County leaders to consider approving $30K in funding for Lawrence chamber, business programs

photo by: Journal-World

The west side of the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., is pictured on Sept. 23, 2021.

Douglas County commissioners on Wednesday will consider approving a $30,000 funding request made by Lawrence’s chamber of commerce and the Economic Development Corporation of Douglas County for various initiatives that would work with entrepreneurs or businesses.

As the Journal-World reported, the supplemental funding request was tentatively approved during budget hearings last year, but commissioners raised some concerns.

“What I’m really looking for is to be able to say that for $30,000 worth of investment, this is the increase in tax base we got — this is the number of new jobs in these wages that we got,” Commissioner Patrick Kelly said in July.

The request said that in 2019, the Chamber’s annual funding from the county was cut by $25,000, and the request was to restore that amount and add $5,000 more to account for inflation. The request also noted that the money would help the Chamber and the EDC “keep pace with inflation pressures” as they work to prepare for the arrival of the $4 billion Panasonic battery plant in nearby De Soto. The supplemental funding amount was in addition to the $205,000 allocation for the Chamber that was already included in the budget.

There is no set timeframe for when supplemental requests come back to the commission for approval. It’s up to each agency to provide additional documents that are requested by commissioners. Now, six months later, Chamber officials have provided a detailed breakdown of how the money would be disbursed.

• $12,475 for minority entrepreneur opportunities

• $5,000 for the Entrepreneur Technical Assistance grant — which provides funding for Diversify Douglas County and E-Community loan recipients — as well as legal support, accounting and other technical assistance

• $5,000 for Spanish language accessibility support — which would compensate Spanish-speaking consultants for the creation of economic development marketing materials, as well as seek out translators for conversational support for program partners

• $4,525 to support the completion of the E3 project. According to the county’s website, “the E3 vision is for every entrepreneur to have equitable opportunity and access to develop, launch and grow a business that creates wealth for themselves, their family and their community.”

• $3,000 to support the Haskell Business Center

In other business, commissioners will:

• Consider authorizing the county administrator to sign an interlocal agreement between the City of Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and Douglas County to jointly operate and maintain the Douglas County Emergency Communication Center providing 911 emergency communication services. As the Journal-World reported, the Lawrence City Commission in May 2023 agreed to a new recommended financing model for the joint operation and maintenance of the Emergency Communication Center, and the new agreement would supersede the agreement between the city and county that’s existed since 1994. Under the standing agreement, the county pays 24% of those costs and the city 66%, with Eudora and Baldwin City allowed to participate.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider signing off on the agreement. Under the new agreement, the county would pay a base share of one-third of the cost of the ECC, with the three cities paying a share of the remaining expenses based on their respective populations. For Lawrence, the share of the cost to operate the ECC reflected in the 2024 budget is $2,366,000. Each city would also pay a 10% administrative fee. The agreement would also restructure the existing 911 Advisory Board to provide more formal governance functions, such as reviewing operating and capital budgets and evaluating performance.

• Receive an update on the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center remodel. As the Journal-World reported, the estimated cost for the renovation and expansion of the building near the county courthouse at 11th and Massachusetts streets is $70 million. According to materials in the agenda packet for Wednesday’s work session, schematics for the project call for 58,000 to 62,000 square feet of space to be added to the roughly 100,000 square feet of space the building currently has.

The commission’s meeting begins at 4 p.m. with the work session relating to the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center; it’s being held for informational purposes only, and no action will be taken. The work session will be followed by the regular business meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the county courthouse at 11th and Massachusetts streets. The meeting can be viewed via Zoom.


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