WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

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City leaders agree that the coin-fed meters and other outdated devices used to enforce parking rules downtown need to be modernized, but how much parking rates and tickets should increase next year to fund that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 ...

Budget proposal to increase city commissioner pay from $9,000 to $38,000 sparks debate among city leaders

City Manager Tom Markus’ recommended budget is proposing the first salary increase for city commissioners in 20 years, but commissioners disagree on how much salaries should go up. Budget and Strategic Initiatives Manager Danielle Buschkoetter told the commission at its meeting Tuesday that the recommended budget would increase salaries for commissioners to $38,000. Buschkoetter said there wasn't a good ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider delaying one bike boulevard due to potential cost increase

City leaders deferred taking action on the city’s first bike boulevards Tuesday, requesting instead to review the project’s finances to see whether one of the two boulevards can be delayed to keep the project within budget. At its regular meeting, the Lawrence City Commission considered the final conceptual designs for the 21st Street and 13th Street bicycle boulevards and a potential $250,000 increase to ...

City leaders concerned about proposed property tax, utility and recreation fee increases

City leaders expressed concern about Lawrence City Manager Tom Markus’ budget recommendations to charge entrance fees at recreation centers, increase the property tax rate and significantly increase utility rates. Markus is proposing a recommended operating budget of about $236 million that includes a 0.5-mill property tax hike and increases in water, solid waste and stormwater rates. Markus, who began his ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider bike boulevard designs, additional $250,000 for project

City leaders will soon consider designs for Lawrence’s first bike boulevards as well as a change that would significantly increase the project’s budget. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider approving the final conceptual designs for the 21st Street and 13th Street bicycle boulevards and a potential $250,000 increase to the project’s budget. The budget overage would ...

Lawrence Arts Center requests earmarked tax funds to help buy next-door site for public art space

Lawrence Arts Center leaders are requesting special tax revenue to help the center purchase a downtown property to create an outdoor space for public art. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider a request from the Arts Center to move forward with a 2012 agreement to use a percentage of the revenues from the Tax Increment Financing district at Ninth and New Hampshire streets ...

Some city leaders express concern about proposed utility rate increases; average utility bill would be more than $100

Utility rate hikes proposed for 2020 would increase the average Lawrence household's bill to about $103 per month, and some city leaders are asking whether such a steep increase is actually necessary. City utility bills are made up of charges for water, solid waste and stormwater, and rates for all three services would increase as part of the budget recommended by City Manager Tom Markus. The recommended ...

Two dozen households in Lawrence receive warning to boil water

Story updated at 12:08 p.m. Friday The City of Lawrence has issued a warning about drinking water to 24 households in eastern Lawrence after a series of water main leaks in the area. The city left precautionary notices on the doors of residences that were without water following the discovery of the leaks early Wednesday morning, city spokesman Porter Arneill said in a news release Friday. Arneill said the ...

Lawrence mayor says profane tweet to Trump was out of frustration with immigration policies

Lawrence Mayor Lisa Larsen directed — and later deleted — a tweet at President Donald Trump, calling him a "f---ing idiot" regarding his statements on a recent immigration agreement with Mexico. The tweet was up for less than a day, and Larsen told the Journal-World that she still felt strongly about the issue, even though she regretted her word choice. Last weekend, Larsen used her personal Twitter ...

City manager’s recommended budget would increase Lawrence property taxes, utility rates

As part of his recommended budget, Lawrence City Manager Tom Markus is proposing a 0.5-mill property tax hike that will help fund, among other things, the first across-the-board wage increase that most city employees have seen in years. The proposed mill levy increase would amount to about a $12 increase in annual property taxes on a $200,000 home. The recommended budget also calls for utility rate increases ...

Developer, property owner sue City of Lawrence over denial of downtown apartment project

Updated at 4:56 p.m. Wednesday The developer behind a proposal to build a five-story apartment and retail building in downtown Lawrence is suing the city, claiming city leaders bowed to pressure from residents when rejecting the project. The lawsuit claims that decision was unlawful and asks the court to reverse the city’s denial of its project. In May, the Lawrence City Commission unanimously denied a ...

Erv Hodges, former mayor of Lawrence, dies at 89

Story updated at 2:48 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, 2019: One testament to the efforts of former Mayor Ervin “Erv” Hodges stands for all to see outside the Lawrence Visitor Center. The 19-foot sculpture “From the Ashes” depicts a half-man, half-phoenix rising from flames and serves as a memorial for more than 400 Douglas County soldiers, sailors, Marines, police officers and firefighters who died in the line ...

Local firefighters union endorses Michael Baker, of Tulsa, for fire chief

The Lawrence firefighters union has endorsed Michael Baker for the next fire chief of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical. The association of Lawrence Professional Firefighters, Local 1596, voted unanimously at a meeting Monday to publicly endorse Baker, according to a news release from the union. Baker is one of three candidates for the vacant fire chief position and the only outside candidate. The other ...

Final proposals selected for East Ninth art project include native plant garden, dance performance and portrait project

Additional works planned as part of the East Ninth Street art project include a community garden with native and wild plants, a dance performance about immigration and a family portrait series. After reviewing 31 submissions, a panel of artists selected six additional works for the long-running East Ninth Street art project, the last of 15 temporary and permanent art installations that will make up the ...

Parks and Rec board concerned about proposal to charge entrance fees at rec centers, partially close Community Building

The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Advisory Board expressed concern that a proposal to charge entrance fees at the city’s recreation centers would negatively affect low-income residents and agreed to further study equity issues. At their meeting Monday, board members reviewed the Parks and Recreation Department’s 2020 budget proposal to charge entrance and other fees, as well as other expenditure cuts ...