy store.

The gazebo had generated some questions from readers, so I contacted the folks at Iwig. But no, the gazebo doesn’t have anything to do with the Iwig store. Instead, there’s an apartment above the store and the rooftop gazebo belongs to the apartment’s residents.

No, I don’t know if rooftop gazebos are just something you can put up on a multistory building or not. A city official said they were looking into it.

But while we are here, it seemed like a good time to check in on how the unique Iwig Dairy store is doing. The store, which opened in February, may be looking to make some changes, it seems.

Dairy owner Tim Iwig said he has heard concerns about the 19th and Mass. location and, in particular, how difficult it is for motorists to get in and out of the spot.

“People do complain about the location in Lawrence,” Iwig said. “But tell me a better location, and I’ll sure look at it. I’m all ears, because we're open to a move.”

Iwig, though, said small affordable retail space on either Sixth or 23rd streets can be difficult to find, and he previously has expressed concerns about how past attempts at markets in downtown have fared.

The dairy — which milks its herd in nearby Tecumseh — is going through a bit of a transition period. Since the Iwig store opened in February, the company has pulled all of its milk out of Lawrence grocery stores, except for The Merc.

Iwig said he had hoped to keep the milk in the local Hy-Vee stores, but had to drop the stores during the heat of the summer when the production of his 60-head of milking cows slowed down significantly.

Iwig confirmed that the Lawrence retail store will play an awful big part in determining whether the more than 100-year-old family dairy will remain in business for the long haul.

The dairy has a retail store in Topeka that is doing well, but Iwig said he has been surprised that the Lawrence location has not taken off better, given the city’s reputation as a place that loves local food.

The Lawrence store is trying to create a niche as a local foods store, not just a place to buy milk. In addition to the Iwig milk and ice cream, the store also sells Kansas-produced eggs, jams, jellies, salsas, meat and other items.

The company had hoped its location near the new Dillons at 17th and Mass. would be a benefit. The thought was people would do the bulk of their shopping at Dillons and then stop at the Iwig store for some local items. But an employee of the Iwig store said sales had dropped significantly since Dillons opened.

“I don’t want to be negative here, because we’re happy to be in retail in Lawrence,” Iwig said. “I just want more people to come out and see us.”

• Lawrence gasoline station owner Scott Zaremba is getting more attention than either a rooftop gazebo or a flaming balloon these days.

Zaremba this week was quoted in an article in The Wall Street Journal about the growing debate over E-15 ethanol. As we previously reported, the Zarco 66 station at 1500 E. 23rd St. in July became the first station in the country to begin selling the new E15 blend of gasoline.

The gasoline has 15 percent ethanol, which is more than the 10 percent ethanol levels found in most gasoline. The EPA in June approved the E15 ethanol for use in all light duty-vehicles manufactured since 2001.

But as The Wall Street Journal article emphasizes, there is quite a disagreement in the gasoline industry about whether convenience stores should start selling the E15 product.

Even though the EPA has approved the fuel for use in vehicles made in 2001 or later, the auto manufacturers have not yet said that is a good idea. Ford and General Motors, according to the article, have said E15 is safe for their 2013 fleets, but they haven’t recommended it for earlier models.

The EPA, according to the article, has conceded E15 “may be more corrosive than other fuels and emits a hotter exhaust, which could cause leaks or increased wear in vehicles that weren’t designed to handle it.”

But Zaremba told me that E15 now makes up 20 percent of his stations’ fuel sales, and he hasn’t had a customer report a problem yet.

He said there are two factors in play about why people are raising a concern over a vehicle performance. One is the auto manufacturers are trying to give themselves another piece of legal cover for the multitude of lawsuits they face every day related to the performance of their vehicles.

But the second factor, Zaremba believes, is Big Oil. The big oil companies don’t want to see more ethanol used, he said, because it would mean less use of their product.

“We’re talking about very big business here,” Zaremba said. “If the oil companies could delay this from taking off for even just another year, think how much that would mean in terms of dollars to them.”

Zaremba is now selling the E15 in eight stations, including all the Zarco stations in Lawrence, Ottawa and Olathe. He said the fact the feedstock for ethanol — generally corn — is produced locally is a big selling point for him.

“If we can have a transportation economy that is produced locally, I don’t know if there is anything better that we can do than that,” Zaremba said.

The Wall Street Journal article, though, reports the effort is moving pretty slowly. Most of the major convenience store operators the Journal chatted with don’t have plans to add the E15 fuel.

Zaremba, though, said he think attitudes eventually will change.

“Everybody thought the world was going to end when E10 fuel was introduced, and it didn’t,” Zaremba said.

• If ethanol isn’t your preferred flavor of alternative fuel, maybe electric powered cars are.

The city of Lawrence is set to apply for a grant to install a new electric car charging station in one of the city parking garages downtown.

The city will have to pick up the $3,000 in installation costs, but a grant program is offering to give the city a charging station for free.

If the city wins the grant, the device will be installed either in the Riverfront garage near City Hall, the Ninth and New Hampshire Parking Garage or the new parking garage that will be built next to the Public Library.

If approved, the charging station will be installed by the end of 2013.


5 years, 4 months ago

Bring the iwig store down to 9th and delaware and Olde East Lawrence, our neighborhood would love to have you!

EJ Mulligan 5 years, 4 months ago

Love this idea, but I don't think they have the cash flow to think any bigger than they are right now. You should bring a coalition together to make this happen. Pendleton's? Cottin's?

gccs14r 5 years, 4 months ago

With all the different ethanol blends available, it would make more sense for fuel stations to have a separate ethanol tank and have it blended at the nozzle. Select what you want (anything from E0 to E100), and the dispenser adjusts the blend of what comes out of the nozzle. No more getting a couple of gallons of the wrong stuff in a motorcycle or lawnmower, either.

gccs14r 5 years, 4 months ago

So how is use of the charging station going to be regulated? It wouldn't be fair for someone to be able to monopolize the charger all day every day. Maybe implement a 2-hour parking/charge limit (with a visible timer) so other folks can use the charger if they need to and will know when it's going to be available.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 4 months ago

A few years ago, in late 2001, I lived in Moreno Valley, California for a while. The shopping mall had an electric vehicle charging station that would accommodate three or four electric cars. I'm sure they got a subsidy for it somehow.

I don't think there was any cost to use it, and apparently there was never any problem regulating its usage, because I never saw a single electric vehicle being charged there.

The only electric vehicle I ever saw while I was out there was a Honda EV Plus, which was a rather boxy thing which appeared quite roomy. I saw it in the Walmart parking lot two or three times, and it was being driven by an older lady that appeared to be quite proud to be seen driving a Honda EV Plus around in the Walmart parking lot.

I had to look it up, of course. There were only about 340 Honda EV Plus' leased out at a lease price of $455 per month, and at the end of the leases they were all recalled and scrapped. No wonder she was so proud to be seen driving a Honda EV Plus! It was a very expensive vehicle to lease.

So, if my experience is at all indicative of how the charging station is going to be used, the situation will be that the taxpayers will pay for something that will rarely, if ever, be used, and electric vehicles will continue to be very unusual sights on the roads.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 4 months ago

Have you ever heard of change happening? I remember when the first hand held scientific calculators came out at $400 a pop, and our family sprang for it because it made high school math classes so much easier. Now you can get that kind of calculator practically free, and of course when my kids had to get calculators, they were graphing ones that now cost less than 100 bucks.

Heck, look at computers, DVDs, cell phones, thermostats, and yes, cars. Talk to a mechanic in the armed services about servicing diesel trucks and electric delivery vehicles, and you'll quickly see how EVs have all the elements for catching on quickly as soon as all the pieces come together, which may well be sooner than you think.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 4 months ago

1920 Milburn

1920 Milburn by Ron Holzwarth

I learned something just now! After you have posted a photograph, you cannot change the caption on it! I posted "1020" instead of "1920", and when I tried to edit, I discovered that it could not be done!

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 4 months ago

Things do change, for sure! Have you ever taken a look at the electric car in the Watkins Community Museum of History on Massachusetts Street? I've attached a photograph of the 1920 Milburn. That change has been a long time in coming!

GM's Volt makes a lot of sense to me, but I have a friend who thinks they make no sense at all, due to the very high cost of production of the batteries and the difficulty of recycling the materials used in the batteries when their effective life cycle is complete. I was just reading about the Volt a couple days ago. When all the costs are included, the vehicle costs something like $76,000 to produce before all the subsidies, and is a virtual twin to the Chevrolet Cruze, which is a gasoline vehicle that sells for something like $30,000.

My claim has always been that the limitation is the batteries, and that is going to be the case until the plates of the batteries can be produced at the molecular level.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

I believe the 23rd Street Hy-Vee charging stations take credit cards. I'm sure there is some sort of limit on time. Perhaps Town Talk should ask them ;)

kernal 5 years, 4 months ago

Until today, I thought Iwigs only carried dairy products. Now that I know there is more, I'll defintely check it out!

geekin_topekan 5 years, 4 months ago

Chinese lanterns don't start fires, people start fires.

When Chinese lanterns are outlawed, only outlaws will have Chinese lanterns.

The west wasn't won with a registered Chinese lantern.

You can my Chinese lantern, when you pry it from my could dead fingers.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 4 months ago

In Mother Russia, Chinese lanterns fire YOU.

EJ Mulligan 5 years, 4 months ago

Iwigs, thank you for listening (after 8 months) that your location is good, but your building and parking lot are TERRIBLE to get in and out of. How about the place across the street that has parking in the back? East/central Lawrence will support you better if you can find a location that's not such a hassle.

EJ Mulligan 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and open on Sundays, for goodness sakes. Half the town does all their grocery shopping on Sundays, and it would be nice to go to Dillon's and pop in for milk on the way home.

Erinn Barroso 5 years, 4 months ago

Natural Grocers also continues to carry Iwig. And I don't mind the parking as much as everyone here appears to.

paulveer 5 years, 4 months ago

So will the charging station downtown be metered or will the city supply electricity at no charge?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't think there was any charge for a charge in California a few years ago! See my posting above.

But, the mall might have had the charging station installed in an unsuccessful attempt to bring in more customers.

Although, there might have been a tax subsidy for that charging station at the mall in Moreno Valley, California.

Run4More 5 years, 4 months ago

Anyone know? What is going in on the SW corner of K-10 and O'Connell Rd? On my commute to work I see a sign out there now about a project being financed by a lender.

classclown 5 years, 4 months ago

Being in Lawrence is like being catholic. If it's fun, it's a sin. Therefore it should be banned.

classclown 5 years, 4 months ago

I thought iwigs are those things that grow in your ears.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

IWIG does offer a number of local products including some produce and Central Soy Tofu.

melott 5 years, 4 months ago

I won't be buying any more Zarco gas. Lower gas mileage with ethanol, chance of damage to my engine.

imastinker 5 years, 4 months ago

25% seems extreme. Ethanol has about 70% the BTU content of gasoline, so a blended mix will make most cars off a MPG or two. The real problem is what it does when it sits. Let it sit for six months and it's turned urine color or darker, and it doesn't smell much better either. It's hydrophilic, which means it pulls moisture and water vapor into it. Bring enough into solution and the water will drop out.

Anyone who says it doesn't hurt anything has never had the luxury of having to rebuild the boat carburetor on vacation. This stuff doesn't happen to gasoline.

Cars don't generally have problems because they don't sit long enough. Sucks ffor everything else though.

5150 5 years, 4 months ago

sounds like someone has too much time on there hands to drive around and look for stuff to complain about. who care where someone puts a gazebo. and those lanterns fly through the sky filled with hot air untill they BURN OUT... since the tissue part is still filled with hot air after the wic BURNS OUT, by the time it lands in a field or the complaintants weed patch its is completely extinguished. i would say the person complaining is just jealous and probably has never experianced there grace. get a life and fix your own problems and stop making more for others.

Lauren Baruth-Stromberg 5 years, 4 months ago

I love the Iwig store, but I agree the parking lot is pretty difficult. What about an area by Bob Billings and Kasold?? Who knows, I'm not up on the commercial real estate world.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Iwig in the old Joe's Donuts building. Not too big. Not so small. Centrally located, decent parking. Introduce students to some new products not readily available in the bigger box grocery stores.

shotgun 5 years, 4 months ago

Its not the Iwig lot that is the problem, its the weenie drivers in Lawrence.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.