WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

Lawrence City Commission open to some budget cuts to keep recreation centers free, hold mill levy flat

City leaders reached a general consensus Tuesday that the city should make cuts to several programs in order to keep the property tax rate flat and eliminate proposed entrance fees for recreation centers, but expressed interest in continuing to fund a scholarship program at the Lawrence Arts Center. A Lawrence City Commission work group proposed dozens of potential cuts and funding changes to address concerns ...

Lawrence city leaders to discuss potential budget cuts that would keep tax rate flat and recreation centers free

A Lawrence City Commission work group is proposing dozens of potential changes, including cuts to several programs, to address concerns commissioners have with former City Manager Tom Markus’ recommended budget for 2020. As part of its work session Tuesday, the commission will discuss the proposed changes to the recommended budget. Markus’ recommended operating budget totals about $236 million and calls ...

City and firefighters union still at odds over pay increase, other contract elements

Representatives for the City of Lawrence and the local firefighters union continue to disagree on how much of a wage increase is needed to keep firefighter pay competitive, and contract negotiations could soon require mediation. Negotiations between the city and the union, Local 1596, are governed by a local resolution that states that whenever a contract is negotiated, the negotiations are automatically ...

Lawrence City Commission to discuss new growth plan that limits expansion of city boundaries

City leaders will soon discuss a new growth plan that would favor infill development over expanding the city’s boundaries. As part of its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will discuss the new comprehensive plan, Plan 2040, which lays out policies that will shape how the city grows for the next 20 years. Plan 2040 prioritizes development within the city’s boundaries and requires that ...

Affordable Housing Advisory Board to consider 6 projects for funding

Affordable housing projects and programs requesting support from the city include a development of small homes, apartments for seniors, and a mixed-use complex with units for low-income renters. The city’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board has received funding applications from six projects, and following an upcoming evaluation, it will provide its funding recommendation to the Lawrence City Commission. ...

Judge denies request to order immediate halt to Queens Road project; lawsuit remains pending

A judge has denied a homeowner’s request to temporarily halt the controversial Queens Road reconstruction project in order to hear a lawsuit that claims the taxing districts set up to fund the project are illegal. In January, Kurt Schaake, a homeowner in the taxing districts, filed a lawsuit against the City of Lawrence in Douglas County District Court claiming that the taxing districts are arbitrary and ...

City leaders want cap on how many whole-home Airbnbs a single owner can operate

City leaders expressed interest Tuesday in putting a cap on the number of whole-home Airbnbs and other short-term rentals that can be operated by a single owner. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 3-2, with commissioners Stuart Boley and Leslie Soden opposing, to have city staff draft changes to existing regulations that would establish a licensing process for all short-term ...

City of Lawrence welcomes new city manager Craig Owens

The City of Lawrence has officially welcomed new City Manager Craig Owens aboard. Owens began his employment with the city on Monday, and Tuesday was his first City Commission meeting. Owens replaces Tom Markus, 68, who retired after about three years as the city’s top administrator. Related story: Tom Markus - June 30 — Town Talk: An exit interview with departing City Manager Tom Markus Mayor Lisa ...

Tour of Lawrence cycling race to return to downtown Lawrence for Independence Day

The Tour of Lawrence will once again bring cyclists to the streets of downtown Lawrence, turning the city’s sidewalks and street corners into prime viewing spots to see top-level cyclists compete in the four-day tour. After a hiatus, the Tour of Lawrence is bringing back its signature downtown race, which will kick off the omnium tour, where cyclists rack up points at each event as they compete for overall ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider allocating additional $250K for bike boulevards

Updated story - July 2 — Commission votes to defer construction of one bike boulevard, consider less expensive options for other City leaders will soon consider whether to move forward with Lawrence’s first bike boulevards, even though the project is significantly over budget. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will again consider approving the final conceptual designs for the ...

Budget proposal to charge entrance fees at recreation centers represents change in philosophy for city

With its funding from the city holding flat and reserves dwindling, city officials say that the funding philosophy of the city’s recreation services — which have historically been free or substantially tax supported — needs to change. Amid what he’s described as a difficult budget year, City Manager Tom Markus’ recommended budget proposes no increase in the amount of money the recreation fund receives ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider banning certain Airbnbs and other short-term rentals from neighborhoods

Lawrence city leaders will soon consider changes to the city’s recently established rules for regulating Airbnb properties and other short-term rentals, including an option to ban certain rentals from neighborhoods. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider revisions to the short-term rental program, a component of which was suspended this spring after commissioners expressed ...

Mental health project OK to proceed following archeological survey requested by Delaware Tribe

A survey of a site proposed for behavioral health housing in northern Lawrence has not turned up archeological or human remains, clearing the way for the much-anticipated Douglas County behavioral health campus to move forward. Earlier this year, the Delaware Tribe, which once inhabited the Lawrence area, requested the archeological survey to ensure there were no historical tribal artifacts or burial sites, ...

Multimillion-dollar Queens Road reconstruction project on hold as city awaits initial decision in lawsuit

The City of Lawrence has elected to put the controversial Queens Road reconstruction project on hold pending a decision in a lawsuit filed by one of the homeowners in the taxing districts set up to pay for the project. Following years of debate regarding how the multimillion-dollar road project should be funded, the Lawrence City Commission voted in December to set up two special taxing districts, under which ...

Sustainability Advisory Board to consider recommendation to charge for disposable plastic and paper bags in Lawrence

City of Lawrence leaders will soon consider whether to start charging people for disposable grocery and shopping bags in an effort to reduce plastic waste. The city’s Sustainability Advisory Board voted last summer to make the issue of single-use plastics one of its priorities, and since then a committee has been studying a potential plastic bag ban. The committee has completed its review and is ...

Heavy rain causes city to release rainwater and sewage into Brush Creek; city advises avoiding creek until further notice

The city has released a mix of rainwater and sewage into Brush Creek after heavy rainfall over the weekend. The city announced in a news release Monday afternoon that, after posting signs along the creek, it began a release of rainwater and sewage into the creek about 9 p.m. Sunday. The city continued the release for about 15 hours, or until about 12:20 p.m. Monday. The release was done near Pump Station 9, ...

City, county and school district leaders resolve to collaborate on equity issues

City, county and school district leaders say they want to work together in their efforts to address equity issues in the community, and they took a first step toward doing so Monday. Elected leaders and officials from the City of Lawrence, Douglas County and the Lawrence school district met Monday afternoon to discuss each entity’s efforts related to equity, and they resolved to communicate more on the ...

To modernize parking enforcement, city manager proposes increasing cost of parking and tickets downtown

City leaders agree that the coin-fed meters and other outdated devices used to enforce parking rules downtown need to be modernized, but how much parking rates and tickets should increase next year to fund that modernization is up for debate. City Manager Tom Markus’ recommended budget for 2020 proposes increasing parking meter, garage and permit rates, as well as the fine for parking tickets. If ultimately ...

Proposed raise for Lawrence city commissioners would make pay among highest in state

If a proposed pay raise for Lawrence city commissioners is approved, it would move commissioners from among the lowest-paid elected city leaders in the state to among the highest, trailing only Wichita, which has about four times the population of Lawrence. An increase in pay for Lawrence's five city commissioners is on the table after commissioners have gone 20 years without an increase in pay. City Manager ...

Parks and Rec board hears public concerns about closing Community Building, says entrance fees will be barrier for low-income residents

More than a dozen people crowded into a small meeting room at the Lawrence Parks and Recreation administrative building Thursday to explain why they thought the Community Building should remain open and free to the public. A father of two told the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that when he was unable to pay the water bill, his family went to the Community Building to shower. Another woman said when she ...