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.”


liberalmorons 5 years, 8 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.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 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.

gbulldog 5 years, 8 months ago

He needs to look at a vaule added tax on all products not made in Lawrence. May conflict with Obama's plan.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Taxpayers are being nickled/dimed to death.

gbulldog 5 years, 8 months ago

All person that work and get an education are suckers. You can earn more money being on government assistance, especially when Obama passes a guranteed income for his supporters, and income you earn from illegal activities. It is very difficult to collect taxes on illegal income!

Lawrenceks 5 years, 8 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!

gbulldog 5 years, 8 months ago

Riley County Did this. Is Manhattan more progressive than Lawrence?

gbulldog 5 years, 8 months ago

Heard at a church presentation that a Pimp with 4 girls makes on the average $60,000 a year. How much do drug dealers make? How much do thieves make? Suggest City start a "poor farm". Then charge fees to those on welfare, that do not want to live at the poor farm. They should be able to afford it!

Terry Sexton 5 years, 8 months ago

because churches are the definitive authorities on average earned incomes in the sex trades.

blindrabbit 5 years, 8 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.

buffalo63 5 years, 8 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?

Keith 5 years, 8 months ago

Same as the library, but nobody gets their name on a plaque if you just add on.

50YearResident 5 years, 8 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)

gbulldog 5 years, 8 months ago

Do permanent residents of Lawrence pay a small portion of the sales tax. I have tolld that KU students and visitors pay a majority.

bad_dog 5 years, 8 months ago

Pass a tax on non-value added posts.

gbulldog 5 years, 8 months ago

Pass a "Horse Pucky" smell tax, especially if it come from a donkey.

JackMcKee 5 years, 8 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.

BigfootHunter 5 years, 8 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???

lunacydetector 5 years, 8 months ago

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

patkindle 5 years, 8 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

Topple 5 years, 8 months ago

I think police should just impound and auction vehicles of drunk drivers in addition to the fees.

AS 5 years, 8 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!

hipper_than_hip 5 years, 8 months ago

Trash burners don't work Les, as they cost more $$ per kilowatt to operate than coal fired generation. Plus they're stinky, they're hard to maintain, and the spew all kinds of nasty things into the air.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 8 months ago

I am so sorry you lost your baby. That is horrifying. With so many drivers on the streets, it is impossible to stop all bad drivers, even the ones that cause injury or death. Your point about the satellite offices is spot on. That just might make a dent.

gbulldog 5 years, 8 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.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 8 months ago

I applaud those Mexicans for working so hard and sending money home to their family. To many times you see people that will not help family and do not understand the connectedness of that quality of family life. They could easily forget them when they get here, but they don't That is love and responsibility for the loved ones. Good for them, I say.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 8 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).

patkindle 5 years, 8 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?

equalaccessprivacy 5 years, 8 months ago

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

begin60 5 years, 8 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.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 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?

purplesage 5 years, 8 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.

Randall Barnes 5 years, 8 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.

William McCauley 5 years, 8 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.

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