City, police officials to update Lawrence school board on status of planned new police headquarters
photo by: Nick Krug
City and police department officials will update the Lawrence school board Monday on the status of the new police headquarters, to be built just west of Free State High School.
Capt. Anthony Brixius, of the Lawrence Police Department; Melinda Harger, the city’s assistant director of utilities; Amanda Sahin, city transportation engineer; and Mark Hecker, assistant director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation, will provide the update to the school board on various aspects of the planned $17 million police headquarters.
The project is of interest to the school district because the headquarters is set to be built immediately west of the FSHS athletic fields, on a 29-acre site wedged between Wakarusa and Overland drives. The city-owned property at 5100 Overland Drive is north of the Sixth Street Walmart store.
The Lawrence City Commission voted in December 2017 to build the headquarters at the site. The project will be a phased development of the headquarters, with phase 1 currently the only phase on the city’s five-year capital improvement plan. At a public meeting in April, Brixius shared the priorities to be included in the first phase: an office for the police chief and space for information technology, records, patrol, evidence and forensic processing.
In advance of Monday’s meeting, Brixius provided the board a list of 14 answers to questions of concern to the district, FSHS parents and the neighborhood. Among the points made in answers are:
• The city is in the process of reviewing architectural/engineering firms for the project, which will develop the site plan for the property.
• The district and public will have the opportunity to comment on the development of the property as the planning process progresses at public hearings on a special use permit, rezoning and platting. Those planning processes typically take three to five months and are expected to start in September.
• A traffic impact study will be completed for the project. It is now recommended that access to the headquarters be available via Overland Drive and not from the arterial street of Wakarusa Drive, but access points will be evaluated in the traffic study.
• The headquarters will not have a jail or holding cells, but criminal suspects could be questioned at the facility.
• Half of the 29-acre site will be developed as a neighborhood park. The public will be able to provide comment as the park’s master plan is being developed in conjunction with the overall site plan for the property. There will be opportunities to develop trails, fitness areas, playgrounds and other park amenities for the neighborhood, depending on the building’s eventual location within the site.
• The headquarters will increase the general police presence in the area of the high school. The answers Brixius provided state that an increased police presence often reduces criminal activity. The site also would be convenient for providing a police presence at FSHS events when requested, or during potential threats.
The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.