WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

3 Lawrence City Commission candidates take lead in campaign contributions

Three Lawrence City Commission candidates have broken away from the pack in raising money for their campaigns. Candidates were required this week to turn in receipt and expenditure reports that list contributions to their campaigns so far. Of the six candidates in the race, three candidates have raised several thousand dollars each: newcomer Brad Finkeldei, incumbent Stuart Boley and newcomer Joey Hentzler. ...

City of Lawrence and firefighters union to begin mediated contract negotiations

Representatives for the City of Lawrence and the local firefighters union will soon begin mediated negotiations in an attempt to resolve disagreements regarding pay increases and other changes to the union’s contract. The first meeting with a mediator from the United States Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will be Thursday and is scheduled to last all day. Assistant City Manager Casey Toomay said ...

Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel found guilty of improperly disposing of asbestos

TOPEKA — Jurors have convicted Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel of illegally disposing of asbestos-containing material while doing remodeling work at Alvamar Country Club in 2016. After deliberating for about two hours Tuesday, the jury found Fritzel guilty on all three counts of which he was charged: knowingly failing to notify environmental agencies prior to removing asbestos material, knowingly failing to ...

Witness: Purchase contract for Alvamar says site did not contain asbestos, indemnified Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel

TOPEKA — A purchase contract for Lawrence’s Alvamar Country Club, presented in U.S. District Court Monday, states there were no hazardous materials on the property, and it includes a provision that would financially protect Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel in the case of such an issue. Fritzel is charged with illegally disposing of asbestos-containing material during a 2016 remodeling of the Alvamar ...

Witnesses say truckloads of debris were removed from Alvamar site after potential for asbestos was known

TOPEKA — Receipts from the Hamm Landfill outside Lawrence indicate that the day after the state environmental agency told Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel to cease all work on the Alvamar Country Club construction site and move no debris because of suspected asbestos, a company owned by Fritzel took five truckloads of debris to the landfill. A series of Hamm Landfill scale tickets for R&R Supply ...

Witnesses say they tried to inform Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel and others about asbestos ahead of demolition

TOPEKA — Two witnesses said Thursday that they tried to inform local developer Thomas Fritzel or his business associates that there were hazardous materials at Lawrence’s Alvamar Country Club, but that Fritzel went on with renovations to the club in spite of their warnings. The witnesses, both of whom worked in the construction insdustry, testified at a federal trial in U.S. District Court in Topeka. ...

Contrasting stories emerge as trial begins against Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel on asbestos charges

TOPEKA — Jurors heard two stories on Wednesday of events surrounding the renovations at Lawrence's Alvamar Country Club, when developer Thomas Fritzel is alleged to have disregarded regulations for handling hazardous materials. Fritzel is charged with illegally disposing of asbestos-containing material during a 2016 remodeling of the Alvamar Country Club in west Lawrence, now known as the Jayhawk Club. The ...

City denies that it acted unlawfully when rejecting Hub apartment project

The City of Lawrence is denying claims that it acted unlawfully when it rejected a proposal to build a five-story apartment and retail building in downtown Lawrence. In May, the Lawrence City Commission unanimously denied a certificate of appropriateness to Chicago-based developer Core Spaces to build the Hub on Campus at the northeast corner of 11th and Massachusetts streets in downtown Lawrence and ...

Fifth-grade students draft unique plans for proposed site of controversial downtown apartments

After city leaders rejected a controversial proposal to build a five-story apartment and retail building downtown, some local elementary students were so inspired to come up with alternative plans that they’ve spent their summer working on them. In May, the Lawrence City Commission rejected the proposal from Chicago-based developer Core Spaces to build the Hub on Campus at the northeast corner of 11th and ...

City leaders approve funding for 4 affordable housing projects, including neighborhood of small homes

City leaders have approved funding for four affordable housing projects, including a development that will create the city’s first neighborhood of small homes. The Lawrence City Commission recently voted to award $250,000 from the city’s affordable housing trust fund to four projects, with the largest award going to a project proposed by Tenants to Homeowners. As the Journal-World previously reported, ...

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 ...