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Knology set to drop WGN, RFD TV and other networks from cable lineup; Baker files plans for $1.2 million wetland education center; study finds Lawrence has among the lowest development fees in the region

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News and notes from around town:

• Oh my. Fans of Cubs baseball and country music are in for a shock. Lawrence’s Knology cable television system is set to drop several channels, including the Cubs’ WGN network and RFD TV, a network that shows country music and programming aimed at a rural audience.

Knology’s top Lawrence official confirmed to me that the company is in the process of dropping WGN from its cable lineup effective Dec. 31.

But there are other changes coming before then. Beginning tomorrow, Knology will drop RFD TV, Family Net and the TV Guide Channel, which shouldn’t be confused with the guide button that is on your cable remote. That on-screen guide will continue to be in place.

Debra Schmidt, system manager for Knology Kansas, told me the decisions have been difficult but are part of a much bigger picture of what is going on in the cable industry.

The big players in the cable industry — think ESPN and Food Network and such — are gaining more and more leverage over cable companies all the time. The big programming companies bundle their popular networks together with their less popular networks and require cable providers to take the whole bunch or none at all. As a result, fees that the cable companies must pay to the big-time programmers have been increasing.

Schmidt said in order to control costs, Knology has had to make some tough decisions about dropping some smaller cable networks that don’t have such leverage.

The folks at RFD TV are not taking the decision sitting down. An executive with RFD TV recently flew into Lawrence to discuss the issue with Lawrence city commissioners, and the mayor did send a letter to Knology asking it to reconsider its decision to drop RFD TV. But Schmidt said the change will continue as planned.

Two other channels also will be dropped from the system beginning tomorrow: Blue Highways, a network that features older music and tends to lean towards the Americana side of things; and Family Net TV.

It looks like some of the shows on the networks are available for viewing on the Web sites of the networks.

• Here’s another sign that the South Lawrence Trafficway actually is going to get built, and no this one doesn’t involve icicles in Hades. (Don’t worry, though, that still applies to the Cubs and the World Series.)

Baker University has filed plans at the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department to build a $1.2 million wetland education center near the wetlands that the university is creating as part of the mitigation efforts for the South Lawrence Trafficway project.

The plans call for a 10,000-square-foot wetland education center that will have a large display area, two classrooms, a kitchen, a gift shop and office space. The project also calls for a 3,000-square-foot maintenance building for the property. The project is set to be built near the main entrance of the wetlands area, which is at 1365 North 1250 Road.

Roger Boyd, Baker’s director of the wetlands, told me he expects the new building can accommodate up to 170 people at a time for presentations and other related activities. Baker is betting that the education center will draw interest from the general community, but particularly will be a popular place for school field trips.

“The display area will have a lot of exhibits about what to look for when you are out here, and about why wetlands are important,” Boyd said.

Baker already has moved a new house to the site, which will provide a place for the resident manager of the wetlands to live. I believe the house came from just east of Haskell Avenue and was one of the handful of houses that are in the path of the trafficway.

The wetland center and the restoration or creation of about 300 acres of new wetlands are being funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation to compensate for the loss of about 60 acres of wetlands that will be lost to the SLT project. As part of the mitigation plan, Baker will receive about $9 million as an endowment to manage the wetland property.

Baker, Boyd said, hasn’t yet received that money, but is expected to in fall 2013. Boyd said the university wants to begin the planning and approval process now so construction on the center could begin in March 2014 with an opening in fall 2014.

“I’m still pinching myself,” said Boyd, who has been officially overseeing the care of the wetlands since 1982 and has been wrapped up in all the legal wrangling of the SLT project. “I’m still having a hard time believing that it actually is going to happen.”

• While we’re talking about projects that have taken a long time to develop in Lawrence, there is a new study out that refutes some perceptions about Lawrence’s business-unfriendly environment.

A group of business students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Society for Industrial Office Realtors have released a new report that looks at the amount of fees cities in the area charge for commercial and industrial development projects.

Lawrence ended up being one of the clear-cut bargains in the area. Lawrence had the third lowest fee total in the office building category and the second lowest total in the industrial building category.

In both cases, the fees charged in Lawrence were more than $200,000 less than what were charged in the most expensive communities. Interestingly, the highest fees charged were in two communities often touted as being more business-friendly than Lawrence: Overland Park and Lenexa.

The authors of the study submitted actual architectural site plans to the planning department of each city, and asked the department to provide a fake invoice for fees that would be due on the project. The first project was for a $9.6 million, 60,000-square-foot office building on a 10-acre site. Here’s a look at the total development fees for each community:

— Blue Springs, Mo.: $98,092 l — Columbia, Mo.: $46,801 — Gardner: $145,428 — Grandview, Mo.: $92,479 — Independence, Mo.: $79,179 — Kansas City, Mo.: $130,751 — Lawrence: $48,057 — Leawood: $98,181 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $130,991 — Lenexa: $261,318 — Liberty, Mo.: $117,091 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $122,411 — Olathe: $188,972 — Overland Park: $248,773 — Riverside, Mo.: $37,760

The second project was for a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot warehouse industrial building on about 15 acres of property. Here’s a look at those fees:

— Blue Springs, Mo.: $100,919 — Columbia, Mo.: $71,894 — Gardner: $199,423 — Grandview: $86,091 — Independence, Mo.: $185,869 — Kansas City, Mo.: $134,650 — Lawrence: $48,768 — Leawood: $110,962 — Lee’s Summit, Mo.: $115,729 — Lenexa: $334,873 — Liberty, Mo.: $160,887 — North Kansas City, Mo.: $169,282 — Olathe: $267,881 — Overland Park: $337,482 — Riverside, Mo.: $44,360

This group did the same study in 2010, and the results were much the same: Lawrence was near the bottom in terms of fees charged.

The findings could be spun a couple of different ways in Lawrence. One is that leaders could tout how aggressive Lawrence is in trying to attract business to the community. But another viewpoint might be whether Lawrence is charging too little for development fees, causing general taxpayers to subsidize a service that is supposed to be supported by fees. The city has done some studying on that question and doesn't believe it is the case. Many of the fees — especially in Johnson County — are impact fees for roads, parks and even art that Lawrence simply doesn't charge.

The entire study raises an interesting question: How much do development fees play into the decision making of developers? I haven’t done all the math, but I suspect many of these communities with higher fees have had higher job growth rates than Lawrence has. I know many of them have a greater percentage of business and industry as a part of their tax base than Lawrence does.

So, how does this play into the mantra that Lawrence is unfriendly to business? Well, if you hear people saying that Lawrence charges outrageous fees — and I hear that sometimes — you might want to take those comments with a grain of salt.

But it also is worth remembering there are a couple of different types of development processes in Lawrence. The one studied here is for a developer that is proposing to build on a shovel-ready site. There are a few shovel-ready commercial and industrial sites in Lawrence, but it would be interesting to see how our inventory stacks up against other communities. My guess is we have less.

Often, development of any size in Lawrence requires a developer to rezone a piece of property to fit his or her needs. When people think of some of the more high profile business squabbles or rejections in Lawrence — such as Wal-mart of several years ago, Lowe’s more recently or plans for an industrial park near the Lawrence Municipal Airport — those often had zoning issues attached to them.

So, what I’m saying here, is I don’t think this study is going to end the debate about whether Lawrence is adequately business-friendly enough. Imagine that — a debate in Lawrence continuing on.

• Town Talk is taking a day off tomorrow, and I plan on debating no one. (Although that will require me hiding from my family all day in my basement, but I’m willing to give it a try.) Town Talk will return on Monday.

Comments

Ira Rott 1 year, 9 months ago

My father is going to be really annoyed he watches RFD TV all the time, he had already been thinking about dropping some channels, this might convince him to just switch companies entirely.

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Joshua Montgomery 1 year, 9 months ago

A lot of our customers use Dish network for TV. Their Authorized Service Provider for the local region (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska & Iowa) is located right here in Lawrence at 19th & Delaware.

Call Dave Edwards over there and he'll take good care of you: 888-677-2992 x7003

They've done a great job taking care of our customers in the past.

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Gareth Skarka 1 year, 9 months ago

What a shock -- Knology dropping MORE channels, and yet not adding the channels that ALL of the other WOW-owned cable providers offer.

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justforfun 1 year, 9 months ago

Looks like someone on the other side of the fence is excited! He may have a lynch mob after him if he speaks too much!! Kidding of course!!

“I’m still pinching myself,” said Boyd, who has been officially overseeing the care of the wetlands since 1982 and has been wrapped up in all the legal wrangling of the SLT project. “I’m still having a hard time believing that it actually is going to happen.”

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 9 months ago

This is Knology circling the drain.

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skinny 1 year, 9 months ago

I dropped Knology last month. I was paying over a 100.00 bucks a month for cable TV. I can only watch one channel at a time. I bought a TV antenna from Amazon and put it on the roof. I get 41 TV stations plus all the TV stations on the internet with my Smart-TV like Discovery ect..No need to pay for TV any more! I get it all free!

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Bucksilver 1 year, 9 months ago

As usual, nothing escapes the abusively anonymous cyber bully's judgement and sentencing. To this person, everyone [else] is a hack, a loser, a rip-off, duped or a duper or a sham. Day in, day out -- what else yawn is new.

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oldmomxx 1 year, 9 months ago

Could you tell me more Skinny? I am interested!

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skinny 1 year, 9 months ago

What would you like to know? You can check the area you live in for TV signal strength at antennaweb.org and then get a smart TV or get a Ruku or WD box.

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Danielle Brunin 1 year, 9 months ago

Wow, we watch WGN a lot, especially during baseball season. After my husband recovers from his tantrum, we're going to be dropping Knology. Who all would you recommend as the best companies for cheap, basic cable? It's hard to tell online because of all the stupid promotions. We live at the bottom of a hill so an antenna for local channels is not an option.

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itsalwayssunnyinlarry 1 year, 9 months ago

In my search for cable companies downtown..knology is all ive been able to find. They have a monopoly. It's funny Internet/tv is cheaper in kc than it is here.

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fanofKU 1 year, 9 months ago

Nearly everything is cheaper in KC than Lawrence! That's why I don't shop in Lawrence and I certainly don't have Knology!!!

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parrothead8 1 year, 9 months ago

Dish, DirecTV, and AT&T Uverse are all offering 6-12 month promos that will save you a lot of money over Knology (and give you more channels.) Once the promos expire, you'll probably be paying pretty close to what you pay now with Knology. I've kept Knology because they still employ a lot of local people, but dropping WGN so that I can't watch Cubs games is the last straw.

Or just pay for the Palladium Internet and get a Roku box.

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bearded_gnome 1 year, 9 months ago

RFD and Blue Highways are very nice, classy alternatives to the noise. so, lose these, but the charges don't go down? hmmm.

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itsalwayssunnyinlarry 1 year, 9 months ago

Dropping channels and keeping prices the same. Also annoys me they are dropping the TV guide channel. Not all of us buy/rent the stupid cable boxes.

I wish they had some widespread competition in lawrence for cable services.

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irvan moore 1 year, 9 months ago

how about some cable replacement/alternative/options suggestions, must be some other cable providers available

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average 1 year, 9 months ago

Unfortunately, not available in substantial parts of Lawrence (I live at pretty much the geographical center of town and don't qualify). By most reports they haven't added an inch to their U-Verse network in 3 years, anywhere in the country.

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sleepy33 1 year, 9 months ago

Every time I pay my Knology bill, I seethe with rage. It's about $40 more expensive per month than our DirecTV package that had MUCH better equipment and lineup. Unfortunately, until I can pony up the not-insignificant amount of cash to have a giant tree removed from our backyard, I can't get a line of sight for DirecTV or Dish, and AT&T service stops about 2 blocks away. Knology is the absolute WORST.

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ratstar 1 year, 9 months ago

It's the cable networks' fault. The big ones use their muscle to drag along select weak channels so that we are subjected to the likes of "Honey Boo Boo," while the smaller players get squeezed out. It's the American way -- might makes right. I investigated antenna TV and Roku a few months ago and cable proved to be the best deal for my viewing habits. Sad though, since I really only visit perhaps 20 channels a month. Perhaps in the next year when it's time to upgrade my computer the picture will change. I will miss WGN (stands for World's Greatest Newspaper!) more for "America's Funniest Home Videos" than for baseball, but it's a huge loss nonetheless.

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kuhusker 1 year, 9 months ago

You can split providers. We have Knology for TV and internet through AT&T. I suppose you could do the reverse too.

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RubyVrooom 1 year, 9 months ago

Get rid of cable, and definitely don't go with ATT.
I bought a $20 antenna from walmart- it just hooks to the tv, not the roof. With that I get about 25 channels perfectly clear. Free. And I also bought a $50 Roku box which lets you get internet content on your TV. There are no fees for that, but I do pay $8 a month for netflix instant (you watch it on your tv through the roku). I'm still able to watch content from most cable networks for free on the roku, and netflix has about every series and movie you can think of. So I spent $70 on equipment and pay $8 a month and we have way more than enough choices for all of us in a family that includes a kid and teenager.

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tir 1 year, 9 months ago

Sounds great, but don't you have to pay for internet service for the Roku box?

1

RubyVrooom 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm guessing most people would already have internet for their house. It just uses your regular wireless connection.

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 9 months ago

"In both cases, the fees charged in Lawrence were more than $200,000 less than what were charged in the most expensive communities. Interestingly, the highest fees charged were in two communities often touted as being more business-friendly than Lawrence: Overland Park and Lenexa."

Lawrence gives itself away to any developer. No pride. Cheapens its image.

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jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

I'll really miss WGN - we like that station a lot. Reruns of "How I Met Your Mother" are very popular in our house.

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Smarmy_Schoolmarm 1 year, 9 months ago

That seems to be playing around the clock on a lot of the channels we pick up for free with a small inside antenna.

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jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

Last time I used a "small inside antenna", I got little to no reception. Unless they've greatly improved since then,...

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Ginny Hedges 1 year, 9 months ago

U-Verse is available just a few blocks from my house. As soon as it is here, I am getting rid of Knology, the cable and internet. You gave me one more reason to change. We are sooo frustrated with Knology. :(

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deec 1 year, 9 months ago

They had a good year...in 1985.

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itsalwayssunnyinlarry 1 year, 9 months ago

Then why does my bill go to North Carolina every month? It used to go to South Dakota, but recently changed.

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Clara Westphal 1 year, 9 months ago

I watched the Cubs games because their announcer knows how to broadcast a game. The chatter and too many off field camera shots of the KC Royals announcers ruin any chance to just enjoy the game. One of these years when management quits trading the better players for all-so-rans, we might have a winning team again.

In the meantime, I will miss WGN. They have a great weather broadcast person, too.

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gccs14r 1 year, 9 months ago

It'd be nice if either the KC or Topeka stations could get together and put up a repeater somewhere north, south, or east of Lawrence. antennaweb.org tells me I need a pretty tall mast to get Kansas City, and Topeka isn't possible with any kind of residential mast.

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average 1 year, 9 months ago

If you haven't gotten someone to actually test it, I'll suggest that antennaweb.org is pretty conservative in its ideas of what you can get.

I recommend the "TV Signal Locator" at tvfool.org. Type in an address and reasonable height that you can install an outdoor antenna.

I have a boring 70s-style medium-length antenna on a mast that's slightly over roof height on a 1-story house. Good location in town (there are some valleys like Marvonne/Melholland that can't get anything). With a mast-mounted amplifier mostly to overcome the 4-way splitter inside the house. I get perfect signal on anything in yellow at the TVFool page, and I get everything in green even when I'm not pointed away from it.

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kuguardgrl13 1 year, 9 months ago

U-Verse is decent for TV and internet if you don't have a lot of things running at the same time. Internet speeds slow down when you have several computers running as well as the TV. I will say that it is better service than Knology though. I had Knology last year through my apartment complex, and it went out the week before finals. Most inconvenient. No problems with service on ATT so far. The only concern is price and the supposed package deals. I was told one price and was charged a higher price. Very annoying. They also don't have very good physical locations. The stores will only sell you the package. They won't deal with billing or anything like that.

My parents have had Dish Network for years with few problems. Granted, they don't live in Lawrence and have never lived in Kansas. The closet to here was the Twin Cities. Only problem up there was snow collecting on the dish. It will occasionally go out when the weather is bad, but that seems to be the only issue. The price can be high, but it's well worth the channel selection. I believe DirecTV is about the same.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 9 months ago

Kansas has the 9th highest sales tax in the nation http://taxfoundation.org/article/state-and-local-sales-tax-rates-january-1-2012

Lawrence at 8.85% is higher yet.

When shopping consumers may well be paying more than that when a "secret sales tax" is attached. Which brings up a point. Why is the City Commission not passing an ordinance demanding that all special tax locations post this information in plain sight multiple times?

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Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

Big deal. We're going to dump knology when Uverse hits our neighborhood. Knology can fall off the world and I won't care.

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Megan Tugman 1 year, 9 months ago

I think its amusing how up in arms everyone gets about cable and internet. On another note, has anyone else stopped receiving these daily posts via email? I haven't received an email for one for about a week now.

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