WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

Parks and Rec board chair and former neighborhood leader Bart Littlejohn files to run for Lawrence City Commission seat

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board chair and former neighborhood leader Bart Littlejohn has filed for election to the Lawrence City Commission. Littlejohn, who is the former chair of the Pinckney Neighborhood Association, said he saw work on the commission as an extension of his role on the neighborhood board, where he said he tried to be an advocate for people who are typically excluded from the ...

Douglas County Commission to consider plans to expand aviation manufacturing plant near Vinland

County leaders will soon consider plans for the expansion of an airplane parts manufacturing facility near Vinland. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will consider approving a site plan for a new 22,000-square-foot building for McFarlane Aviation on approximately 40 acres at 680 East 1700 Road, according to a planning report. The property is zoned for light industrial use and ...

Lawrence City Commission to receive update on revenue projections, discuss budget priorities for next year

City leaders will soon receive an update on revenue projections for this year and begin discussions regarding their priorities for the upcoming 2022 budget. As part of its study session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive 2021 revenue projections on the city’s major revenue sources and direct staff regarding five key policy questions that will affect the 2022 budget. Partially because of ...

Draft downtown master plan lays out development plans, other recommendations for downtown's future

Where today there are parking lots and empty buildings, the draft of Lawrence's downtown plan sees the future. In the recently released draft of the city’s new Downtown Master Plan, consultants from Houseal Lavigne Associates are recommending that the city take advantage of city-owned parking lots for development, and they're also encouraging the redevelopment of other vacant or underutilized properties. The ...

Commissioner Stuart Boley files for reelection to Lawrence City Commission

Commissioner Stuart Boley has filed for reelection to the Lawrence City Commission. Boley, who is a retired auditor with the Internal Revenue Service, was elected to the commission in 2015 and served as mayor in 2018. Regarding why he wants to continue his service on the commission, Boley said that with the commission’s new strategic plan and priority based budgeting process, he thinks the commission is ...

Lawrence Community Shelter limiting daytime shelter hours for remainder of month to conduct staff training

The Lawrence Community Shelter has temporarily closed to guests without appointments during business hours due to a loss of staff and the need to conduct staff training. The shelter announced to guests in a note on Tuesday that, starting the next day, they would be required to leave the shelter from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and that the changes would be in place for the remainder of the month. ...

County leaders approve grant to help preserve 135-acre farm surrounding Wells Overlook

Those who climb the stairs of the wooden tower at Wells Overlook Park currently look out across picturesque farmland and open space, and county leaders say that’s a view worth preserving. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission voted unanimously to approve $200,000 in grants as part of the 2021 Natural & Cultural Grant Program. The largest grant, for about $60,000, will go toward ...

City Commissioner Jennifer Ananda announces she will not seek reelection

Lawrence City Commissioner Jennifer Ananda announced Thursday that she planned to begin a Ph.D. program and would not be running for reelection. Ananda began her term on the commission in 2018, was part of the commission’s first female majority and served as mayor last year. Ananda told the Journal-World that a lot of work remained before the end of her term in December but that she wanted to let the public ...

Douglas County staff to begin developing regulations for solar farms in rural areas

After getting the go-ahead from elected leaders, Douglas County staff will soon start developing regulations for solar farms in rural areas of the county. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission voted unanimously to initiate a text amendment to the zoning and land use regulations for rural Douglas County for the development of standards for "solar energy conversion systems," or solar ...

City to increase incentives for manufacturing plant after massive amounts of buried trash found on construction site

City leaders have increased the economic incentives for a new manufacturing plant by about $700,000 to help cover the cleanup of massive amounts of buried trash discovered on the construction site, which is within the city’s business park. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to authorize an increase in the 10-year property tax abatement for the ...

Douglas County Commission to consider creating regulations for solar farms in rural areas

County leaders will soon consider whether to create regulations for solar farms in rural Douglas County. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will consider initiating a text amendment to the zoning and land use regulations for rural Douglas County for the development of standards for Solar Energy Conversion Systems, or solar farms. Planning staff are requesting the creation of ...

Outgoing tourism director shares thoughts on the city's greatest assets, potential improvements

If downtown Lawrence is the city’s crown jewel, then the city’s outgoing tourism director thinks there is more the community can do to make it shine, as well as other community gems that deserve a little more attention. Michael Davidson, the executive director of local convention and visitors bureau Explore Lawrence, plans to retire this spring after serving in his position since April 2016. Davidson came ...

After massive amounts of trash found buried at construction site, city leaders to consider increasing incentives for manufacturing plant

After massive amounts of buried trash were discovered on the site of a new manufacturing plant in the city’s business park, city leaders will soon consider increasing the economic incentives for the project to help offset the cost of the cleanup. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider adopting a resolution to authorize an increase in the 10-year property tax abatement for ...

City of Lawrence plans to open outdoor pool this summer, but lifeguard shortage is causing delays

After not being able to open the public pool last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department is planning a comeback this summer. A full comeback, though, will require a lot more lifeguards. The city needs to hire about 100 more lifeguards to open all areas of both the indoor and outdoor pools safely. Roger Steinbrock, who oversees the Parks and Rec marketing ...

City Government Task Force to recommend consideration of directly elected mayor; discussion of districts ongoing

A task force of Lawrence residents that has been reconsidering the city’s form of government has come out in favor of having a directly elected mayor. As part of its meeting Thursday evening, the City Government Study Task Force voted 7-0, with a few members absent, to recommend that the city consider changing to a directly elected mayor who serves a four-year term. Currently, the City Commission chooses one ...

Douglas County Commission approves agreement to expand mental health crisis team

As part of their larger efforts to improve mental health care in Douglas County, county leaders have approved funding to support additional personnel for mental health crisis response. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission voted unanimously to approve a community partner agreement with LMH Health to expand the Douglas County Integrated Crisis Team at a cost not to exceed $466,000 over ...

Lawrence school district facing budget shortfall after receiving nearly $500,000 gas bill

Story updated at 4:06 p.m. Wednesday: Members of the Lawrence school board want the school district to investigate whether it should have to pay a nearly half-million-dollar monthly gas bill that the district received following a period of intense cold in February. The district's finance director, Kathy Johnson, informed the board of the bill during a study session Monday evening regarding the district’s ...

Douglas County Commission to consider agreement to expand mental health crisis team

County leaders will soon consider moving forward with funding to support additional personnel for mental health crisis response, increases that will eventually help staff the county’s new mental health center. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission will consider approving a community partner agreement with LMH Health to expand the Douglas County Integrated Crisis Team at a cost not ...

Superintendent hopes school district's proposed equity policy will be 'legacy work'

School district leaders are ready to get more into the details of the district’s proposed new equity policy, which district leaders say will include specific practices to address various educational disparities. As part of its meeting Monday, the Lawrence school board reviewed a proposed equity policy that focuses on addressing inequities experienced by marginalized groups, such as people of color, members ...

Jolene Bechtel

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations begin to trend younger, health leaders urge everyone eligible to get vaccinated

With large portions of Douglas County residents over 65 vaccinated but middling interest in vaccines from some younger folks, local health leaders are keeping a watchful eye on trends that indicate COVID-19 is beginning to find younger targets. At the peak of the pandemic, those over 65 led local 14-day test positivity rates, or the percentage of tests that came back positive over the past two weeks, and the ...