Lawrence’s new capital improvement plan — revamped and given more weight under new City Manager Tom Markus — includes $107.5 million worth of projects in 2017 under Markus’ recommendations.
The plan cleared its first hurdle Monday when the 10-member Lawrence Planning Commission quickly and unanimously voted that all of the projects in the five-year plan, including approximately 65 in 2017, aligned with Lawrence’s comprehensive plan.
“It gives us the opportunity to take the long view on our expenditures,” City Planner Sheila Stogsdill told the 10-member planning commission. “Your role is a small role. It’s not the role of deciding how we spend the money; it’s looking at the projects that have been proposed and evaluating if they are in conformance with the comprehensive plan.”
The Lawrence City Commission will consider the capital improvement plan Tuesday, when it holds a public hearing on the full 2017 budget. Commissioners will be asked to adopt the budget — with the capital improvement plan — on Aug. 16. For 2018 through 2021, commissioners will review projects in that year’s plan and have the ability to make changes.
Lawrence has created a similar plan in previous years, but it wasn’t as all-inclusive as what’s being proposed for 2017 through 2021. The list of projects, hundreds long, includes every project estimated at more than $75,000 over the next five years.
Markus said he presented the plan this way to avoid commissioners making funding decisions “in isolation.”
“They need to be looked at in the context of all the things that are competing for those dollars,” he said. “This gives you a much longer horizon to look at.”
About $15 million worth of projects proposed for 2017 didn’t make Markus’ list. Some of the projects unfunded are: $3.5 million for the East Ninth Project, $274,518 for police body cameras, $2.9 million in street maintenance and $114,600 for security measures to comply with the state’s new concealed carry law.
Vehicle replacement program
Lawrence budgeted $500,000 in 2016 from the capital improvement reserve fund to replace some aging city vehicles. The same level of funding is recommended again in 2017, though the city’s fleet director requested three times that amount, city Finance Director Bryan Kidney said.
The portion of the fund used for vehicle replacement — which is transferred from the city’s general fund — would “essentially be depleted” after 2017, the city manager’s budget states.
Markus has told the commission that he and city staff thought “long and hard” about whether to suggest cutting more city staff positions in order to put aside funding for vehicle replacement beyond 2017. Markus’ budget already includes the elimination of nine full time positions and one part-time position.
“In some ways he feels he didn’t cut enough because we’re not keeping up with the program the way we should,” Kidney said.
As is, the capital improvement plan also budgets $500,000 each year for vehicle replacement from 2018 through 2021.
Kidney said in goal-setting meetings with city staff this fall, there would be discussions about how to maintain funding for replacement of vehicles and other equipment.
Other large projects
Of the approximately 65 projects included in Markus' recommended plan for 2017, 13 are more than $1 million. Some of those are:
• $6 million toward the renovation of Fire Station No. 1, 746 Kentucky St.
• $1.5 million for designing a new police headquarters, for which plans haven’t been proposed since a $28 million project failed by public vote in 2014.
• $4 million for Lawrence’s share of a new Lawrence Transit System hub at Kansas University. The total $30.6 million project hinges on a federal grant the city and KU applied for this spring. Grant recipients will be announced this fall.
• $5 million for reconstruction of Kasold Drive from Sixth Street to Bob Billings Parkway and a $3 million reconstruction of Wakarusa Drive from Inverness Drive to Sixth Street. Commissioners will discuss details of both of those projects during an Aug. 9 work session.
A full list of projects can be found in Markus' 2017 budget proposal at lawrenceks.org/budget.