Archive for Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lawrence planning hundreds of large projects in next five years; rate increase proposed for city utility bills

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

May 31, 2016

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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.

Rate increases

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.

More information

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.

Unfunded projects

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

Comments

Don Zimmer 1 year, 2 months ago

I would like all local governments (City, County, and Schools) to also share their 5 year budgets and priorities. I'm afraid it would shock the heck out of us to see what we are looking at in tax increases. All things begin at the local level.. It would be nice if the State and Fed would do the same but that is unrealistic.. .

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

The Capital Improvement Plan is a budget category. It includes projects that are not routine. They need to be done. This is a discussion within the budget rather than a budget increase. No new taxes.

Don Zimmer 1 year, 2 months ago

so like Bernie "Free health care and free college". Nothing is free. By the way I like Bernie over the other two candidates.

so new police station, jail, and schools, etc. will not raise taxes

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

A new police station, jail, and schools would not be part of the CIP budget.

Kevin Kelly 1 year, 2 months ago

The Brook Creek neighborhood must be sacrificed to complete the Central District plan. NO MERCY!!

April Baker 1 year, 2 months ago

Hopefully all of these road projects will ease some of the "spot-shot" road projects that have been the norm for a while... Every major thoroughfare should be as smooth a ride as Iowa now is.

Good luck on the Police Station... The city might as well just push it through against the will of the people. Everyone will complain, but it really is needed and the quicker you do it the quicker people will get over it.

As far as the Farmer's Market, I always thought a good place for it would be next to the library where the ice rink was (I believe this has been brought up before). It's a lovely spot and could easily be revamped a little to work for the market, not to mention plenty of parking right there! Just a thought. I know they have a smaller market inside the garage on certain days right now.

Clara Westphal 1 year, 2 months ago

Extending 19th street from Harper to McConnell is long overdue. It would be a safer way to travel than K-10. East Hills Business Park employees create a lot of traffic; too much for East 15th to Noria Road which is the only alternative to K-10.

Kevin Kelly 1 year, 2 months ago

Don't forget all the students that will be added to19th St to and from from the KU Central District using K-10. That roundabout at 19th and Barker will be churned to butter, good for the bakery. The buses will have great access through 19th St too from the new HUB. Big plus for KU basketball traffic as well, right through the neighborhoods. Wave as you pass LHS on your way to PAY to park at the new HUB parking garage, you'll have plenty of time. Seems like there is quite a bit of unnecessary added pressure on a lot of Lawrence residential areas lately.

Bonnie Uffman 1 year, 2 months ago

Well said, Kevin. For those of us who live in the neighborhood, the prospective traffic overload on 19th Street is mind-boggling.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

I hope the neighborhood is actively involved with this project! The city is planning a street with no area plan for the neighborhood.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

Ms. Bowen, you say no new taxes or increase, BUT you failed to recognize the increase in FEES, which the commission can pass at the blink of an eye..consent agenda...:)

AND YOU will have a tax increase and the city benefits each and every time, the county appraiser jacks up the valuation of your home or apartment complexes and retail. That is fact. How do you then explain the bit about no tax increase. GET in writing that there will be NO tax increase created from any source.

Mr.Kidney wants to increase fees in the utility department. Would Mr.Kidney be willing to reduce overhead in the department to offset the fees he wants? Can he answer that to the Journal World?

As for believing anything coming from city hall now, that would be hard to believe. I just yesterday got a letter FOR rezoning of the water tanks on Oread Avenue, you know the ones touted to be from the Hoover Administration and the Eisenhower Administration. WELL, the city is going to rezone them frpm RM32 THAT IS RESIDENTIAL....folks.

Is the Planning Department so inept that when in 2006 roughly they screwed up an entire neighborhood with downzoning and couldn't figure out that the tanks were not residential.

Mr. Markus, you have a staff at City Hall that is totally inept.

Have Mr. McCullough explain why those tanks have been zoned RM32 for so long?

OR was that done intentionally to maybe use the tank property for hotel use, other types of residential? The city planning department is sneaky and the commissoners not sharp enough to figure out what is squat and what is not.

SO now with the replacement of the tanks, the zoning is going be changed to Public / Institutional Use....(that would be KU if the tanks were to go bye bye)

Kevin Kelly.....the problem when a street is expanded is that the city cannot wait to screw up everything around it with more development. A smart planning department would in fact, have street usage for vehicular traffic and NOT develop along it. You don't see any driveways off the turnpike to housing...Lawrence is not bright. There has not been a ray of sunshine poking through the windows at city hall, only the smell of popcorn when one walks into the lobby and the STAFF doesn't even share.

19th should be a boulevard, but the city when they get done will screw it up with traffic calming humps....you will soon get them on 19th from Iowa to Naismith .

There is NO planning.

I have wondered if the commissioners ever travel to other cities and observe what does work? Apparently not. The last commissioner, ex mayor went to Amsterdam....wondered what he observed there and how it worked. Could he be interviewed and tell us...

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

Yes, David. The thrust of the article gave the impression that there would be a sales tax or property tax increase, the more direct sources of revenue. There also is an implication that CIP was a list of exciting stuff. It is not. Our property taxes can go up based on the current housing market. And, as you say, revenue comes from many sources. Somewhere on the city website I saw a breakdown of the CIP. It's not out of the ordinary

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, Ms Bowen. In one sentence you said that the CIP was NOT exciting stuff, but yet at the end you say the breakdown is NOT out of the ordinary?Well, I ask you to explain how another 1.5 million to study the police station facility is ORDINARY?

Maybe this Mr. Harlan Hobbs, could explain how another costly study is ordinary. He is a business man, so he said.

16 million to modernize the water meters? Come on, let's get real. First the Journal World should reveal how much the meter reader pay is for the city each year. There are so many facts missing in the article.

Who did the city purchase the site on Kresge Rd from and at what cost?

The housing market has nothing to do with your taxes going up. The taxes are based on valuations. I would be happy to meet with you and show you on paper facts about valuations, listings, and sales prices along with the expenses the seller had to get rid of the place.

The Douglas County appraiser's office knows full well what is going on as well as many owners who can document their side of the story.

Would the Journal World dare inquire? Most likely not. The realtors sure do not care . They will take their 6% on whatever. They just want to make the sale.

But back to the CIP. I know folks who use Eagle Bend, but I will tell you FULL ON....$500,000 is TOO much for toilets and concession upgrades. An entire house could be built for that , a really, really, really nice one with a garage for 4 golf carts.

WE have a commission who does understand money and is getting all touch feeling over a plan presented to them. NOW a plan....what the heck was the city doing when Mr. Corliss was let run amuck?

Why is the city paying for improvements to 19th from Iowa? KU is the one who should pay. They have millions to spend on the Central District( central to what?) They are the beneficiary of 19th street improvement and the sneak folks behind the Central District won't even give up any land to widen the street..Mr. Kelley knows about that...

I did not read about a sales tax increase or property tax increase as you stated. I read that NO tax would happen, but Mr Kidney is talking about raising FEES, FEES...easy to do on utility bills. Why doesnt' the city reduce the franchise fee to ALL consumers in the city? Where is the giving, sharing community we hear all about...it begins at city hall, the same place that won[t even share their popcorn!!

Even old folks like popcorn...that entrance/lobby is the most uninviting place yet. Could Mr. Markus sit there all day and greet folks and hand out popcorn? Even ACE westlake gives away popcorn, but not City Hall.

Put a line item in the CIP for $5,000 for popcorn, then we have a deal.

Kevin Kelly 1 year, 2 months ago

KU is paying for the intersection THEY want with crosswalks that will make Schwegler north their new parking lot at 19th and Ousdahl. Not sure who is paying for the sidewalks on the north side of 19th St. I'm fairly sure the existing, deteriorating, non ADA compliant sidewalks on the south side of 19th St where the neighborhood is will be deemed adequate when the "CD" and 19th St is complete between Iowa and Naismith. KU had 40 acres to work with and still HAD to break code with the size and proximity of the new buildings, just wasn't room for a wider road or entrance away from 19th and Ousdahl. KU threatened home owners saying they could have taken their front yards if they couldn't break codes with the buildings and the city gave away the easement along 19th St. to KU like it meant nothing to the residents. Lost some respect for my Alma and the commission sold us out.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, I ask you to explain how another 1.5 million to study the police station facility is ORDINARY?" I saw that, too. Looks like we are starting over using city land.

The housing market has nothing to do with your taxes going up. The taxes are based on valuations. " Sure does. Your assessment is based on the houses sold in your area and comparable house around the city. When the real estate prices are up, your property taxes go up.

"I did not read about a sales tax increase or property tax increase as you stated. I read that NO tax would happen, but Mr Kidney is talking about raising FEES, FEES...easy to do on utility bills. " You misread my post. I said the article gives the impression that taxes would go up. If it's any consolation, fees are only allowed for certain items. I don't know what other than fees may not be used for sidewalks.

I like popcorn buttered and salted. Westlake's charges for popcorn now, or did they remove the machine?

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