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Archive for Tuesday, April 1, 2014

City commission expected to elect Amyx to serve one-year term as mayor

April 1, 2014

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From a police station to shopping centers, Lawrence's new mayor is expecting to have a busy year.

But if tradition holds, the new mayor is expected to be one that already has seen a lot of those issues and more. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are expected to elect Commissioner Mike Amyx to serve a one-year term as mayor. It will be Amyx's fifth stint as mayor, dating back to 1985.

"It is a privilege and an honor," Amyx said. "But if you stop and think about it, this is a run that started in the 1980s and now we're in the teens. It is something I'm pretty proud of."

The five-member City Commission each April selects a member to serve as mayor, who runs the meetings and works with the city manager to set the city's weekly meeting agendas. For decades, the commission has followed the practice of electing the first-place finisher in the most recent election as mayor, and electing the second-place finisher as vice-mayor. If tradition holds, Commissioner Jeremy Farmer will be elected as vice mayor, which will put him in line to serve as mayor beginning in April 2015.

Amyx, a downtown barber shop owner, said the issue of a multimillion dollar police headquarters building is one that he wants to lead more discussion on. Amyx said he wants the commission to soon consider possible sites to house a new police headquarters building.

But Amyx said he is not certain that the next year will be the right time for the commission to propose new taxes or other methods to pay for the actual construction of the project. Early estimates have suggested the project could cost $20 million or more.

At this point, Amyx said there is no obvious solution on how the city would pay for the project, and he said it could require taking a new tax proposal directly to voters. But he said the need for a new headquarters building is significant, and he doesn't want the city to delay the site selection process.

"What is important now is to find the location at this point," Amyx said.

Other issues that Amyx expects the commission to address during his one-year term include:

• South Iowa Street retail. Plans have been filed for a major shopping center at the intersection of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Iowa Street. The project, if approved, could add 400,000 square feet of new retail space to the city. Amyx said he expects there to be significant discussion about whether the city's retail market can absorb such space in a healthy manner. Amyx said he wants the project to go through the full city process before he weighs in on the issue.

• An update of Horizon 2020, the city and county's comprehensive plan. The planning documents provide guidance on issues such as where new retail centers, industrial parks and residential neighborhoods should be built in the future. Amyx is co-chairing the committee reviewing the plan. He said his main priority with the process is to ensure that multiple public comment sessions are offered for community members to provide their input on the plan.

• Development of Lawrence Venture Park. Amyx said he expects the city to move into a more aggressive marketing phase for the city's new industrial park, which is on the east edge of Lawrence on the site of the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant. The city is expected to complete road and utility work at the site this summer, but doesn't yet have any tenants lined up for the business park.

• Rock Chalk Park follow-up. Amyx has been the lone commissioner to vote against the Rock Chalk Park sports complex in northwest Lawrence. But Amyx said he'll work to make the project a success, and said he plans to be insistent on making sure staff and others are doing enough to attract outside tournaments and events to the center.

"No matter what my position has been on the park, it is incumbent on us to make sure this works financially," Amyx said. "What we need to do now is make sure we produce and make it happen."

Amyx, 60, will replace Mike Dever, who is ending his one-year term as mayor. Dever will remain on the commission. Commissioners will conduct the elections at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.

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