Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2017

District leaders concerned about effect of police headquarters on nearby high school

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 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 location for a new $17 million police headquarters facility.

December 7, 2017


Lawrence school board leaders want to have a say in the city’s plan to build a $17 million police headquarters in northwest Lawrence.

The 16-acre site designated for the headquarters is across the street from Free State High School, and School Board President Shannon Kimball said there are already issues with the volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic in that area. Moreover, Kimball said, the district needs more information from the city to determine whether other potential issues exist.

“Frankly, there may be other concerns that our building leaders have and our parents in that school community have that have not been even brought forward because of the lack of a process to involve the school district,” Kimball said.

The Lawrence City Commission voted at its meeting Tuesday to designate the property, 5100 Overland Drive, as the site for the police headquarters. The decision still has to go through additional review and approvals, but Kimball said she thinks the school district should have been involved in the conversation earlier.

“We’re a big land owner in that area, we’re a fellow governmental body in the community, and I want us to not be an afterthought,” Kimball said. “And having it come to the commission so quickly, I felt that the district was left out of the conversation, and I want to work on that.”

Police department staff told the commission that they informed the school district in the spring that the Overland Drive site was in the running for the headquarters. At that time, school district officials said the primary concern was an interest in the land for another school, according to Police Captain Anthony Brixius.

But Kimball said the information provided was limited. After city staff's recommendation to use the Overland Drive site was added to the commission’s Tuesday meeting agenda, Kimball emailed the commission about her concerns, asking it to defer the decision until the school board could discuss the issue.

Addressing the commission at its meeting Tuesday, City Manager Tom Markus said he spoke to district officials following Kimball’s email. He said though there were some conversations about the Overland Drive site, there was a gap in communication on both sides and that the city can do better.

“I would say we both have work to do, but I can tell you there is no strain in the relationship nor is there an inability by either administration to get along and to make sure that those communications take place,” Markus said. “Like a lot of things, we can always do better.”

Following Kimball's email, which was added to the commission's agenda, Markus said he spoke to city planning staff about the process. Markus informed commissioners that the Overland Drive property will have to be rezoned and platted and that a site plan with a special use permit will have to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and approved by the City Commission. He said that process will take three to four months and necessitate notice to nearby property owners and public engagement.

The decision regarding the police headquarters location was not deferred, but commissioners confirmed that their designation of the site could be changed during the review process. Commissioner Matthew Herbert said he thought that was important out of respect for Kimball and because incoming City Commissioner Jennifer Ananda will be seated next month.

“So long as there’s that flexibility that we’ll have that process, I feel more comfortable going forward tonight with this discussion,” said Herbert, who is also a teacher in the district.

The commission picked the Overland Drive site over the other finalist site at VenturePark, an eastern Lawrence property closer to the Douglas County Jail. In total, city staff members reviewed more than a dozen locations. The city’s 2018 budget raised the property tax rate by 1.25 mills to pay for phase one of the police headquarters, and the size of the Overland Drive property would allow for it to expand in the future.

Kimball said that at this point, her plan is to ask for more information about the police headquarters plan from the city so the school board can ask questions and provide input.


Clara Westphal 6 months, 1 week ago

Another school would be more desirable in that location than a police facility.

Francis Hunt 6 months, 1 week ago

There are many schools located near police departments. In "normal" communities they consider that a positive but not here! Two that immediately come to mind, Shawnee Mission East is located near the Prairie Village Police Department and Shawnee Mission West is located near the Overland Park Police Department, they have coexisted for at least 40 years. USD497 is under the impression they run this town and everyone should kowtow to them, they really need to realize they aren't the only game in town and get over themselves.

Andy Craig 6 months, 1 week ago

They're worried about a police station that will hardly be seen from the school building yet I never heard them complain about the motel going up across from the west drive exit of the school. motel + high school kids = trouble,

Shannon Kimball 6 months, 1 week ago

Andy Craig, the district did object to the rezoning that allowed the hotel at the corner of Overland and Wakarusa. I spoke at the city commission meeting specifically to object to the change. Unfortunately in that instance, the district was not made aware of the proposed change in zoning until after it had already been approved by the planning commission.

Andy Craig 6 months, 1 week ago

I figured they did. I just don't remember seeing anything about it.

John Brazelton 6 months, 1 week ago

Most growing cities don't have just one Headquarters building, but a number sub-headquarters spread around the city commanded by a Captain. It makes for faster response time and community policing where each sub-headquarters better knows their part of the city than just the main Headquarters where police just ride around the city in squad cars.

Paul Beyer 6 months, 1 week ago

Sheer stupidity from school board. The choice is up to the city commission. School board needs to work on their job of education.

Bob Summers 6 months, 1 week ago

Police headquarters is a scared straight teaching tool.

Will government inculcation centers that supply police headquarters their business, use the tool?


Bill Turner 6 months, 1 week ago

What's the problem? Traffic? "There are already issues with the volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic in that area." And yet the school board has never taken issue with the building of a WalMart, Sprouts, or any of the other numerous businesses and apartment complexes (you know, things that actually generate a large amount of traffic) that have been going up in the area. With a possible entrance from Congressional Dr., I doubt that this will impact the the situation very much. And finallly, it's a high school - you have traffic for thirty minutes twice a day for 9 months of the year.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 6 months, 1 week ago

If they are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to fear from peace officers.

Richard Heckler 6 months, 1 week ago

It seems the Riverfront Mall has vacancies constantly so taxpayers should take over that space thus creating space at the current LPD location.

Also come up with a plan to redesign the 15th and Wakarusa location..... make it work. Don't say it cannot be done. Taxpayers may need to purchase more of that location, Tear down then build to meet demand.

Now we have two locations with which to takeover and make work.

Keep the court rooms and holding cells at the current center.

Josh Berg 6 months, 1 week ago

So the school board is upset that there was no transparency with this plan? I guess now they understand how we feel when we all vote on a bond issue then after it is voted through, more details emerge that were kept secret until after the election. This is actually kind of amusing. It is fun watching the school board get a taste of their own medicine.

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