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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

School board agrees to Haskell Avenue site for tech ed center

September 23, 2013

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The Lawrence school board voted unanimously tonight to locate its new College and Career Center at an industrial site near 31st and Haskell, alongside a new adult job training center being proposed by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

That decision followed a community meeting that was held last week at Lawrence High School where, Superintendent Rick Doll said, those who showed up expressed overwhelming support for the idea.

“The real reason we had the meeting last Monday night was to gauge public opinion on how they would handle the change in site location, and actually that wasn't even discussed,” Doll said. “Most of the conversations were good, lively discussions about programming and governance, what could it look like, what programs should be involved and who's going to do what.”

But officials conceded there are many details that still need to be worked out between the school district and the Chamber about how the combined technical education “campus” would be governed and what additional programs the Chamber plans to offer at its portion of the complex.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Chamber board president Doug Gaumer said after the meeting. “I would think you'd see something with a little more concreteness to it within four to six weeks.”

Changing plans

The school board had originally planned to build a 30,000-square-foot facility for career and technical education on property it already owns near Holcom Park, west of 25th and Iowa. The facility is expected to cost $6.5 million, money that was included in the $92.5 million bond issue that voters approved in April.

Since then, however, local business leaders have urged the district to consider the site at 31st and Haskell, currently owned by HiPer Industries, Inc., where they plan to develop a job training center for adults.

Under the new plan, the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Corporation will acquire the property from HiPer Industries, Inc. That group would then deed over to the school district a portion of the land on the northwest corner of the parcel to the school district for the public school portion of the complex.

Both the school district and the Economic Development Corporation then plan to contract with area community colleges and technical schools to offer courses at the new complex.

The school district has already decided on the programs it plans to offer. They will focus on allied health sciences, computer networking, commercial construction and machine technologies.

Questions remain

But plans for exactly what kinds of programs would be offered at the adult education center still haven't been worked out, and board member Randy Masten said that is a concern to him.

Board member Randy Masten said he still has concerns about the lack of detail in the arrangements between the school district and the adult education center.

“I'm completely in favor of being a good partner,” Masten said. “I'm not worried about it on our side. I'm worried about it on their side because they were very, very non-forthcoming with what they've got planned to actually do in that building.”

Gaumer said the Chamber and Economic Development Corporation haven't yet decided on the types of programming they plan to offer in their adult training center.

“The first step we had to undertake was to secure the property, and we're in the process of doing that,” Gaumer said. “We've been working concurrently with Patrick Kelly (the district's career and technical education director) and Dr. Doll in having preliminary discussions about the governance.”

Doll said all agreements between the school district and the adult education center would come in the form of contracts that the school board would have to approve.

He said the first contract for the transfer of real estate should be ready for board approval within the next couple of weeks. He also said the district still intends to break ground on the new facility next spring so it can be ready to open by the fall of 2015.

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  • Comments

    Richard Heckler 7 months ago

    "Gaumer said. “We've been working concurrently with Patrick Kelly (the district's career and technical education director) and Dr. Doll in having preliminary discussions about the governance.”

    Is there a transcript of this discussion for the taxpayers to review?

    It seems to me some members of the USD 497 BOE should have been sitting in on these discussions. After all they are elected by the people.

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    Richard Heckler 7 months ago

    The bottom line .... careful and elaborate detail is missing.

    The consortium of banks is bailing out an apparent bad real estate deal. There is nothing revealing how the other school will be financed or who will be covering operational expenses. The consequences of helter skelter aimless spending that usually goes unmentioned is local profiteers are draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes.

    The only plan with substance is the original USD 497 BOE project which the taxpayers approved.

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    lunatic 7 months ago

    Nick, Where did you get that the "City" was involved in this? The way I read it the partners are USD497 (The $5.8 or $6.5) no change in amount from the bond issue passed by the voters in Lawrence, and the EDC/Chamber that will raise private funds to purhcase the HiPer building. I was at the public meeting held by the school board and they clearly articualted what the plans were for the USD497 portion of the project. It was also abundantly clear that the co-location was a huge positive for the STUDENTS of USD497. Several of the east side folk applauded the Haskell location for its proximity, as did many of us who live on the west side. Since you (and I) are not the folks who will be putting our private capital into the EDC portion, what difference does it really make to you, except your kid or you may have better technical training opportunities?
    In all honesty, I do not think you understand this project and what they are trying to accomplish.

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    no_thanks 7 months ago

    That was a rational response in which you were articulating your opinion, and not expressing it as the people's opinion. I am confident that they have done more planning than has been presented. They couldn't have submitted a grant application without many of the questions you identified being answered. My guess is that they see no value in presenting a governance agreement that is not finalized (or at least near it).

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    nick_s 7 months ago

    I thank you for your opinion no_thanks. Clearly you have missed the point of this comment section, for everyone who desires to express their opinion, not just those that agree with you, to be able to do so. This has nothing to do with the chamber my friend, but rather with the larger picture in general. After living in Lawrence for 12+ years & paying attention to all the going's on, what is tiring is all of the bloat & unnecessary spending, more often than not at the expense of the taxpayer. Just the same as with Rock-Chalk park. Just the same as the new police facility will be. I just dont understand how this city can make such commitments without detailed planning? What is so appalling about that?

    It just seems like common sense to me. I have 2 business degrees from our wonderful university. One thing I did learn is that for projects to be successful they have to have planning. Very detailed planning. I dont even understand how other businesses, banks, etc, would embark on such a joint project w/out a detailed plan? It goes against everything the KU school of business taught me. I know I didnt learn to just come up with an idea, & then I will have $6.5 million handed over. I learned that you do your due dilgence, project costs, figure revenue streams, do a SWOT or PESTEL analysis to gauge other various aspects, develop an exit strategy, have a marketing plan, etc. That is what I am struggling with. Im not against progress, but am always weary when entities make such changes in the middle of the game, or dont seem to have a solid plan to begin with. If they do, then why not be forthcoming with it?

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    no_thanks 7 months ago

    Nick, clearly you and Merrill are of the same ilk. You don't speak for the people so don't come on here trying to indicate as such. There was a community meeting in which there was strong support for the move by those who attended. Your concern on governance is a veil for you and Merrill's anti-Chamber sentiment. Frankly, it is tiring.

    1

    workinghard 7 months ago

    I tried to e-mail school board members (not on this matter) through the district website, but I couldn't find any e-mail addresses. The link with their name seems to only link to Microsoft outlook which I don't have. This can't be right, I must be missing something. Surely they would not exclude people that don't have a purchased only program. Anyone have actual e-mail addresses?

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    nick_s 7 months ago

    Isnt "what goes on inside the building" the same as "instruction"? From my understanding, it seemed as per the article that they didnt know what they were going to teach, instruct, etc. If they don't know, how can they make the argument for more space? Even with somewhat of a plan in place, it seemed that the Chamber was sticking their nose where it wasn't needed. I recall from other articles that the Chamber wasnt even part of the original planning process, but rather have inserted themselves into the situation as the prospects became more of a reality. With the past track record of the Chamber & the School District, I think people are cautious at best, & feel like they have already gone down this road before w/regards to planning, financing, & then changing plans.

    As stated before, how do we know that HiPer doesnt have their own interests at heart? It seems that they would benefit greatly to have an on-site training facility without having to invest capital to train individuals after they have hired them for employment. Maybe they are struggling & dont need all that space, but are rather benefitting from "dumping" square footage from their books. With the lack of a solid outlined plan in terms of space usage, what is the necessity? Wouldnt a location near Holcomb Park be more centrally located for everyone to use anyways? Why put it all the way at 31st & Haskell?

    1

    nick_s 7 months ago

    Whats unbelievable is the way this city puts the cart before the horse. I agree with both of you, it seems that people always have a negative attitude when the city/chamber doesnt do anything to make progress, but when they do, people always have a negative attitude. I dont think anyone, merrill included, is against training people to be better prepared to help themselves by being employed. I think it is the same approach used over & over that really irks people.

    It doesnt seem prudent to make agreements for a $6.5 million facility that no one knows how it is going to be used, what programs will be offered, etc. No individual would be given free reign on a $6.5 million check from a lending institution with no plan. No lending institution would allow you to propose a plan, then change the plan once the finances are secured. I think that is the issue here, not that people are against people receiving vocational training. Same thing with Rock-Chalk park, same thing we will most likely see with the new proposed police facility. How about some planning, then following through with those agreed upon plans? Lawrence taxpayers are tired of the old bait & switch.

    On a side note, if there was a bond issued, wouldnt that mean that there ARE public funds being used?

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    no_thanks 7 months ago

    Unbelievable. For the first time, two bodies are taking action to bring technical education to our community and you try and find fault. There is no public money being used to purchase the property. The EDC is hardly reckless in their approach, but per usual you type what you think rather than doing research to get facts ( unfortunately there is nothing for you to cut and paste from the EDC). Frankly, I admire and appreciate how well the a Chamber, EDC, and the School District have collaborated in making an investment in workers.

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    Richard Heckler 7 months ago

    It is difficult for me to understand how a partnership can be formed with so many unknowns. What's missing from the Chamber? Careful and elaborate detail.

    It is also difficult to get a grasp how a group of business people can take on a project without knowing how much any portion will cost. Careful and elaborate detail is missing. We can bet there will millions of tax $$$$$$$ support forced on the taxpayers without voter approval. A back door tax increase.

    Is the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Corporation going to pick up the tab for operational expenses in THEIR portion of the complex? Or do they expect taxpayers to pick up the unknown equation by way additional tax dollars ? Careful and elaborate detail is missing.

    Is the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Corporation a tax dollar supported corporation? I question their reckless business transaction approach. My guess is they believe OUR tax dollars = their play money.

    USD 497 BOE at least presented site plans and dollar numbers for taxpayers to digest with the option of approval or not left to the voters. Obviously NOT enough time was expounded upon the development process. Careful and elaborate detail is missing.

    I sincerely hope the USD 497 BOE has secured an exit should this project without a site plan,without cost numbers to taxpayers and without details on exactly what will be offered. This is not a sound business model. Again careful and elaborate detail is missing.

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