Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2012

City mulls ways to fund new police facility

September 8, 2012


Not all the big buildings that the city of Lawrence is thinking about building will be full of fun and games.

While city commissioners are debating whether to proceed with a $24 million northwest Lawrence recreation center, the prospect of a new police headquarters building that could cost up to $30 million is still on the horizon.

Just how far that horizon stretches, however, depends on whom you talk to at City Hall.

On one end of the spectrum is City Commissioner Hugh Carter. Carter said he wants city commissioners to have a serious discussion about placing a special sales tax question in front of voters in early 2013. The goal, Carter said, is to try to get a new sales tax that could fund police, and perhaps economic development functions, on the books at the same time the state is reducing its sales tax by six-tenths of a cent.

The state is scheduled to reduce the sales tax in July 2013, which means Lawrence voters would need to approve a new local sales tax sometime in the first quarter of 2013, if local leaders want the new tax to kick in just as the state’s sales tax is cut.

“As soon as we get done with this recreation center discussion, I want to bring that item up again,” Carter said. “With the changes in the state sales tax, it seems like a natural time to try to get it done.”

On the other end of the spectrum is City Commissioner Mike Dever. He said city leaders may want to slow down on the police headquarters idea, and instead have an even larger discussion about law enforcement. Specifically, he said the community needs to decide whether the Lawrence Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will forever be two separate entities.

“I still think it is reasonable for us to consider some sort of consolidation of emergency services, or at least the idea of the police and Sheriff’s Office being together in one location,” Dever said. “Ultimately, it would be great to have a conversation about how we’re going to provide public safety services in Douglas County before we spend tens of millions of dollars to build a facility that serves only the city.”

Likely smaller

The most certain aspect of the discussion surrounding a new police headquarters building is that city commissioners decided not to put any money in the city’s 2013 budget for the project.

Police department leaders made a strong pitch during the city’s budget session to fund a multi-year plan that would have built a $30 million state-of-the-art police headquarters building and added 46 new police officers over a four-year period. The plan would have required a new sales tax, higher property taxes or a combination of both to fund.

The idea, which would allow the police department to no longer be split between a downtown office and a west Lawrence office, never gained much traction with commissioners. Instead commissioners funded a plan to add three new officers through a slight property tax increase.

City Manager David Corliss said he’s now waiting for further direction from city commissioners on where the police facility’s issue should be ranked in the city’s list of priorities.

But Corliss said he heard enough from commissioners during recent budget study sessions to surmise changes will be required in the plan.

“I still believe the facility is a need at some point, but I don’t think there is strong support for the $30 million solution,” Corliss said. “I think in the future we would need to look at doing something smaller both in size and cost.”

Joint space

One caveat to that thought, however, would be if the city and county try to do a joint project.

City leaders last year approached the county about joining the city in a feasibility study for a joint law enforcement center. County officials chose to not participate in the study.

Dever, though, said that doesn’t mean the issue shouldn’t be discussed.

“Sometimes you have to bring things up more than once,” Dever said.

Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern said his office did not participate in the study because it was clear moving to a new building would create logistical problems for his department.

The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for running the Douglas County Jail on the eastern edge of Lawrence. It also is responsible for providing security for the Douglas County Court system, and for executing all the warrants produced by the court system.

Those duties, McGovern said, requires the department to have offices next to the courts. A new building would mean the Sheriff’s Office would have offices in three buildings.

“Would I love to be in a modern new building with state-of-the-art equipment?” McGovern said. “Sure, but I don’t see how it is going to be efficient for us.”

Dever said he understood those concerns but said a more detailed discussion between the city and the county might produce some solutions.

“I think downtown would be a great location for a new and improved police building, and perhaps that would allow us to house a coordinated, joint facility,” Dever said.

Dever said he didn’t know what downtown locations may work. But he said with the trend of building underground parking in downtown, larger buildings have become more feasible. McGovern said if the city wanted to explore constructing a larger building near the current Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and Massachusetts streets ­— the building does have a large surface parking lot — it should be prepared to undertake an even larger study. He said any such project should take into account the future needs of the Douglas County Court system.

“I think you could look at doing something downtown, but whether that would be the choice or not, I don’t know,” McGovern said. “This is a nice location because it is in the heart of the community. But where you would put a new building, I don’t know.”

Dever said if a solution could be found, he’s confident taxpayers would save money if the departments were located together. He said that even if the two departments didn’t fully consolidate, which likely would be politically difficult, there could be savings on back-office personnel, building maintenance, vehicle maintenance, weapons storage, computer technology and other shared resources.

“Even if you are not sharing officers or dollars, I have to think there are some savings,” Dever said. “I know that it is easy to spend more money than you need to if you don’t have a concerted discussion on how to conserve taxpayer dollars.”

Time to act

Carter, the city commissioner, said he is uncertain whether the city should spend much more time exploring a joint project with the county. He said he thinks the city has had enough discussions with the county to see that there are significant hurdles to a joint facility.

“I understand why some people feel like it is a natural combination, but I think there are some good reasons why it is not likely to happen,” Carter said.

Instead, Carter said he thinks the city has a window of opportunity to create a new sales tax without raising the overall sales tax rate in the city. Carter hasn’t said how large of a sales tax he thinks is needed, but it likely would be less than the .6 of a percent that is set to come off the state’s rate in July.

Earlier this summer, the city estimated a 0.35 percent sales tax for 20 years could fund a police headquarters building and a staff expansion.

“A sales tax is the right way to go,” Carter said. “When it comes to police facilities, everybody should share in supporting that, not just property owners.”

Carter said what he does not want to have happen is for the project to get put on the back burner. He said he’s concerned that could happen because three of the five City Commission positions — including his — are up for re-election in April. Past commissions have been reluctant to introduce major issues just before an election.

“My concern is that if I don’t push this, it will be on the back burner until after the election,” said Carter, who has not yet decided if he’ll seek re-election. “But I plan to push it. We’re here to work year-round.”


TheBigW 1 year, 7 months ago

Seeing how they will find a way to do this regardless what the citizens say or want.... how about building over the top of the parking lot at the law building, that way they get covered parking and nice addition to the current building, move the DA across the street or down to where parks & rec was in the parking G above pepper jaxs.


Randall Barnes 1 year, 7 months ago

start enforcing jay walking. $100.00 per ticket eaisly 100 tickets per day $3,643,000 per year.yes as we all know jay walking is a deadly sport here in lawrence just last week i saw this kid almost walk into the side of a police car and the officer just sat there but then i double park downtown for 2 minutes and get harrassed.


classclown 1 year, 7 months ago

What if they sold their tank?


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

Carter is not real smart. One would lower sales tax to create a better bargain for shoppers. Not these knuckleheads, They are successful at getting people to shop out of town.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

BTW, did you notice in the legal for the new trash carts, the hidden sentene about a $20.00 fee to change the size of your cart. I thought the employees were to provide service. How can a fee be necessary just to get a different gallon cart?

Scam, better than Fritzel and Culture Farm.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

All the money spent on the judicial building with the police in it and one cannot even drive up to near the front door and get a cop or receptionist day or nite. That place is not friendly. Even small po dunk towns have a facility that is more accessible in emergency situations.

And they want more money? To do what with?

How much does Cromwell, Carter, Amyx, Dever and Schumm want each month for each resident? Amount please? The same for Dr. Doll? Weinaug also.


purplesage 1 year, 7 months ago

How about the government learns the lessons the public has been struggling with: you can't have everything your heart desires so get along with what you do have. Government just raises taxes. Have they noticed the fixed incomes where another $50 on the tax bill could be the proverbial backbreaking straw? What about the insatiable desire to just keep on adding to sales taxes? Everyone pays more; it isn't a lot but by golly, it is right close to raising the cost of everything you buy 10% these days. This stuff adds up and the burden is getting too much to bear. Live within your means. It is what we, the people, are trying to do.


Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 months ago

Slow down on a new police headquarters, but speed up on a sports village. Guess that tells us where the city commission's priorities are. Then, to support these priorities, the commission will use an existing sales tax to fund the sports village, but the police headquarters will be put to a vote. If that isn't blatant enough, Commissioner Carter suggests that a new sales tax for the police headquarters could be combined with money for economic development. Now, the commission is claiming that the new sports complex is an economic development opportunity. We did not have to vote on that. With the new sales tax proposal, they are coupling the police facility with economic development. Are they hoping that voters will want the police headquarters enough that they'll approve economic development money too?

There's a lot of fuzzy logic going on here. Do voters need to approve money for economic development or not? Which is more important, a new police facility or a sports complex? Is the commission afraid to have a vote on the sports complex/economic development opportunity? Could the police facility be paid for using the existing sales tax?


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

The 'Coppers' should have peeled off some of Flex's "stimulus" "stash" cash to fortify their Larryville Garrison.

Complex Flex can get Benny to 'digitalize' as much funny 'money' out of thin air as he wants.


begin60 1 year, 7 months ago

My advice to questionably honest and competent, conflict-of-interest Lawrence law enforcement: Get a citizen review board if you really want to invest well in the community.


equalaccessprivacy 1 year, 7 months ago

My opinion of Lawrence and its questionably competent and honest law enforcement personnel: love your crooked neighbors with your crooked heart.


patkindle 1 year, 7 months ago

i wish we could get the city fathers on board with the idea of the old i-70 outlet mall, but that would make too much sense and it wouldnt have enough high profile status for the police dept think of the savings and what else we could really do for the police if we didnt spend all the money onnew facilites?


MacHeath 1 year, 7 months ago

Maybe we could tie the DMV, and treasurers office in there too. That would be handy for everyone. Is there a place close to the DMV that has plenty of parking and office space? Be handy if it was really close to I-70 too. Man, it would be great if a place like that was already built, and mostly unoccupied!


flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

Where does this $30 million dollar number come from? $30 million for a building? The city could buy the Riverfront Mall for probably $6 million, and move all services in there. They are already paying rent for space in the Riverfront Mall. Just the Riverfront parking garage alone would probably cost $3 to $4 million to build today. And the Riverfront mall would also give the city rental income from the hotel, as well as space to grow and it is right in downtown.

For probably less than $15 million, we could have a state of the art City service, Police Department, and City Hall all right next to each other (and blocks from the courthouse).


gbulldog 1 year, 7 months ago

Has any one told you about the Mexican ID card (MCAS). Per Wikipedia, this is not a secure card, but has been used as an ID to wire $18 billion annually from the US to Mexico. I wonder where this money came from? Trace it and tax jt! Maybe taxes could be reduced for legal US citizens.


Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 7 months ago

I would rather have a new police station or many small stations than a new athletic facility.

Since the economic times are hard, there are lots of real estate rentals on the market everywhere in the city. Use some of them, with the real estate owners getting a tax deduction for ultra-cheap renting for satellite police stations.


Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 7 months ago

I say, create satellite offices in different areas of the city, like the fire department does. I really like this idea. I was pregnant years ago, and was driving home from work in the evening. I headed into the 4-way stop as it was my turn, when a truck pulled out in front of me. A collision was narrowly missed. Truck was then in front of me, and it did a hard stop just as we got to rolling along. I remind you, I was 8 months pregnant at the time. Truck did this several times, when I had to make hard stops to miss hitting the truck. I don't know if I was traveling a safe distance or not. I memorized the license plate. After three or more times of this sudden stopping in front of me, I sped up and passed the truck at the next opportunity and to be sure illegally. The truck followed me. Then I headed for the police station, most likely breaking laws along the way. But I was going to where i felt safe. I was NOT going to direct him to my home. When I got within half a block from the police station, the truck disappeared.

We need police stations all over this city. (FYI, I lost that baby.)


Les Blevins 1 year, 7 months ago

One method the city won't mull is paying for this project with savings in tipping fees paid to out-of-state landfill owners, and savings on electric power the city uses, nor on savings for fuel for the city's fleet vehicles such as police cars, city work crew vehicles and city busses. I proposed a one half to one hour meeting with the city commissioners to explain how this is possible with a system I'm offering the city that would be fabricated locally but this meeting proposal has been turned down. Not refused exactly but rather ignored for years. My system is designed to turn a city's liability known as municipal trash to assets such as heat, power and biofuels and could save the city between $750K and $1M per year for each thousand tons of municipal waste processed in the system and I've been told the city of Lawrence last year dumped about 60 thousand tons of waste into the landfill after trucking it about 4 miles to the landfill with three men in each truck riding to and from the city. Go figure...


AS 1 year, 7 months ago

Here's an ideal, get rid of the police that pushes there badges around just for the f??k of it! Then wants to be a smart as? when you tell them okay and all they say after that is now!!!! Give us two minutes please we only move so fast!


patkindle 1 year, 7 months ago

raise all the traffic fines, parking fines, and court costs to a level it will offset the new shack, that way if will be paid for by the folks that use it oh yes, dont forget k10 speeders, no mercy


lunacydetector 1 year, 7 months ago

okay, police $30 million, recreation $24 million.............where is the school district? wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.....


BigfootHunter 1 year, 7 months ago

Lawrence loves taxes. Not sure what they are worried about. Put the tax in whatever form you want it will pass easy.

If the police have adequate facilities to do their job now, and the population of Lawrence is declining, Why do they need a new facility???


JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

How many of the NIMBYs will show up to protest this monumental waste of money? Based on the MT and the Cromwell Memorial Parking Garage I'm guessing not very many. Lawrence, KS loves to waste taxpayer dollars on things with ZERO economic benefit to the town. I'm surprised the place ever grew West of Iowa and got bigger than 20,000 residents.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 7 months ago

Pass a per-character copy/paste tax.


50YearResident 1 year, 7 months ago

Lawrence, where taxes go up and never come back down. (Get those suckers used to paying high taxes and we can keep them doing it) Just because the State is lowering the sales tax is no reason Lawrence has to do it! (Hugh Carter)


buffalo63 1 year, 7 months ago

I seem to remember that the Judicial building was sold as more stories could be added when additional room is required. Was that not the case when done?


blindrabbit 1 year, 7 months ago

Cut that car fleet in half. Idle cars sitting all over the place: South of Courthouse, in 2 parking garages, at the jail, at facility on west 15th, at City Mainentance Facility on east 11th.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

The government peeps want a 'cut' of your lawn mowing money. They want a 'slice' of your pie.

You lawn mowing 'tycoons' reporting all your 'earnings?' I think some money in not being 'reported' to the government peeps. This 'hiding' money that is 'rightfully' the governments money, is "nickle-and-diming" the government peeps to the point that they don't have enough money for their Police Garrison.

You lawn mowers didn't mow that anyway. Someone else built the roads. Some "teacher" did something complex to help you mow.

Pay up Lawn boy.


Lawrenceks 1 year, 7 months ago

I like the idea of the Douglas County Sheriff and Lawrence Police Dept. consolidating. It would save the tax payers a lot of money.

The building the Sheriff's Dept. and Lawrence Police Dept. are in now is not that old. How about we keep the Law Enforcement people in that building and move the District Attorney’s Office and Court rooms out of there and into a new building someplace else. That way the Law Enforcement folks would have a whole another floor to work in!


Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Taxpayers are being nickled/dimed to death.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

"Instead, Carter said he thinks the city has a window of opportunity to create a new sales tax without raising the overall sales tax rate in the city. Carter hasn’t said how large of a sales tax he thinks is needed, but it likely would be less than the .6 of a percent that is set to come off the state’s rate in July. "

This is nonsense. Brownback is recklessly removing this tax rather than fund public schools. Someday when Brownback is gone this tax may come back.

One way to keep the LPD budget contained is to stop encouraging more people to live in Lawrence,Kansas. The more growth the more traffic and crime. This growth in crime is a hidden cost of growth that does not receive any discussion in this context.

Yes crime has increased dramatically since our arrival. Violent crime is certainly on the increase. Continue to use existing resources at 15th and Wakarusa. AND STOP spending money on expensive para military equipment. We do NOT need to be part of the Right Wing shadow government.


liberalmorons 1 year, 7 months ago

Typical city government who want their names on a plaque at the new police station....What a waste of money, how in the world has Lawrence gone this long without a new police station.....I mean seriously are there not better things to not spend money on.........Get a grip you putz how about you all spend your own money and not the peoples for once.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

John Stavros didn't. Need help.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

They just can't.wait to get the Allen Pressroperty at 11th and Mass clear thru to new Hampshire. Then that property comes off the tax rolls. Bail out hill family, bail out fritzel, bail out architects who can't get work elsewhere, bail out schmalberg and moore's by renting space from them. Next Allen press. John Stavros didn't. Need he.


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