Committee approves final recommendations to Lawrence City Commission about how to consolidate city’s volunteer boards

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on Jan. 31, 2023.

About a year after Lawrence leaders started the process of consolidating the city’s volunteer boards and commissions, the committee formed to perform that work has settled on its final recommendations.

As the Journal-World reported, city leaders last November formed a Board and Commissions Structure Committee, which would be tasked with examining the city’s 45 existing boards, commissions, steering committees, governing boards and other related bodies and deciding how to align them more closely with the goals of the city’s strategic plan.

The Board and Commissions Structure Committee held its final meeting as a group on Thursday, and this time it produced a unanimous recommendation after failing to reach a consensus at its last meeting in August. The recommendation that will be forwarded to the Lawrence City Commission for future consideration cuts the existing list of 45 bodies down to fewer than 10. The recommendation also aligns each group according to the strategic plan’s five goal areas: unmistakable identity; strong and welcoming neighborhoods; safety and security; prosperity and economic security; and a connected city.

The following boards will remain standalone bodies, according to the committee’s recommendation letter: Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission, Historic Resources Commission, Affordable Housing Advisory Board and Aviation Advisory Board.

Some other groups would be combined under the recommendation to form new boards. That includes the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals and Building Code Board of Appeals, which would form a new board aligned with the city’s “strong and welcoming neighborhoods” goal area. The Public Transit Advisory Committee and Multi-Modal Transportation Commission would also be combined, as would the Community Police Review Board and the Human Relations Commission. The CPRB’s meetings have been suspended since May as another group, the Community Police Oversight work group, puts together recommendations for possible changes to the city’s police complaint process and other policing matters.

One public commenter at Thursday’s committee meeting, Chris Flowers, said he was concerned about combining the CPRB and HRC. He said he wondered how the new group would be able to exercise proper discretion when considering police oversight matters. But while some members of the committee agreed, others said combining the groups would still allow the new board to form subcommittees tasked with “sensitive or confidential matters” like ethics complaints.

The committee is recommending that other boards be dissolved entirely. One of them is the Sustainability Advisory Board, which according to the recommendation does not regularly take up issues brought to it by the City Commission or city staff and does not typically have actionable agenda items. Several other boards and committees that would be dissolved under the recommendation — the Transient Guest Tax Grant Program Advisory Board, the Public Incentives Review Committee, the Sales Tax Audit Committee and the Special Alcohol Fund Advisory Board — would have their duties transferred to the city manager’s office.

The Bodywork Advisory Board, whose responsibilities pertain to the health, sanitary operations, training and licensure of massage therapists and similar professionals, is another group the committee recommends dissolving. The recommendation says those duties could be carried out administratively by an agency such as Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.

Though the Board and Commissions Structure Committee’s recommendations are now final, the City Commission will still need to approve them before they go into effect. It’s not clear when the recommendations will appear on a City Commission agenda.


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