Meeting minutes from 5/9

Board members present: Jeff, Ted, Alison

Community members present: 10

Ted opened the meeting at 7pm, first reporting that there will now be a delay on the installation of the spray park in Lyons Park due to a mixup with the concrete that was poured for the spray park off of Burroughs Trail. We were hoping that folks from Parks and Rec would visit with us tonight to tell us what the new schedule will be. 

Lisa Larsen, our vice-mayor, came to the meeting and she said that she could tell us about the delay with the sprinkle park. The contractor poured the concrete, and then realized they didn’t do the slope correctly (it was about an inch off) and turned themselves in to the city. They are now tearing out that slope and are re-doing it. So the time doing that will delay the build in North Lawrence. Construction in Lyons park is now delayed until fall. 

Folks from all over the city, including adjacent neighborhoods across the river and folks from West Lawrence, are interested in the park — and are calling Ted about it.

The Garage Sale will be Friday, May 20th and Saturday, May 21st. Midland Care will be holding their neighborhood cookout and fundraiser again at 319 Perry Street from 10am to 2pm. Garage sale shoppers can stop and get a great sit-down meal of hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and chips (and veggie burgers this year!). Midland Care is a not-for-profit organization that serves our Senior community. Funds raised will benefit programming at Midland Care and operating costs of NLIA. It is always a great time. Future event plans will include games and live music. 

Ted asked if there is any further progress at the neighborhood or the city level regarding requests for tennis courts in North Lawrence. The due diligence on the neighborhood end has been done, however. 

Ted said he is trying to make the Union Pacific Depot into more of a destination. 

He spoke with TJ (The Tint Guy) recently about the small car show that his club holds each year out on Bob Billings Parkway at one of the police buildings. Ted suggested the Depot as a location for a similar show on a weekend afternoon. Parks and Rec liked this idea as well. The car club meeting is on the same day as the garage sales, and Ted encouraged the car club to come down to the cookout in their cool cars. 

Ted reported that he and Stan Herd, who has a studio in North Lawrence, had been planning to have an art show and sale at the Depot in spring of 2020, but COVID put those plans on hold. Stan has a full retrospective of his work warehoused in up here, decades of art, some of which not many people have seen. NLIA will have an art sale and show and invite other local artists to exhibit and sell as well. Stan will donate some of the proceeds to NLIA. Ted hopes that plans for this sale will manifest by Fall 2022, perhaps during the same weekend as Art in the Park. 

Both of these events would make the Depot more of a local destination, not just for private events. It took some doing for the Depot to be renovated (rather than moved across the river) and it has been under the purview of the city since Explore Lawrence moved across the river to 9th Street. It has been confusing to tourists to find that the visitor center is no longer there! Often people visit in campers and motor homes, but they can’t park those downtown to visit the new location. 

Ted is also working on a comprehensive history of North Lawrence, starting when North Lawrence was Jefferson, Kansas, and a part of Jefferson County. NL was Jefferson until 1870, when the second vote on annexation into Lawrence passed (the first one failed). There hasn’t been much history prior to 1870 publicly available. Ted hopes NLIA can borrow some artifacts from Watkins and have those on a rotating display, but the Jefferson township display will be permanent. 

So Ted is looking for more public ways to use the Depot for community events. 

Jeff talked about an old-time bicycle parade that used to use the roundabout at the Depot when they came into town. 

A resident asked if the city was involved in Explore Lawrence and the visitor center. They are not, though the city and county do support them. They were able to use the Depot free of charge, and now have to pay rent on their new space.

Ted talked about the Neighbor to Neighbor volunteer recognition event that happened at the Depot recently. This organization helps seniors in the community age in place. We hope to have a guest speaker from the organization at a meeting, perhaps this year. 

A resident asked if there was ever a concern about the Depot being purchased by a private company. Ted said no. Ted talked about the grain silo held by Ottawa Co-op, and a developer wondering if the silos there could be turned into apartments. Ottawa Co-op is now repairing the silo, has put a new scale in, and it will be back into use after the repairs are done, hopefully this summer. This grain silo was built in 1952 after the 1951 flood (the silos were metal before the flood). 

Ted asked a neighbor to tell our vice-mayor about the streets we have that need re-paved. Lisa said she can find out where the order is in the maintenance schedule. Lincoln Street, Seventh Street and Fifth Street were of great concern. Ted mentioned that we have been asking about four-way stop signs being installed on Seventh Street. The original road was built in the 1920s-30s, when 7th was the original highway into the city. There really hasn’t been an attempt to widen the road, though there is one block of curb and it the road is little bit wider near the park. Putting curbs and gutters in to most streets in North Lawrence would mean that many houses would have sidewalks just outside their front doors. The streets are just not wide enough to have up-to-date widths and curbs. 

The streets that became the Jefferson township were initially laid out back in the 1820s, when roads and carriages were tiny and cars didn’t exist. Elm and Locust were the only paved streets more than half a century ago.

A resident also mentioned calling the police department a few months back about speeds on Locust Street. Cars and motorcycles speed through there at well over 45 mph, early in the morning. The police department said they change shifts around 7 am and a car can’t be out there to catch speeders. The posted speed limit on Locust is 30 mph. 

A resident reported that the tow trucks still speed up and down 5th street, in spite of the stop signs. North of Lyon is especially bad. 

Ted reported that he plans to have the new police chief visit one of our meetings this year. Ted has met with him personally, and Ted says he does have goals that possibly involve using police department personnel for traffic management at certain times and events in the city. They are currently not involved in traffic management for events. 

A resident reported almost getting hit four different times downtown from people taking J-turns, which is now a $180 fine, but this isn’t being seen or enforced by anyone.

NLIA had worked out plans for traffic calming devices on Walnut Street. They were in planning for 2019 and to be paid for by grant money that we secured. The residents on Walnut signed off on them, but the project was denied by the newly-formed Traffic Safety group. The traffic engineer told Ted we could reapply the following year. 

We lost our Community Development federal funding around the same time, because as a neighborhood, we moved from 51% Low-to-moderate-income residents to 41%. So, we could not install these ourselves as we were accustomed to do in previous years with our own funding. Cost of speed bumps went from $3500 to $8000 under the previous city manager. 

Did you know that Lincoln Street is now considered a Boulevard? We didn’t get any of that money. 

A resident talked about the countdown timers on crosswalks and how they are not timed correctly to notify drivers that the light is about to change. The green light should change to yellow when the crosswalk counter hits zero. Many lights in town are no longer timed this way. 

Ted said that he’s been talking with Sarah at Bowersock and suggested a tour for North Lawrence residents of the power station on the south side of the river. These house generators that are dated back to the 1800s. The newer plant on the north side also bought vintage generators from a location back east. (They older models are well-known for reliability.) If residents would like to visit the Bowersock for this private tour, please get in touch with Ted. 

Ted talked about the original design to power downtown and the paper factory that used to be where the Marriott is now. There was a pole that ran underground and belts that ran around the pole to power businesses. 

Later on there were two steam engines that helped create power at the dam (one of them is no housed in McClouth for the steam engine show). 

Ted mentioned that NLIA tours of ICL also happen once or twice a year. They are one of our favorite visitors to the NLIA meeting every year. ICL produces food-grade phosphoric acid in a food safe, clean environment. ICL is a major contributor to our holiday fund. 

Ted asked if there are any other places in North Lawrence that residents might want to tour. 

Ted mentioned that our 2021 Christmas fund raised $6300, helped 10 North Lawrence families, gave $2000 to Ballard, and purchased $1000 in gift cards that were handed directly to residents, the elderly and working poor. 

Ted asked if anyone else had any business. 

Our guest from Parks and Recreation came in late and gave us an update on the sprinkle park. The design has been submitted to the site plan committee. The biggest challenge is what to do with the drainage, as that has to go into the ditches, not into a sewer complex. Because of this, they may move the components of the proposed improvement (that we saw last meeting) around a bit, so that the spray park is further north and the playground is closer to Lincoln. The entire system operates similarity to a backyard pool, with a holding tank, water being cleaned, chlorinated and recycled, and the entire thing affected strongly by heavy rains. The entire system will be drained and closed each winter. It may be in place by fall, but not for summer 2022. They will begin RFQs on the playground soon with a cap for $95K and they will bring proposals for the designs to a meeting. The basketball courts will be resurfaced soon as well, and there is a sidewalk in the site plan in either 2023 or 2024. 

A resident asked if the newer location of the spray park will be under any of the larger trees in the park, so in the shade. There are some ash trees that are currently affected by EAB that are slated to be taken out, but they will protect the big oak tree. 

Ted asked about other pests and invasive trees like the Calorie (Bradford) Pear and what the plans for those will be. Many of these are large, established trees, and many of them are located on North 2nd or by the Depot. They provide quite a bit of shade, but they are spread by wildlife, have weak wood, and the flowers don’t smell that great. There currently is no plan to remove the existing pear trees. 

The city has a master street tree plan that involves interplanting a variety of trees, at least 15 species, not one species planted all together the way some areas of this city have all pin oaks lining their streets, or all ash trees. 

Jeff asked if we are going to have any meetings this summer, since we didn’t meet earlier this year. Today is only our third meeting since the pandemic stopped us meeting. Normally we would not meet during the summer, but NLIA business is always happening, even when we don’t have in-person meetings. 

The next meeting of NLIA will be Monday, June 13th, 7 pm at Peace Mennonite Church. Ted will invite our new police chief to come speak. 

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