Letters to the Editor

Letter: Plan questioned

August 26, 2014


To the editor:

I applaud Jerry Harper’s call for a thorough, public review of police and security policies and strategies in Lawrence before we vote on increasing the sales tax to pay for a new headquarters building (Your turn, Aug. 20).

Given the projected geographic and population growth of Lawrence, does a single police facility anywhere meet our future needs? While I understand the police chief’s arguments for a single facility, would such a facility meet the needs of Lawrence 20 years from now? If Lawrence continues to grow to the west, and with the completion of K-10, to the south, will the proposed new facility best serve an expanding Lawrence?  Doesn’t the proposed headquarters remove police from ready access to downtown Lawrence, East Lawrence, and southeast Lawrence?

I have not heard any discussion of how a single police headquarters better serves Lawrence than one with multiple substations. Why is the substation model employed by the fire department (including ambulances) not relevant here? As Lawrence has expanded, the fire department has wisely relocated substations to better protect and serve Lawrence residents. It seems to me that rather than a single police facility a more modest headquarters combined with police stations near downtown and East Lawrence as well as ones to the south and west would better serve everyone than a single facility distant from most of us.

What troubles me the most is that there is a rush to support a new headquarters without any public discussion of best police practices in comparable cities. Harper has raised those issues, and they remain unexplored and unanswered. Rather than campaigning for a new single facility, the City Commission should be doing due diligence in exploring the needs of Lawrence today and in the future and how best to provide for public safety


Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

This letter is on target. A fast track city commission does not serve taxpayers in a fiscal responsible manner. It's time to slow government down to a suitable frugal like pace that provides more views and locations that would make dollars and sense.

As I have stated before response times from LPD headquarters to point B are irrelevant because LPD cruisers are all over Lawrence 24/7. Been this way for decades.

North Lawrence should have a satellite set up that includes one fire truck and one ambulance that which could share two police vehicles. Lawrence has the vehicles.

Once again Lawrence taxpayers do not need to become owners of land at $47,340 per acre considering we are owners of vacant property we taxpayers own as we speak.

BTW I also say curtail any further purchases of "military grade vehicles or weapons" because our community is not a war zone nor do we citizens want to be one.

Doug Weston 3 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Katzman offers no benefits of multiple police substations versus one large headquarters, other than "Lawrence is growing" and "that's the way the fire department does it." The fact is that police and fire departments differ considerably in their operational model. Fire trucks are static---stationary at a location until they're needed. So it's important to have them located in strategic locations around town for faster response times. Also, the entire fire department and/or all employees working a shift don't need to collaborate to pass information on recent activities or to get updates. Police, on the other hand, are highly mobile, already spread throughout the city in mobile offices equipped with phones, computers, etc. So, response time from a set location isn't a factor as they are already distributed. Police officers working the same shifts and consecutive shifts, on the other hand, do need to collaborate, get updates and share information on a daily basis. So, having one place for them to gather before and after shifts is important.

Bruce Bertsch 3 years, 9 months ago

As much as I hate to agree with Heckler, there is precedent for having more than one Police station; its known as neighborhood policing. By using this model the police have more interaction with residents. What the letter did not address was why the City finds it necessary to buy land that apparently no one else was interested in when the city already owns land that could serve for building a headquarters. In other words, who profits from building on the land purchased from Hallmark? I am guessing it is not the local taxpayer.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

I support the need for police to have bigger facilities, but I think more thought needs to go into this, especially since the city seems to want to buy more property when they already own property that will work. I'm sorry to say, I'll be voting against this in November. Come back with a plan that we can support.

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 9 months ago

A great deal of thought and work has gone into this. The City hired Wilson Estes Public Safety Facility Planners/Police Architects to do a study back at the end of 2011. That study was presented to the Commission in 2012. The study is available on the City website but here are the top two general observations and conclusions from the experts: 1)The current facilities are inadequate to efficiently conduct routine law enforcement operations. 2) The inadequacies of the existing facilities compromise confidentiality, safety, security and personnel productivity. As far as the location the new police facility site is located north of the USD 497 building on McDonald Drive across from the Hallmark plant. The site was chosen because it is most central on an east/west axis. It also has easy access to a major artery (Iowa) with access to major east/west arteries (6th Street, 9th Street, 15th Street, Clinton Parkway, etc). Via I-70 it allows for quick access to North Lawrence. This site will also benefit the growth plans of USD 497, the Boys' and Girls' Club and allows space for future growth of the facility and/or other municipal offices. The site at 31st Street is also centrally located but it has flood plain issues and does not have space for future growth. The "free" site behind Walmart is zoned as a park, is too far west and isn't "free", at some point it was purchased by the City. The site at Venture Park is too far east, it doesn't have access to major traffic ways, and it wasn't "free". It was purchased to be part of the industrial park to attract new business and new jobs to Lawrence. We will be sure to add site information to our website. If you have additional questions, comments and/or concerns feel free to contact us at friendsoflawrencepolice@gmail.com or visit us on Saturdays during September and October at the Farmers' Market. We encourage dialogue on this important issue and are more than happy to provide you with the facts so you are able to make an informed decision. Michelle Derusseau

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

But are we paying fair market price for the property? Or are we getting ripped off by yet another developer? It seems rather steep. Who owns this property?

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 9 months ago

The Hall family, Hallmark owns the property. They did reduce the price and they have a history of selling their property for projects that will benefit the community.

Munchma Quchi 3 years, 9 months ago

Wait for someone (cough... Thomas Fritzel... cough) to slide in as a no-bid contractor at the last moment. If you hadn't realized it yet, this whole city is bought and paid for by a couple of developers in town.

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 9 months ago

Wilson Estes Police Facility experts recommended criteria is 13 acres for the facility and parking. At 4.5 acres the site on Stewart avenue could not accommodate a new police facility.

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 9 months ago

Having more than one police station is a "precinct model". Generally until a community reaches a population of approximately 250,000 residents, it is better served by a single combined services police building. Past this point, the precinct model can be adopted. In the precinct model most police department functions are duplicated at each location. This creates full functioning "mini" police departments responsible for each geographically defined area of the city. Each location would have a patrol function, investigations, administration, training, etc. Effectiveness, communication and interdivision interaction benefits would be realized at each location. The City of Lawrence is not yet at the size that would make this model cost effective.

Munchma Quchi 3 years, 9 months ago

One of the main arguments behind building the new jail was that it would free up space in the current police headquarters for the police to expand into for many years into the future. What happened to that idea? Now we are being promised that a new police headquarters (at an astonishing price) will serve us for many years into the future. Past performance may not be a good indicator of future results, but when you combine the poor forward thinking of the past with the misappropriation of funds that has, over time, resulted in a derelict building, it should make everyone question every aspect of this deal.

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 9 months ago

The building downtown which houses the "old jail" is a County owned building of which the City, for the Police Department leases 8,000 square feet (of approximately 100,000 square feet). The "old jail" area of the Law Enforcement Center is now Douglas County Emergency Management. Considering the jail, a public safety facility like a police facility, cost $22 million in 1999 $25 million 15 years later is not an astonishing price, it is actually an average price if you look at the numbers of other police facilities built around the country.

Munchma Quchi 3 years, 9 months ago

Anyone who doesn't think that $25 million plus the cost of land to provide a cube-farm for police officers is astonishing needs a re-calibration.

Clark Coan 3 years, 9 months ago

A new headquarters building won't substantially reduce crime. What will reduce crime is returning the BNC WRAP therapists to the elementary schools. The therapists can help troubled children before they move on to being teen criminals.

Clark Coan 3 years, 9 months ago

Plus, as one writer has pointed out we need to explore having a joint Sheriff's Dept. and LPD building like the Law Enforcement Building used to be. That is a way to have efficiencies and save tax dollars. Manhattan/Riley County have even combined the two departments saving even more money.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 9 months ago

The cost-cutting push could become so extreme that the result would be a big mistake. I totally agree that we want to read more about the rationale and seek out even more possibilities. In the end, we will get what we pay for. Personally, I think that we need more officers on the street, but taxpayers want less crime with no solutions or cost. What kind of facility would we need for more positions? Would tax payers pay for the costs?

Wouldn't the overall goal be safer streets? I wonder if there is a comprehensive plan, maybe a chapter in H2020. The city really needs to inform the public more. Not with a website. With news articles and channel 6 coverage.

John Graham 3 years, 9 months ago

There was a recent LJW article that reported Lawrence already has more police officers than other nearby similar sized communities. The problem doesn't appear to be numbers but effectiveness.

Munchma Quchi 3 years, 9 months ago

The police department has abused tax-payer resources for years by opting to purchase high dollar-value, low-impact military equipment and weapons instead of devoting the resources necessary to properly maintain and upgrade existing infrastructure. Let them sell their toys to pay for the upgrades that they should have been investing in years ago. We'll all be better off. Anyone voting for this police station is complicit in the militarization of the police force.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

The LPD needs to work with the largest number of stakeholders who seem to be okay with a new building BUT NOT at $47,340 per acre because that is too much money plus construction costs which is not is not in line with a low wage community.

Not to mention taxpayers do not need to own this property. Taxpayers can live without it. There will be no taxes paid with this property so use property we taxpayers own.

"which will increase the taxes on a $170,000 home by about ANOTHER $28 a year."

Just another 28 $$$$$ a year. Hey that's not bad what the heck. Who cares !!! Believe me I could put that $28.00 to much better use like further investing in my quality of life as I see fit.

Someday Hallmark will find a buyer. It doesn't need to be we taxpayers.

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