Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Lawrence City Commission designates northwest Lawrence site for police headquarters

Decision on no-bid method deferred

Undeveloped land owned by the City of Lawrence, at 5100 Overland Drive, is seen from the north, looking south, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The city has recommended the site, just north of the Walmart location at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, as a possible location for a new $17 million police headquarters facility.

Undeveloped land owned by the City of Lawrence, at 5100 Overland Drive, is seen from the north, looking south, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. The city has recommended the site, just north of the Walmart location at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, as a possible location for a new $17 million police headquarters facility.

December 5, 2017

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With an eye toward future growth, the Lawrence City Commission voted to build the city’s new $17 million police headquarters on a site in northwest Lawrence.

At their meeting Tuesday, commissioners voted 4-0, with Mayor Leslie Soden absent, to build the headquarters on a city-owned property at 5100 Overland Drive, which is behind the Walmart near Sixth and Wakarusa.

One of the key factors noted by commissioners in the decision was that the size of the property allowed for the headquarters to expand in the future. Though the possibility of keeping the police headquarters downtown came up, Commissioner Matthew Herbert said the decision had to make sense for years down the road.

“Forty years from now I don’t want a commission sitting here to say, ‘Man, they really screwed this up in 2017 when they packed it into a postage stamp when we needed something a lot bigger,” Herbert said.

As part of the decision, the commission voted to designate 16 acres of the 29-acre site at Overland Drive for the police headquarters. The county-owned Judicial and Law Enforcement Center located downtown is designed so that more floors could be added to it, but City Manager Tom Markus told the commission that would require relocating the staff and courts from that building and addressing the parking needs on the site.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he would love to see the headquarters built downtown, but that he thinks the need to temporarily relocate made it an impossibility. He also said the added parking and traffic would have a negative effect on the neighborhood. He said he agreed with staff that the Overland Drive site is benefited by access to multiple arterial roadways and, though not centrally located now, will become more so as the city grows.

Amyx also said it was important that the designation of the site was just the beginning of the process, and that zoning changes would have to go through the usual planning commission review that would allow for input from the community.

“Having that public process and having us have to go through our own rules, I think, is important,” Amyx said. “So that the public has the opportunity to address any of the concerns that they have, whether it be on land use or site planning.”

Amyx also verified with city staff that the commission would be able to change its mind about the site even as that process gets underway. Vice Mayor Stuart Boley and Commissioner Lisa Larsen both agreed the site should be designated so the review process could begin. Larsen said she agreed with Herbert about the potential for growth and also liked that the designation is “not a done deal.”

The other property put forward by city staff is a city-owned site at VenturePark on the eastern edge of Lawrence near the Douglas County Jail. Commissioners didn’t note advantages to that location, and Herbert said the industrially-zoned business park is an economic development tool and not a place for municipal buildings.

The commission also voted unanimously to defer a decision on an ordinance that would allow the city to use a process that deviates from the standard sealed-bid procedure for future construction projects, including the police headquarters. City staff is proposing a charter ordinance — which requires four votes to pass — that would specifically enable the city to utilize alternative construction methods. The charter ordinance is required because state law calls for a sealed-bid process.

Amyx, whose term expires next month, moved that the commission defer the decision until the new commission is seated. With Soden absent, it would have taken all four commissioners present Tuesday to approve the charter ordinance. Amyx said he is not in favor of the idea, but that it was “probably unfair” for him to vote against it given the circumstances. He said he thinks the decision belongs to the next commission.

In explaining his opposition, Amyx pointed to the Baldwin Creek Sewer project, in which bids came in significantly lower than cost estimates that were initially provided to the city under a no-bid contract.

“I don’t see how this works, and so I’m having a hard time with even thinking about going with the design-build (method),” Amyx said. “In fact, I probably can’t, just to let you know, because of what I’ve been through in the past.”

In response, city utilities engineer Melinda Harger said an alternative method could have an “off-ramp option,” meaning the commission could consider the market and decide at any point to take bids.

Markus also said alternative methods are evolving and have probably gotten better since the Baldwin Creek project, which dates back to 2008. He pointed out that the city has used alternative methods in the past, and that the ordinance provides clearer authorization for the governing body to make that decision but doesn’t mean it has to do so. He said that in his experience, some of the alternative methods help avoid conflicts between the architect and contractor where the city would otherwise get caught in the middle.

Comments

Ken Lassman 1 week, 5 days ago

When the new facility is built, can the current location be refashioned into a "satellite station" so that there can be a "fast response" capability available for downtown disturbances and other locations that would be closer to initiate from the current location instead of the new location? If the city is going to retain ownership of the current property, it would seem to provide an opportunity to create a win-win situation. After all, we have fire stations located strategically around our community to improve response time, and if you aren't building from scratch, it would seem that the opportunity to do that with law enforcement might be a pretty cost effective way to optimize services and response times.

Bob Summers 1 week, 4 days ago

Too expensive. It has been proven on this site, without a doubt, the poor are law abiding people. Crime is negligible in the area.

The building should be used for something that compliments South park or torn down to foster global cooling flowers to be planted.

Or, a busker event and training center for those East of Mass street people would be complimentary to the area as well.

Tom Thomson 1 week, 4 days ago

@Ken: So you think just because the station is out West, Officers will no longer be downtown? Pretty silly assumption, if that is the case.

Torn down? Ok.....if that happened, where would the courts go? I assume you are being sarcastic, but it's tough to say on an internet board.

Ken Lassman 1 week, 4 days ago

No, I'm not assuming that officers will no longer be downtown. I also didn't say that the current facilities would or should be torn down. What I'm wondering is if the city will still own the current location, whether it could be economically re-purposed to be used as a satellite station that would enable faster response times and a more steady presence for parts of town that it is closer to.

And Bob, show me where the city has said that refurbishing the current facilities that it already owns would be too expensive. From what I've seen, they HAVE said that multiple locations would be more expensive but I don't know if that included what I'm talking about.

Francis Hunt 1 week, 4 days ago

If by the "current location" you mean the JLEC building downtown the city doesn't own it. It is owned by the county and the city leases space.

Tom Thomson 1 week, 4 days ago

My comment regarding the building being torn down was directed towards Bob and not you. Sorry if it seemed that way; looks like the "@Bob" didn't get into the message.

As mentioned above, the city leases the 9,000~ square feet inside the LEC for PD operations.

Ken Lassman 1 week, 3 days ago

Seems like the LEC could still be leased and refurbished for satellite operations that would create a quicker response environment. Once again, I'd be interested in seeing the results of pushing the pencil on a Northwest main station combined with a satellite response center at the current location. Seems that the potential for improved response/presence would be well worth the added expense. Zooming around on the turnpike/down 6th street to get downtown quickly from the northwest headquarters is also an added expense, to say nothing of the added gas burned and increased sirens, collision risks, etc.

Paul Beyer 1 week, 3 days ago

Don't think the officers hang around the station waiting for a call to respond to. See them all over town all the time in my travels. They're out patrolling, doing their job. Avery good job in my opinion.

Ken Lassman 1 week, 2 days ago

Of course, Paul; that is not what I was meaning to imply. But having a satellite presence on the south end of downtown could provide needed resources for patrols on foot and bicycle, as well as equipment that could be more quickly accessed, writing reports, inventorying evidence, break areas and other things that would provide better support for those doing their jobs downtown and points that are closer to the LEC than the northwest corner of Lawrence. I think it would be good to ask a cop on the beat whether such a facility would make her/his life easier and I suspect the answer would be "yes."

Bill Turner 1 week, 4 days ago

“Forty years from now I don’t want a commission sitting here to say..." Are you kidding me? We're going to build it, then they're going to be asking for another one in ten years. The list of requests from police is endless, and what they have is never good enough. Meanwhile, how much safer will this make us? If it's going to be more efficient, are we going to be able to cut the police budget in response? Oh... not efficient enough to cut the police budget, just enough to justify a $17M expense. Great.

Jake Davis 1 week, 4 days ago

Not sure what moon you are from but the Lawrence Police have never had their own police department. It has always been a shared facility.

Andy Craig 1 week, 4 days ago

In a perfect world there would be no need for police.

Richard Heckler 1 week, 4 days ago

One plus for this decision is approving a site that we taxpayers own plus the infrastructure that comes with it. If I remember correctly the previous estimate was at $30 million. As for retaining the current site as an eastside satellite should be a no brainer.... It's in place.

Taxpayers pay close attention and speak out against cost over runs. Contractors and such love government projects.

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