City of Lawrence’s next 5-year Capital Improvement Plan calls for funding $120 million in projects in 2024

photo by: Rochelle Valverde/Journal-World

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

More than $31 million in improvements at Lawrence’s Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant, a $5.9 million reconfiguration project at City Hall and more are included among the roughly $120 million in projects funded for next year in the City of Lawrence’s latest five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission is set to discuss the 2024-2028 CIP, which encompasses more than $460 million in project funding through the next five years and is one of the first steps in the city’s yearly budget approval process. The commission will ultimately have its final say on how to allocate funding as part of the 2024 budget process later this summer, using this blueprint as a guide.

This is the first CIP crafted since the City Commission approved changing the city’s project prioritization guidelines at the beginning of 2023. The projects included in the 2024 CIP have been identified and scored using a “prioritization matrix,” then peer reviewed by subject matter experts and recommended to the city manager by the city’s CIP Committee.

Each project included in the CIP has a price tag of $100,000 or more in total and either creates a new asset or enhances an existing asset beyond its original useful life. The plan assumes a 5% project growth in sales tax and a flat mill levy with assumed assessed valuation growth during the next five years. It also assumes that inflationary costs will continue to increase, plus price escalations estimated for projects that are pushed out further into the plan’s lifespan.

Below are some of the projects that are set to receive funding in 2024 under the proposed CIP. A full list of projects considered for the 2024-2028 CIP is available as part of the commission’s agenda packet for this week.

• Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements: $31,460,000 in 2024, $52 million in total.

• City Hall reconfiguration: $5.9 million in 2024, no additional costs beyond 2024.

• South Lawrence Trafficway expansion: $8.36 million in 2024, no additional costs beyond 2024.

• Water main replacement/relocation program: $5.3 million in 2024, $28.75 million in total.

• Field Operations Campus phase one: $5.7 million in 2024, $51.3 million through 2026.

• Field Operations Campus phase three (solid waste building): $550,000 in 2024, $40.45 million through 2027.

• Expansion for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical station 6: $1 million in 2024, $10.5 million in total.

• Outdoor aquatic center major renovation: $250,000 in 2024, $6.1 million in total.

City leaders won’t take any action to approve the CIP this week. For now, they’re just being asked for policy-related input and comment. On that front, a presentation included with this week’s agenda lays out some of the policy questions commissioners are being asked to consider, like whether any unfunded projects should be swapped in and whether commissioners would support a property tax increase to expedite unfunded projects.

The CIP is just one piece of the city’s annual budget process. The next step on the timeline will take place July 11, when City Manager Craig Owens will present the commission with his recommended 2024 budget.

In other business, the commission will:

• Consider adopting an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags.

At their June 6 meeting, city leaders reviewed a draft version of the ordinance and gave feedback to be incorporated in the updated version up for consideration this week. That includes changes to fines — a first violation is now a maximum of $100 instead of $100 flat, such that municipal court judges have the discretion to apply lesser fines — and codifying that the thicker, reusable plastic bags the ordinance would allow should be made of 40% post-consumer recycled content.

As was the case earlier this month, the city’s code enforcement division is still requesting a new full-time code compliance officer as part of the 2024 budget process at a cost of $94,000. According to the agenda item report for this week’s meeting, if the ordinance is adopted but additional staffing isn’t approved, the city wouldn’t have the staffing resources to enforce the ban.

If approved, the ban will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2024.

• Be presented with a draft ordinance declaring Lawrence a sanctuary city for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people.

The ordinance isn’t on the agenda for consideration and it wasn’t prepared by city staff. Instead, a group of citizens that earlier this month called on city leaders to take action to not enforce SB 180 — which bans transgender people from using bathrooms and other gender-specific areas associated with their gender identity — has drafted the ordinance and plans to present it during the public comment period near the start of the meeting, according to a social media post.

The group against SB 180 also called on the City Commission to take two other actions earlier this month: to refuse to enforce the law and create a policy that the Lawrence Police Department doesn’t enforce, arrest, detain or surveil anyone under the law. The City of Lawrence released a statement to that effect last week, a few days after Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart spoke at a Lawrence PFLAG meeting and asserted the police department “will not arrest anyone under the guise of SB 180.”

The City Commission will also meet in a 45-minute executive session ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with city legal staff, which could be related to the topic. The notice on Tuesday’s agenda notes that the session is to discuss “privileged legal communications from the city’s attorneys regarding local laws and regulations and applicable laws.”

The Lawrence City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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