Lawrence City Commission voices support for funding projects that will close the Lawrence Loop in next Capital Improvement Plan

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Members of the Lawrence City Commission listen to a presentation about the city's next five-year Capital Improvement Plan during their meeting on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

Lawrence’s nearly $530 million Capital Improvement Plan includes projects from new fire stations to artificial turf, and one long-running project in particular was on city commissioners’ minds as they kicked off their budget discussions on Tuesday — closing the Lawrence Loop trail.

At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, commissioners heard a presentation about the five-year CIP — essentially a blueprint for how the city plans to sustain and improve community infrastructure — and had an opportunity to provide feedback on the projects that are and aren’t included in the draft.

Commissioners were asked whether any unfunded projects should be swapped with funded projects in the plan, as well as whether they think any projects should be delayed or reprioritized. While they didn’t take any formal action Tuesday, the group — particularly commissioners Lisa Larsen and Brad Finkeldei — did ask plenty of questions about a number of CIP projects.

Those included new artificial turf fields at the city’s Youth Sports Complex, the renovation of the South Park wading pool — which will not open in 2024 because it needs “substantial renovations” — into a spray park, and nearly $30 million in spending starting in 2025 on a pair of expansion stations for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical.

Some members of the group seemed to agree that the city should be funding projects that close the Lawrence Loop trail, particularly the stretch from Seventh Street to Constant Park along the edge of downtown Lawrence. A previous plan for that chunk of the trail, which would have included a new pedestrian bridge extending across the Kansas River, failed to earn City Commission support earlier this year.

The CIP currently estimates $1.6 million on that section of the trail in 2028 and 2029, but another $13 million in funding for 2029 is listed as unfunded in the plan. City staff said the $13 million accounts for elements of the river-crossing plan.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of questions about completing the Loop — we already have,” Finkeldei said.

While there weren’t any members of the public who expressed such questions in person Tuesday, all nine of the written public comments about the CIP submitted ahead of the meeting urged commissioners to move forward with completing the Lawrence Loop as quickly as possible.

As the Journal-World has reported, the next CIP forecasts the city’s long-term infrastructure spending from 2025 to 2029, including roughly $172 million in estimated spending anticipated next year alone. CIP spending has continuously climbed during the past several years; the city’s capital spending approved for 2023 in 2022 totaled around $111 million, and just three years before then the city planned to spend $62.65 million on CIP projects.

The list of projects slated for funding based on the current CIP draft include the multimillion-dollar field operations campus for the city’s Municipal Services and Operations Department, estimated for $36.8 million in spending in 2025 and $77.3 million in 2026 and 2027, and $27.2 million over the next two years toward improvements at the Kansas River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The 2025 budget approval process extends from now to early September. The CIP will be up for consideration at the City Commission’s Sept. 10 meeting, along with the 2025 budget.

In other business, commissioners:

* Received a presentation on the results of the Lawrence Music Census as part of a work session.

The presentation included demographic data about 826 respondents working in sectors of the music community and listed various needs identified from those responses.


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