Archive for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

City prepares to put $25 million police headquarters plan on November ballot

July 23, 2014


A quarter-percent sales tax for nine years and a large site along Interstate 70 are likely to be key parts of a police headquarters plan presented to voters in November.

City commissioners, meeting into early Wednesday morning, took no final action, but had their most signifiant discussion yet on a proposed $25 million police headquarters project.

The key points to emerge from the discussion:

• All five commissioners said they were interested in a proposal to create a new quarter-percent sales tax to fund the center. As plans now stand the quarter-percent sales tax would last for nine years, although that amount could go down if the cost of the building drops. Commissioners said they would insist the sales tax be written so that it automatically expires once the project is paid for. None of the commissioners were interested in using property taxes to pay for the project.

• Commissioner Bob Schumm wants architects to look for more ways to cut the cost of the building. Architects will deliver a report at the commission's Aug. 5 meeting about what $20 million would build. The current construction estimate is $25.7 million, down from the $30 million projected before a recent round of design changes.

• A majority of commissioners expressed support for building the headquarters on a 47-acre site along McDonald Drive near the Kansas Turnpike interchange. The property is across the street from the Hallmark Cards production center.

A recently completed report by Lawrence-based Treanor Architects found the site has the highest acquisition costs and the highest site development costs of five sites studied by the city. The site, though, did have slightly shorter estimated drive times to key locations, such as the jail, the hospital and locations in West Lawrence, North Lawrence and south Lawrence. The report found the average drive time difference was only a couple of minutes, but Mayor Mike Amyx said the site particularly had much better access to North Lawrence than the other sites and was overall more versatile.

"It works well with the future expansion of the community to the west, but also has easy access to East Lawrence, North Lawrence, and West Lawrence today," Amyx said.

Currently, site owner Hallmark Cards is asking about $3.2 million for the 47 acres and does not want to sell off a smaller parcel. The city needs only about 15 acres. Land costs are not part of the $25.7 million construction estimate.

Commissioners have said they could sell some of the excess land to help reduce the city's costs. Already the Lawrence school district has expressed interest in part of the excess property for its maintenance shop needs. Commissioner Jeremy Farmer said he also believes the site could accommodate a new teen center for the Lawrence Boys & Girls Club, and Farmer said he would like to talk with a private developer who previously has been scouting the city for a location for a family fun center that would have go karts, batting cages, mini golf and similar activities.

Commissioners would have to pass the necessary ordinance to place the sales tax on the November ballot by Aug. 12. They may consider the ordinance at their Aug. 5 meeting.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Will the taxpayers be able to vote NO on the ballot?

If not what kind of choice is this? Yes yes yes and yes?

Offer a ballot with no choices …….. except yes. Where did democracy go?

Jake Hess 3 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure there will be a yes/no for the sales tax increase on the ballot. This sounds like a top priority for city commissioners.

Derek Eastland 3 years, 6 months ago

Democracy is nothing more than two wolves and a sheep voting on whats for dinner.

Instead of forcing everyone to pay for this project, how about they raise the funds through voluntary donations and other peaceful means such as fundraisers.

If every adult in Lawrence donated $350 or $10 a month for 3 years, they would get their $25 million peacefully and in a third of the time.

Jake Hess 3 years, 6 months ago

It's funny city commissioners ended up choosing the most costly development location, according to Treanor's studies. I'm kind of peaved at Hallmark, whose sale of land without breaking up the acreage will cost the city an additional 3.2 million on top of their estimate. I also really don't see how this location offers more expedient access to North Lawrence, south Lawrence, or the city jail compared to downtown.

And what will become of their downtown offices? Will residents face another round of tax increases for modification of that building, for more courtrooms, perhaps? Can't hurt to wonder what's next.

Derek Eastland 3 years, 6 months ago

Why would you be peeved at Hallmark? If it's their land, they can do with it as they wish. it would be like you trying to sell a car and i come to you and force you to only sell me the transmission because that is all i need.

Jake Hess 3 years, 6 months ago

Good point. Regret stating that. Just frustrating the city only needs a small portion, but that's business.

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 6 months ago

Their "downtown offices" at the Law Enforcement Center are owned by the County and the Lawrence Police Department only resides in a very small part of the building (approximately 8,000 square feet). The City currently leases the space from the County. Right now the Lawrence Police Department is spread out in six different locations throughout the city. Want a tour of the facilities? Let me know and we'll be sure to contact you when the next tour is scheduled.

Yes, the Hallmark location would provide much faster access to North Lawrence via I-70.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 6 months ago

Please vote yes for the new police headquarters.

For the first time since I have lived here I had an opportunity yesterday to have a drive around North Lawrence and I was surprised. Now that I have seen it I am shocked that there is so little in the way of services and shopping for the north side of the river.

Even more troubling, if they have to call 911 what is the response time?

Derek Eastland 3 years, 6 months ago

Please vote no. Taxation is theft. I don't force you to buy things i want, so please don't force me to buy things you want.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

""It works well with the future expansion of the community to the west"

Now we know ……..

Mari Aubuchon 3 years, 6 months ago

So this will be put up for a vote but Rock Chalk Park was not? With the 1994 one-cent countywide sales tax, we could have built a new cop shop and made the sorely needed upgrades to our city water system. Instead, we will have an additional sales tax increase as well as higher utility bills. And there is already talk of a convention centered partially funded by the city...

Wayne Kerr 3 years, 6 months ago

I've been hugely disappointed the last several years in the financial stewardship of our tax resources by our city commission. Knowing how to balance a budget should be a requirement for anyone who is in charge of spending our money. Knowing the difference between what the city wants and what the city needs should be another prerequisite for the job. Our city leaders remind me of the neighbor who after buying a shiny new swing set and hot tub for their back yard asks you for a loan because they don't have any money to repair their roof and paint their house. Simple math guys. Recreation center = want. Police station = need. Too bad you guys already spent all our money.

Tom Thomson 3 years, 6 months ago

Keep going, Bob, maybe you'll be at a $100 facility by the time you are ready to let it be built :rolleyes:

This needs to happen without whittling away the necessary features of the building. Not sure how public safety can receive such low priority, when unnecessary things like the library or rock chalk park are just approved without much concern from the city commissioners.

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 6 months ago

We should keep focused here, a new police headquarters has nothing to do with either Rock Chalk Park or the library.

Vote yes for the new police headquarters.

Melinda Henderson 3 years, 6 months ago

I disagree, Leslie. It has everything to do with both of those issues.

Clark Coan 3 years, 6 months ago

They still haven't made a good case that we need a new LPD headquarters. Also, there could be efficiencies in having a law enforcement center (combination Sheriff's dept. and LPD) as it used to be at 11th & N.H.

Also, there better be a sunset clause this time. Too many of those sales taxes for law enforcement haven't had sunset clauses. It's like the Eveready battery.

Of course, the sales tax is regressive and will have a more negative impact upon low income people, esp. since it taxes food. Farmer should know this as he runs Just Food.

David Reber 3 years, 6 months ago

Derek "taxation is theft" Eastland, can we all accurately assume that you neither drive public roads nor partake of any goods that were brought to market on public roads? And that not one single thing you do depends on having an educated populace? And that the US Military has no bearing on your ability to live safe and free? And that you don't partake of running water and flush toilets? And that you wouldn't dial 911 if your house were on fire? Taxation isn't theft, it's civilization. Participating in civilization without paying taxes? THAT'S theft.

Derek Eastland 3 years, 6 months ago

David "spoken like a true statist" Reber, you have no shortage of ad hominem attacks do you? Of course i use services provided by taxation, its kind of hard to avoid it. But nothing you said is an argument proving taxation isn't theft. In fact, your comment, "taxation isn't theft, it's civilization" isn't much of an argument at all. You're just changing the definition of words to suit your needs.

Fact is, taxation IS theft, and its done under the threat of violence. If you impose a tax on me and take my money without my consent, that is theft. Plain and simple. Please explain where i'm wrong.

Listen, all of the services you listed could be provided peacefully and voluntarily without the use of force.

My hope is that someday all of our children can live in a peaceful society that isn't ran by a government built upon theft, force, and coercion.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

Some taxpayers have been requesting safer cycling paths and rehabilitated sidewalks for years not to mention these items would be good for our health. Yet there is never any money according to the powers that be.

Yet when a 30 million Rec Center comes to the table it receives fast track attention. When a 30 million tax $$$$$ police station comes to the table it receives fast track attention. 31st street expansion suddenly is underway. A new sewage treatment plant for the real estate/development industry gets underway. City commissioners increase their pay. Talk about a convention center is now on the table which means it likely will be approved. Projects costing $200 million tax $$$$$$ or more are on table.

In addition millions upon millions of tax dollar subsidies being approved.

Is it really necessary to buy a new piece of real estate for the police station? Why not use existing property choices to save a few million? Perhaps where infrastructure is already in place? What's the advantage of sitting on vacant real estate for years on end? Perhaps taxpayers don't want to play Wall Street but would rather put our land to use.

It appears as though if city hall and the commissioners are particularly keen on certain projects the money surfaces somehow. Lots of effort is exerted to get these projects moving. Yet requests for safer cycling paths and rehabilitated sidewalks to be addressed with any gusto go to the back burner because there are no tax dollars available.

Some taxpayers have been requesting safer cycling paths and rehabilitated sidewalks for years not to mention these items would be good for our health. Yet there is never any money according to the powers that be. These projects actually provide the best bang for the tax buck.

Michelle Reynolds 3 years, 6 months ago

I will vote yes for the police station if they let us vote where they put it. During a commission meeting the police chief said he liked the hallmark land because drive times didn't matter. That when a policeman is on shift they work in an area of town. That's not true that the police get a call and they all run to their cars and rush to the scene, like what happens in a movie. But now drive times are important. I still believe the south location on 31st street. If drive times are now important then let's think about the future and where the town is growing. I vote yes for the police station. I vote no for it's location.

Michelle Derusseau 3 years, 6 months ago

Of the options, it’s the most centrally located along the east/west axis of the City. The property on 31st street also shares this east/west centrality, but it may have some flood plain issues effecting what can be built and where on the property. This central location is a big deal for the community accessing the services and the officers coming and going to the building on an daily basis from their patrol locations spread out in the community.

· The Hallmark site has excellent visibility along a major street and entrance to our community. Sends a message to people coming in to the community as a municipal building and cornerstone of municipal services.

· Most people would be able to find it if you told them it was by the West Lawrence turnpike entrance.

· Hallmark site has good access to North Lawrence via officers being able to hop on the interstate. This would bypass any issues/construction/traffic with the bridges to North Lawrence that sometimes occur. Same for citizens coming to the building.

· Hallmark site would have good access to West Lawrence in the same manner. Officers can access I-70, go west and get off at the Lecompton exit which quickly gets them to the far west locations and bypasses in-town traffic. Same for citizens coming to the building.

· Iowa street is an excellent north/south conduit and officers/citizens coming and going to the police station can access many major east/west streets off of Iowa Street.

· Close to the hospital where officers spend a lot of their time with victims of crime or people experiencing mental health crisis.

· Hotels/motels nearby advantageous when we host trainings, events, graduations, awards ceremonies , etc., or have outside agencies assist us with major events such as the basketball celebrations.

· Still pretty close to downtown – straight down 6th street.

· Almost equal distance between the two high schools and good fast routes (Iowa, 6th, Peterson) to get to the schools from the facility.

· Large enough for future expansion.

· Large enough for potential other City/community uses. Examples include municipal court, School District expansion, etc.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 6 months ago

$3.2 million for the 47 acres = more than $66,000 per acre for unimproved property.

Can taxpayers afford such luxuries considering taxpayers own property that could accomplish this feat?

Bob Smith 3 years, 6 months ago

Let them do bake sales to raise the money.

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