Editorial: Police needs

May 20, 2013


With the ever-contentious Rock Chalk Park recreation center project now past the bidding stage, perhaps next up for serious attention from the Lawrence City Commission will be the proposal for a new police department facility.

Although it’s been overshadowed by the recreation center hullaballoo, the police facility has been in the discussion stages for more than a year. The facility’s price tag is pegged at nearly $30 million, not including acquiring a site, if needed. Adding about 46 officers might push the total cost of addressing the department’s needs to $42 million.

Thursday evening, the department hosted at Free State High School a gathering for graduates of its 21 Citizens Academy classes and presented a compelling case for the new facility.

The staff now is split primarily between the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center at 11th and New Hampshire and the investigation and training center near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. However, the department uses four other locations to house staff and to provide space for various components of its operations.

Representatives from Wilson Estes Police Architects and Treanor Architects Thursday outlined the deficiencies currently facing the department. The space in the JLE center is rented from the county, and there’s growing pressure from county departments and courts that is squeezing the police department out. Plus water leaks and electrical problems in an aging building not designed for today’s needs hinder police operations. Overall, the department’s total space is 52 percent deficient, the architects concluded.

What’s proposed to replace the current facilities is a $29,319,464 building of 103,239 square feet requiring 13.1 acres with more than 300 parking spaces to serve the city until 2032. (Use of multiple facilities, the police and architects said, does not usually become practical until a city’s population hits 150,000 to 250,000 or significant geographical issues are present in a community.)

The architects said they were confident in their cost estimates. They do not foresee a repeat of the city’s recent experiences in which bids came in significantly lower than the predicted cost of projects. In fact, they said, delays could drive prices up as contractors fill their schedules.

Both a sales tax and a property tax increase have been discussed as ways to finance the project, which has competed for attention and dollars with the library, the recreation center and the sewer treatment plant.

But as one person said after the Thursday presentation, “If someone’s breaking into your home, who’re you going to call? The librarian?”

Considering the probable 30 months it will take from authorization to completion of the project, it’s now time for the city to give serious attention to the best, most economical and most practical way to meet the police department’s needs.


thebigspoon 11 months ago

The old Sears building is 80,000 square feet. It is currently being rented on a month to month basis until all of the Brigss automotive construction is completed. That would be a good possibilty as previously mentioned.


George Lippencott 11 months, 1 week ago

This must be of lower priority than a rec center that was not even a glint a year ago. People have been talking about police needs for several years. Somehow I feel our priorities are skewed! Once again I am a sheep to the slaughter. Baa, Baa!


Carol Bowen 11 months, 1 week ago

Too bad Scott McCullough eliminated the GIS analyst position. That person could analyze the variables and tell us where good locations are for one or two police stations.


Richard Heckler 11 months, 1 week ago

Now remember how Lawrence sprawling growth has increased crime thus a demand for more tax dollars. Law enforcement is expensive.

I say bill the real estate industry for this is the source of the increased crime as the city grows recklessly. Won't be long Lawrence will have the same crime rate as Topeka and KCMO metro.

Those those who moved away from crime will need to move again but in the meantime get soaked in a variety of tax increases to battle what some residents tried to leave behind.

Yes CRIME is a not talked about result of large reckless growth.

Grab your wallets!!!


50YearResident 11 months, 1 week ago

"Both a sales tax and a property tax increase have been discussed as ways to finance the project, which has competed for attention and dollars with the library, the recreation center and the sewer treatment plant."

Voting for this is agreeing to both a sales tax increase and a property tax increase. Haven't we reached the bottom of the barrel yet, digging for money to spend on new projects?


Uhjh 11 months, 1 week ago

Independent review period!


oldbaldguy 11 months, 1 week ago

how about the Sears building out on Iowa?


Keith Richards 11 months, 1 week ago

Of course a police architect is going to tell you that we need to spend $30 million for a new facility and another $12 million every single year for more police officers.

Why would the building only have an expected life of less than 20 years? What would be the true cost of this over those 20 years? It would be approaching $300 million dollars ($300,000,000.00)


Orwell 11 months, 1 week ago

Not sure I'm buying the claimed impracticality of multiple locations – certainly not on the subjective recommendations of architects who ordinarily have a vested interest in "more and bigger." Wouldn't multiple locations better support the concept of community policing?

How much would it cost for plumbing & electric work to restore existing JLEC space to adequate status, and what's the objective definition of "deficient," anyway?

Where would the department find 13.1 acres available? That would be almost twice the size of Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. If they'd have to find room for a unified police operation on the edge of town wouldn't that seriously increase response time to reach an emergency at the farthest point?

I don't have the answers but I'd be reluctant to add to the regressive sales tax burden when there may be practical alternatives south of $42 mil. Do we really need to satisfy an edifice complex?


Charles L Bloss Jr 11 months, 1 week ago

I agree. Lawrence has a very good police department. I well remember when Shawnee County renovated a vacant department store into a joint police and sheriff office. It is serving them well, but even that someday will not be enough. I hope if Lawrence builds a new police facility, that future needs will be included. The cost is high, but look at the alternative. I have never minded paying taxes for public service facilities, such as fire, police and medical response. I enjoy living in the country, but as I age I will need medical response to say the least. Money for vital services is always a good investment.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.