Posts tagged with Sewer Plant

Topeka-based credit union buys bank branch in West Lawrence; city set to approve permit for $65 million sewer plant

The Lawrence banking industry has become something like a college class reunion: Names tags are needed, and it would be helpful if I had a list of who I still owe money to.

We’ve already reported on several name changes on the Lawrence banking scene, but add one more new name to the mix. Intrust Bank has sold its branch on Wakarusa Drive to a Topeka-based credit union.

Envista Credit Union has opened its first Lawrence location at 1555 Wakarusa Drive in the space formerly occupied by Intrust. Envista finalized a deal to purchase the bank building from Intrust last month, and opened its new branch a few weeks ago. Intrust continues to operate two other locations in Lawrence.

“The credit union is growing, and we want to be able to offer added convenience for the members we have in Lawrence and elsewhere in the area,” Jessica Somers, vice president of business development, said of the decision to open a Lawrence location.

Envista is a significant player in the financial services sector in Topeka. The credit union has nine locations in Topeka, in addition to one branch in Hutchinson. In total, Envista has about $260 million in assets and more than 33,000 members. You don’t have to be a member of a particular profession to join the credit union. Envista allows membership based on geographic location. Any resident of Douglas County, and a host of surrounding counties in northeast Kansas, is eligible to become a member.

Due to its size, Envista is able to offer pretty much all the lending services available at a traditional bank, Somers said. That includes mortgage lending, auto loans and business loans.

The Lawrence branch employs seven people, and will have a grand opening celebration at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Somers said.

As for Intrust Bank, Doug Gaumer, the community bank president for Intrust, told me the decision to sell the branch came down to changes in how customers use bank branches.

The trend of online banking and now mobile banking via smartphones is changing the industry. (I hear a lot about the convenience of online banking, but I just don’t see it. I know I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to guess the password my wife sets each week.)

“The manner in which people are conducting their banking is definitely changing,” Gaumer said. “Technology has become more important than physical locations. I would rather invest in people here than bricks and mortar for a branch.”

Intrust continues to operate a large branch near Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue, and has its Lawrence headquarters at Ninth and Vermont streets downtown. Gaumer said the bank is planning to use some of the proceeds of the West Lawrence sale to remodel the interior of the Sixth and Lawrence branch. He said Intrust also has added a position to the bank’s Lawrence-based commercial banking team.

“We’re confident we’re still well positioned to serve the community,” Gaumer said.

In other news and notes from around town:

• There is still one industry where location is paramount: Sewer plants. Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting Tuesday evening will take an important step toward constructing the city’s new $65 million sewage treatment plant south of the Wakarusa River.

Commissioners are set to approve the special use permit to locate the plant on 531 acres at 2300 E. 41st St. Yes, Lawrence now has a 41st Street. (I think for fun we should all hail a taxi and ask the driver to take us to 41st Street and see where we end up. I would offer to pay the fare, but I can’t get into my bank account at the moment.)

The city has renamed part of the county road that runs in front of the site for the sewer plant 41st Street. The property is just south of the Wakarusa River where O’Connell Road dead-ends at the Wakarusa River. The city renamed the road because the property has been annexed into the city, so it needs a city street name.

As for the special use permit, it is expected to be approved without much problem. The property is in a low-lying area dominated by agricultural uses. The city is creating a large buffer area to separate the plant from neighboring properties, and to ensure that the city has plenty of room to expand in the future. The city bought 531 acres at the site, but the first phase of the sewage treatment plant is expected to occupy only 15 acres. The rest of the property will remain in agricultural production. The special use permit does highlight one unusual element of the sewer plant design: A fairly large array of solar panels will be installed to provide some of the needed electricity.

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City prepares to approve budget tonight, including $62 million worth of road and infrastructure projects

Here are three things that were discussed frequently on my family's recent weeklong vacation through the northern Plains: Roadwork (there was a lot of it), budgets (there was not enough of those), and "Full House" (for approximately 1,400 miles, episodes of the once popular Olsen twins sitcom played continuously, thanks to an in-car DVD player and my 7-year old daughter.)

It appears that at least two of the three will be topics at tonight's Lawrence City Commission meeting — hopefully, budgets and roadwork.

Commissioners tonight are set to give final approval to the city's 2014 budget. We've previously reported the basics: A $185 million budget that increases spending by about 6 percent and the city's property tax rate by about 0.5 of a mill. Owners of a $200,000 home will pay about $12 per year extra in property taxes, as a result of the rate increase.

But one important part of the city's budget that doesn't always get a lot of public attention is its list of capital projects that it plans to undertake in the next year. The city has about $15.2 million worth of road projects and other infrastructure purchases on its to-do list in 2014. Here's a look at some of the more notable undertakings:

• $1.7 million for reconstruction of the intersection at 23rd and Iowa streets. Expect new turn lanes and greater vehicle capacity. The project is being funded through state and federal dollars.

• $2 million for the first phase of the 31st Street extension in eastern Lawrence. When completed, the project will extend 31st Street from Haskell Avenue to O'Connell Road. Work will be going on during the same time that construction is occurring on the South Lawrence Trafficway project. The city will use property taxes to fund the project.

• $2.5 million to rebuild a portion of Wakarusa Drive from Oread West to Legends Drive. Proceeds from the city's infrastructure sales tax will be used to fund the project.

• $42,000 to begin engineering work on a future project to improve Kasold Drive from Bob Billings Parkway to Harvard Road.

• $2 million to begin work on a new Maple Street pump station to help alleviate stormwater flooding issues in North Lawrence. Funding will come from the city's infrastructure sales tax.

• $1.5 million to possibly purchase a site or begin design work for a new police headquarters facility. Funding will come from property taxes.

• $400,000 to improve the city's fiber optic and broadband system. The project will improve fiber optic connectivity between city-owned buildings, traffic signals and other structures, but also may put the city in a position to begin offering some of its fiber optic network for use by private broadband providers. Funding will come from property taxes.

• $1.05 million for renovation of the Santa Fe depot in East Lawrence. About $350,000 of the funding will come from property taxes, with the rest coming from a federal/state grant.

• $275,000 to install a traffic signal at George Williams Way and Bob Billings Parkway. The intersection is expected to become significantly busier once the new South Lawrence Trafficway interchange opens on Bob Billings Parkway.

• $750,000 to build a new public transit transfer facility. A temporary facility currently is located downtown, but staff members are exploring an area near the The Merc at Ninth and Iowa streets for a permanent facility. Funding will come from a transit reserve fund.

• $1 million to fund technology upgrades at the city and county's 911 center. Funding will come from property taxes.

• $1.2 million to replace a quint fire engine. Funding comes from both sales tax and property tax funds.

The really big builders in the city's budget, though, are in the city's Utilities Department. The city has budgeted $47.2 million worth of water and sewer projects in 2014.

A big part of that will be making your water taste better. The city has budgeted $17.9 million worth of work to improve taste and odor issues that occasionally occur when algae blooms become significant at Clinton Lake or on the Kansas River.

I would expect this project will get more discussion before commissioners actually approve any spending on the project. By putting it in the 2014 budget, that gives the city the legal authority to spend the money on the project, but commissioners may still decide that's too much to spend on the intermittent taste and odor issues.

The other big utilities project is $14.8 million worth of work on a new sewage treatment plant for south of the Wakarusa River. This will be a multiyear project. When it is done by 2017, the project is expected to cost about $65 million.

Those projects will be funded by increased water and sewer rates, which also are up for approval at tonight's meeting. The budget proposes an approximately 5 percent increase in the monthly water and sewer bills for an average household. That comes after commissioners approved a 6 percent rate increase in 2013.

A household that uses 8,000 gallons of water a month would pay $76.21 in monthly water and sewer fees, up from $72.34 under the current rates. City staff members have put together a chart that shows how Lawrence's rates compare with other cities in the area. An 8,000 gallon bill ranges from $61.69 in Manhattan to $102.65 in Gardner. Click here to see the full list.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today. This basically is the last chance for the public to make comment about the 2014 budget. Historically, the city's budget discussions haven't produced a full house. But who knows? Maybe it will tonight. I'm fine either way — as long as I don't have to listen to the Olsen twins.

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