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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Police needs

May 20, 2013

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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.

Comments

Charles L Bloss Jr 1 year, 7 months 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.

Orwell 1 year, 7 months 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?

Fatty_McButterpants 1 year, 7 months ago

Orwell, the police don't just sit at the station, waiting for a call to come in. Officers on a shift are assigned a section of the city to patrol while they are on duty. If an emergency arises in that section, the assigned officer responds; therefore, it doesn't matter if the police station is at 11th & Mass. or at Clinton Parkway & Wakarusa.

Orwell 1 year, 7 months ago

True enough, if we're talking about a response requiring only a single patrol car. Anything substantial, though, would require travel time from wherever the bulk of on-duty personnel were congregated at the time – like maybe clear across town.

oldbaldguy 1 year, 7 months ago

how about the Sears building out on Iowa?

Pete_Schweti 1 year, 7 months ago

Heck, it's only about two minutes from the Redbud apartments. The fuel savings alone would justify the renovations.

50YearResident 1 year, 7 months 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?

Pete_Schweti 1 year, 7 months ago

As long as these retards keep voting "yes" for every tax increase (and "no tax increase" bond issue) that appear on the ballot, it's going to remain the go-to solution for budget shortfalls and pork barrel projects.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months 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!!!

Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 months 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.

George Lippencott 1 year, 7 months 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!

thebigspoon 1 year, 7 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.

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