Meeting notes, March 2022

First meeting since March 9th, 2020.

Officers present: Ted Boyle, Jeff Joseph, Alison Dishinger

Attendees: 11

Alison took membership registrations and Jeff handed out raffle tickets for tonight. 

Ted started the meeting at 6:58pm.

Ted talked about his meeting with Parks and Rec about 5 years ago, and our desires in North Lawrence for parks and other improvements. We definitely want a recreation center with a full pool, but what we are going to get soon is a kiddie splash area. That’s progress. The splash area will be located on the east end of Lyons Park. The city is also going to enlarge and modernize the shelter in the park as well. They will move the playground equipment closer to the pool, away from the bathrooms, and add more equipment. 

Mark Hecker, the assistant director of P&R, spoke about the improvements to our park. He said the “splash pad” is a $400K improvement to the park. There are four areas like this planned around the city, but the North Lawrence project has not been designed yet. They will schedule meetings that include public comment regarding the design and take the floodplain into consideration. There is a playground at Burroughs Creek park and they will have a new spray park as well — that one is semi-constructed at this time. 

Mark said that the shelter will be replaced in 2024, and it’s possible it might also be moved in the park. They will take an overall view of the entire park and consider it in the redesign, including possible new sidewalks. The city is working with the installer of the pickeball courts because they have some bubbling in the surface material.  

The spray park will actually be open to people of every age, not just children. The water in the design is recirculated, and they will monitor the water quality. The system will have a UV system and use chlorination in the holding tank for recirculation. Other cities often use a spray and waste system for their spray parks, sending the used water into the city sanitary sewer system. This is wasteful of water, however. The entire system will be on a timer and have a button participants can push to activate it. 

A participant asked about the softball fields in Lyons Park and if they’ll be renovated. Mark said they are overflow fields now for city leagues, and they aren’t used as much as other lots, but the maintenance can still be high on them. He’s thought about putting in lit soccer fields or a lit dog park. A participant asked if kickball could come back to our field. Softball is downward trending now in the city, and is centered out west now, rather than at Hobbs and Broken Arrow. 

Pickleball is on an upswing. Our courts have been redone and there aren’t enough courts in Lawrence to accommodate everyone who wants to play. There are indoor pickleball courts that get set up at the Sports Pavilion now. Basketball at Lyons and John Taylor are also on the downswing. NLIA will discuss amongst residents about possible alternative uses for the softball courts and the basketball courts at Lyons park. That court needs to be refinished, so at that time, it could be converted into something else if residents are agreeable to the change. There are six basketball goals on the court. One participant said she feels it used quite a bit, but people could be encouraged to play at John Taylor instead. John Taylor does have a full-court setup now, but more goals could be added. The one drawback there is no restroom. 

Ted talked about how long we’ve been talking about adding a restroom at John Taylor Park. More people might use the park and play basketball there if there were accommodations. A board member asked about the expense of adding a restroom. Mark said “ridiculously expensive.” The one in Hobbs Park, which is precast concrete, cost around $65K to add sewer, water, electric, concrete pad, etc., but then the structure is incredibly durable and will last a really long time. Access to the Ballard Center restrooms is not always available. John Taylor Park would be improved considerably by restroom facilities. 

NLIA and residents can take some time to look at which proposed facilities make the most sense at which park. If John Taylor had a restroom, it could also host the spray park instead of Lyons park. So we need to look at available space in both park, cost of building proposed structures in each park, what our priorities are as a neighborhood, and what our ideas for re-use of existing facilities might be. Ted suggested that Lyons is better-suited for space for the water park, but parking is sometimes a consideration when the pickleball courts are full. 

Ted said the parks in North Lawrence get used quite a bit by residents and visitors for a variety of purposes. He said that Walnut Park even gets used quite a bit, with people grilling and having picnics in the shelter there. Ted is talking with Stan about the design on the levee near 4th and (Walnut). Mark mentioned that the entry road to Riverfront park is a continuous maintenance problem. Ted asked Mark about the project on the south of the river where the kayaks etc will be. 

Ted said he’s seen plans for a pedestrian bridge from behind the Santa Fe depot across the river to Walnut Park… Mark said there are two people who are working on the concept of having multiple bridges, called “Kaw River Commons” including bridges from the hotel property, one from Robinson Park to Constant Park, and two proposed across the river, one below and one above the dam. He says, “they’re dreaming big” and they will propose it as a CIP project. 

Ted said there are three grocers that are interested in the project behind Johnny’s. Pedestrian bridges from south Lawrence over the river to different parts of North Lawrence would be beneficial to access this sort of amenity. 

Ted asked if Mark was in charge of murals on buildings in Lawrence. He is. An attendee asked if we will ever have mural art on our grain elevator. Ted mentioned the Jericho event that included the grain elevator. Ottawa co-op is in the process of working on the grain elevator after almost abandoning it during the pandemic. There are new scales and a scale house again, and they will rebuild the elevator and put it back in service in the summer of 2022. 

Our new welcome sign is up on the southwest corner of the Union Station property It’s easy to see when you’re entering North Lawrence on North 2nd street. Don Benda designed it, his son helped, and the city built the sturdy steel frame. We will have lighting and landscaping soon. We will also have T-shirts made of this design. It has the eagle, the river the North Lawrence Sandrat, and the grain elevator on it and it says “WELCOME to North Lawrence. Colorful past. Bright future.” The bottom portion of the sign says “North Lawrence Improvement Association.”

Ted gave an overview of what happened during the two years that we did not have in-person meetings. Ted said he was busier in that time than the previous two years. He continued to attend meetings at city hall by using Zoom at City Hall. He continued to meet with the commissioners once a week, every week, during this time — because three minutes in front of the commission is not enough! He will chat with them an hour at a time over coffee each week. Ted said he is pleased with the new commissioners. 

One issue that came up is drainage from north of us in the county. The Maple Grove Drainage District pump was installed in 1995, after the 1993 flood. That water comes down all the way from Hamm, all along the northern ridges of hills north of us. The pump is past capacity at this point. The chair of the Kaw Valley Drainage District contacted Ted about cleaning out the waterway that runs on the west side of the airport, down to Teepee junction, under the turnpike and to the Maple Grove pump. He wanted to clean up that waterway to increase the flow because there were flooding issues at the KOA. Ted said no! Ted talked with Matt Bond and Lisa Larsen about this and the fact that increasing that flow would flood north 2nd street quickly. The city should not have to take care of stormwater from the county. The original creek bed and 24-inch tube caused North Lawrence to flood in 1993. 

Mike Amyx is on a committee that allocates money for drainage districts. They ended up only cleaning the waterway front the highway to the aiport rather than from the highway to north 2nd street so that we won’t have risk of flooding. 

There was a study done in 2003, the Northeast Sector plan, looking at Grant Township and North Lawrence and what can and cannot be built in the area just north of the city limits. Only agricultural endeavors may be built in this area. For example, Pine’s new building where the Airport motel was. The point is to protect our Class 1 soils for agriculture (meaning that housing cannot go in there).

There had been a pump proposed at Teepee Junction that would divert water from KOA to the west, but it has never materialized. Ted suggested to the county that there is federal funding for projects like this. Ted said he will have Matt Bond come talk to us about flooding potentials and projects in North Lawrence. 

The city had promised after the Maple Street pump was installed that they would retool all of the ditches in the neighborhood so that all water flow would direct toward that pump. It’s been 5 1/2 years and all they’ve done about three blocks and residents are finding that the work didn’t hold. Water can’t get to the pumps on Maple. There is severe lack of funding for finishing the project. Storm Water at the city level usually runs out of money three months into working on projects. Ted is looking to find funding outside of the city budget to complete these projects. Perry Street is one of the only streets that have gotten improvements, with buried stormwater pipes and curbs. 

North Lawrence is so flat that it’s difficult to grade ditches at the right angle to get the water to the Maple Street pump.

Next, Ted talked about the neighbors at 3rd and Pleasant who signed a petition to have a street light installed in the middle of the block. Many blocks in North Lawrence are much longer that those on the south side. Many of our streets don’t have lights in the middle. It still hasn’t happened on Pleasant. The city manager, Craig Owens, said that there is a policy from the mid 1990s that says street lights can only be on the corners of streets. Ted requested that the city policy be changed. Owens said if we do that, then the other neighborhoods might want the same! Ted has been talking with commissioners about revising the policy so that we can have street lights in the middle of our long blocks. Even the fire department doesn’t understand why we don’t have streetlights in the middle. 

Regarding the failing blue/purple LED streetlights, supposedly Evergy apparently doesn’t have the parts available to fix them. The parts may be on a container ship somewhere not anywhere near Kansas. The reason that we don’t have a whole lot of blue lights is, Ted had the city and Evergy file a contract that said they could not replace the high-pressure sodium lights with the LED lights unless the were actually, physically destroyed. Now Evergy is taking about going back to high pressure sodium bulbs, which give off a golden light, rather than the LEDs. 

Ted reported on our transient issues, reporting on what happened near Ash and 8th in the summer of 2021. Ted got a number of phone calls about huge bonfires on the levee during which people were chanting things that scared local residents. The fire department put out the fires, but the police said that they could not do anything unless the people were caught in the act of committing crimes, on orders of the city commission. This order was rescinded and now people can be picked up on complaints rather than only when committing crimes. Residents did find some folks peeping in windows and crossing their properties at night. There have also been reports of transient folks intimidating other transient people at service points like Ballard Center, preventing some people from receiving services. Ballard has had to call the police multiple times. 

Once the Woody Park camp project ended, there was a proposal to build temporary camps both behind Johnny’s and in East Brook Creek, but neither neighborhood association was in favor of this idea. Originally, the county was supposed to set up a permanent pallet home site out by the county jail, but nothing but the preliminary preparation ever happened. Ted hasn’t found out who is responsible for ceasing that project. The shelter out by the jail is a private endeavor, though it is in a county building and sitting on county land. The county (Patrick Kelley) said they are working on a project again, but Ted asked why the pallet homes aren’t being built out by the current shelter. 

Ted reported on the UP quiet zone, which has been proposed over a number of years now. The commission said they didn’t see the letter prior to 2018, so Ted re-sent that, and then sent another one in 2020. 

The city manager said: Maybe we ought to get both railroads to do a quiet zone. (?!) Ted reiterated that they are two separate entities, and we have been working on the UP quiet zone for a number of years.East Lawrence has not requested a quiet zone. It takes getting special permits to make changes, and about two weeks out before the close of the original attempt, the railroad said they needed $400K to do the project! Necessary upgrades have been done since then, so we are again asking for the quiet zone to extend from 10pm to 6am. 

An attendee asked about the 4th street crossing of the UP tracks. There is an agreement between the city and the railroad that there would alway be a walkable path across the tracks where 4th street used to be. We have put a request for signalization across 4th and Locust for children going to school and other pedestrians, but now the funding for school crossing guards has been cut, including the crossing guard at 4th and Locust. Supposedly the railroad was required to pay for that crossing guard when the street was closed, so we don’t know why the job was cut, even though the guard at the four-way stop at 7th and Locust was retained. The fourth street crossing is essential to pedestrian flow and students walking to school from north of the tracks. We can’t have children crossing the tracks at random spots between 3rd and 7th. 

Years ago we applied for traffic calming in the 700 and 800 blocks of Walnut, but the new traffic safety commission denied the request, even though 95% of homeowners in that block signed a petition saying they wanted it. This was in the first year of this new committee. The neighborhood requested them, got homeowner approval, and was still denied. Ted wanted to know where that money was spent — some of it was on the “stick” deterrents in Old West Lawrence! 

Ted asked attendees if there was anything else we needed to talk about. 

Folks from Midland Care were in attendance tonight. Tara said that they will hold their second-annual Neighborhood Cookout on May 21st starting at 10am and running until about 2pm at the Midland Care North Lawrence location on Perry street. There will be games and food. One neighbor, Kirsty whose father was cared for by Midland Care, wanted to hold a memorial for her dad each year in the form of this yearly cookout. Money raised from the cookout will be used to help fund programs at Midland Care and will also be shared with North Lawrence Improvement. 

This means the neighborhood garage sale will also be held on the weekend of May 21st. We have a date! 

We held the raffle at 8:29 and adjourned the meeting at 8:30 pm. 

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