Lawrence is looking to fund more than 250 large projects and purchases worth a total $318 million over the next five years.
In coming weeks, the Lawrence City Commission will decide any changes it wants to make to a draft capital improvement plan released last week. The plan was arranged by city management staff and includes any upcoming projects costing more than $75,000.
When approved, the plan will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and run through 2021. Commissioners can make changes to it each year during the budget process.
City Manager Tom Markus told commissioners during a work session May 24 that the program was an improvement in Lawrence’s long-range planning process.
“I use the analogy that if there’s only one item in front of you to consider, you don’t necessarily turn into the best shopper,” Markus said. “Having a capital improvement program that presents the whole array of capital improvements gives you choice and gives you the opportunity to align what you want to get accomplished with your goals.”
Mayor Mike Amyx said the draft plan was a “very good starting point.” Commissioners will review the projects for 2017 again in Markus’ budget presentation at a work session July 12, said City Finance Director Bryan Kidney.
The commission will consider the full five-year plan either July 12 or at a budget meeting July 26, Kidney said.
The drafted capital improvement plan does not plan for an increase to local property tax levies. But it does include increases to trash and storm water fees the city is requesting for 2017.
Public Works Director Charles Soules said the stormwater and solid waste divisions were each requesting a 3 percent increase. The extra funds would be used to pay for high-priority stormwater projects and for increases in the city’s contract with HAMM Waste Services.
The stormwater fee was created in 1996 and was increased once in 2001 and again in 2003. It’s added onto bills for water, sewer and trash service and based on a property’s square footage. For an average single-family residence, the charge is currently $4 and would be increased by about 12 cents per month if the increase were approved, Soules said.
Residents' monthly trash bills last increased in 2012, when curbside recycling was implemented.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the projects included in the plan:
• Lawrence Transit System wants to use $7.5 million from the public transit fund over the next five years for a new central transfer hub and new buses and amenities, such as shelters and benches. Lawrence and Kansas University applied for a federal grant in April to help fund a new transfer hub on KU’s campus. If the grant is awarded and commissioners approve of the hub, Lawrence’s portion of costs would be $4 million. That amount is planned for 2018 under the capital improvement plan.
• More than $16 million is planned for 2018 and 2019 to modernize the way the city reads water meters. The utilities department wants to invest in advanced metering infrastructure, allowing it to get data from meters remotely and receive more detailed information on peoples’ water usage.
• The plan includes some major street reconstruction projects, including 19th Street from Iowa Street to Naismith Drive in 2017 for $2 million and Kasold Drive from Sixth Street to Bob Billings Parkway in 2017 for $5 million. Reconstruction along 23rd Street east from the bridge near Haskell Indian Nations University is planned to cost $9 million in 2019. Three projects along Wakarusa Drive are planned: from Inverness Drive to Sixth Street in 2017 for $3 million; 18th Street to Research Parkway in 2019 for $2.6 million; and from 18th Street to 23rd Street in 2020 for $2.5 million. There’s also $15.7 million in overall street maintenance planned, but more than $17 million in maintenance was left unfunded.
• Another road project — expanding 19th Street from Harper Street to O’Connell Road — has faced formal opposition from the Brook Creek Neighborhood Association. The city wants to spend $2.1 million in 2017 to reconstruct the 19th and Harper intersection and add a waterline, sidewalks and bike lanes along the street. It would provide another entrance to Lawrence VenturePark, but neighbors have said they want that traffic kept on Kansas Highway 10.
• Approximately $2.4 million was set aside in the plan to reconstruct the 23rd Street and Ousdahl Road intersection in 2018. The intersection is a public safety concern because of frequent flooding, Public Works Director Charles Soules has said.
• Lawrence Planning and Development Services hopes to establish a “one-stop shop” in 2017 and 2018 where all development-related department could coordinate. Planning Director Scott McCullough said the city has had the idea for years to house together its utilities, public works, stormwater, building safety and planning departments. Markus said the city was considering the west side of 1 Riverfront Plaza for the “one-stop shop.” The property — which is owned by executives of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World and LJWorld.com — is currently listed by McGrew Real Estate for $5 million.
• Two citizen-driven initiatives that were funded through the plan are affordable housing and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Affordable housing would receive $1.65 million over five years through the plan, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements $2.25 million.
To see a full list of capital improvement projects recommended for 2017 through 2021, go to lawrenceks.org.
• The Parks and Recreation Department is planning about 50 projects in the next five years, including upgrades to the aquatic centers and existing parks, as well as the acquisition of new parkland south and west of Lawrence in preparation for future development. In anticipation of owning Lawrence’s only public golf course, the department wants to spend $500,000 in 2017 to upgrade the Eagle Bend pro shop, concessions area and restrooms. It also wants to connect part of the Lawrence Loop in 2017, from 29th Street to the Haskell Rail Trail, with $75,000. A new, permanent location for the Downtown Farmers Market is slated for 2020 under the plan. The project, at approximately $200,000, would move the farmers market from its current location in a parking lot off the 800 block of New Hampshire Street.
• A new police headquarters is partly funded in the plan, with $1.5 million set aside for building design in 2017. Markus said the topic should be taken up again by commissioners.
• The second phase of the new solid waste facility at 2201 Kresge Road would be funded in 2017 through the plan. Lawrence purchased the site in 2014, and a new household hazardous waste facility was built at the site. Next, Lawrence is looking to create space for solid waste crews at the facility at a cost of $2.7 million.
• The 65-year-old Fire Station No. 1, 746 Kentucky St., would receive a $6 million remodel in 2017 under the plan. In February, the City Commission authorized an agreement with Zimmerschied Architects, PLLC for architecture and engineering of the renovation. Douglas County would pay 25 percent of the $2.63 million in actual construction costs.
Not all of the projects requested by citizens and city departments were placed on the five-year capital improvement plan. For a full list of unfunded projects, go to lawrenceks.org.
Some of those left unfunded in the draft plan are:
• $2.5 million in 2020 for half of the cost to either renovate the existing Lawrence Humane Society animal shelter or build a new one
• $274,518 in 2017 for police body cameras
• $650,000 in 2020 for development of a gathering area, or river walk, along the Kansas River
• $2.5 million over the five years toward rehabilitation of brick streets
• $2 million major renovation to the Outdoor Aquatic Center
• $5 million over five years to rehabilitate the city's curbs and gutters