Editorial: Right site for police HQ

City Commission should approve recommendation to locate new facility in far west Lawrence.

The Lawrence Police Department’s recommended site for a new police headquarters makes sense and should be supported by the City Commission.

The City Commission will consider sites at its meeting Tuesday. Staff is recommending the new $17 million police headquarters facility be built on city-owned property at 5100 Overland Drive near the Walmart store in west Lawrence.

The Overland Drive site near Sixth and Wakarusa is being recommended over a site at VenturePark in eastern Lawrence near the Douglas County Jail. In all, city staff reviewed more than a dozen locations.

Advantages of the Overland Drive site are its easy access to main thoroughfares in Lawrence, including Sixth Street, Wakarusa, Kansas Highway 10 and Interstate 70, and being centrally located in the fastest growing part of Lawrence. Police Capt. Anthony Brixius said the VenturePark property, by comparison, lacks access to arterial roads, apart from 23rd Street. And while being near the Douglas County Jail may seem to make sense on the surface, Brixius pointed out, police officers don’t spend a great deal of time at the jail.

From the Overland Drive site, “you can quickly get onto Wakarusa (Drive), you can quickly get onto Sixth Street or Bob Billings or a number of the artery streets,” Brixius said. “You can also get onto K-10 or I-70, so even getting to North Lawrence in a busier time would be a little bit quicker if you were actually responding from the station.”

In 2014, city voters rejected a 0.2 percent sales tax to pay for a $28 million police headquarters. This time, the city is pursuing a new police headquarters without a public vote. The city’s 2018 budget raised the property tax rate by 1.25 mills to pay for the police headquarters, which is phase one of a multiyear plan to create a law enforcement campus that ultimately could also include the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The tax increase will cost the owner of a $175,000 home an additional $25 annually in city property taxes.

It would have been preferable for the city to have sought voter approval for the police headquarters before proceeding. But now that the decision has been made, choosing the right location is important. City staff has sound reasoning to support the Overland Drive site, and the City Commission should approve it.