Officers present: Ted, Jeff, Alison
Neighbors present: 8
Ted called the meeting to order at 6:57pm.
Ted chatted a little bit with a former resident about the Maple Street pump and the improvements that were done on Perry Street and other nearby streets to improve storm water drainage north of the tracks in North Lawrence.
On the subject of water, Ted said there is a proposal for someone to build whitewater rapids on the South side of the river, near the old power plant. There will be two ponds for rafting built along with a service road. Water from the dam will flow through these ponds to create rapids. Part of the project will include continuing the Lawrence Loop from behind the Santa Fe Depot going east to connect to Burcham Park. Dam repair will also coincide with the construction of the rapids ponds. There is both federal and city money involved. We expect construction to start early next year.
And also on the subject of water, Ted said that there is still not a backup generator for the pumps underneath the underpass, even though there are new pumps that run on electricity. He is still working on getting the city to install a natural gas generator for the pumps when the electricity goes out and in the event that the backup lines also go down, as we have had numerous times in the past three years — eight times last year, one due to the pump exploding and seven because Westar (at the time) cut both power sources. A backup generator would cost about $40K.
Ted said he has met with the new city manager, Craig Owens, a number of times. Ted encourages residents to write letters to the Commission and the City Manager on any number of topics that are of concern to us, and to attend city commission meetings.
Ted reviewed what happened at Christmas with the holiday lights at the Union Pacific Depot once the Visitor Center moved out (last year, before the holidays). We had very few lights at first; Ted went to the city and asked them to put more lights up. In 2020, we are supposed to have the exact same lighting as Mass Street south of the river, because the area is zoned as Downtown. We will be keeping an eye on what they do!
Ted has been working on the history of Jefferson, Kansas and North Lawrence, when we ended up as part of Lawrence (after one failed bid a few years earlier). Jefferson preceded Lawrence; Chief Sarcoxie of the Turtle Band tribe was here. There were trees on this side of the river, but the Delaware people had burned the land south of the river, so there were no trees. There is a lot of history just sitting in storage at Watkins. Ted is working on having a North Lawrence and Jefferson history rotate through the glass cases at the UP Depot. That way, it will be seen by people who rent out the space for private events and also when we vote.
The St Patrick’s Day parade will start at 1 pm in South Park on Tuesday, March 17th and end in North Lawrence at the Bird. Ted and Pat are the Senior King and Queen this year.
Ted shared some renderings of the projects that will be happening behind Johnny’s Tavern. He is still working with the group that is trying to get a grocery store put in at that location. Ted reminded us that the project at the Borders building fell through because the owners of the building put that building up for sale. There has been talk of a grocery store at 2nd and Locust for over a decade. There are information packets on their way to 7 different grocery retailers detailing the population in the area and the plans for the development. These retailers include Aldi, which is already looking at placing another store in Lawrence (possibly out by the Sports Pavilion). North Lawrence remains in a federally defined food desert.
Ted asked our guest speaker to speak. Schuyler is a graduate student in the School of Architecture, working on a thesis with a research project relating to the bus system and the current grassroots project that residents have put up at bus stops. The buses run in 30 minute or one-hour increments, and residents need amenities at the stops while they are waiting. The City has not provided shelters or seating at all of the stops. She is looking at accessibility, problems, and bottom-up solutions that would work to help residents use the transportation system more easily. She noted that one of the only grocery stores that it’s possible to reach by bus from North Lawrence is The Merc, which is also one of the most expensive ones, and the trip takes about an hour. She had flyers and contact information for residents (which Alison will post).
A couple of residents asked questions about the project. The transit hub is supposed to be moving to Bob Billings and Crestline, which may be one reason why there are no amenities built in certain areas. The land will be rented from the University. This move has been in the works for 10 years. The project is to highlight the amenities and the concerns of residents. Schuyler will meet with anyone who wants to talk about their concerns.
Ted said that Velocity Church fundraised to donate $10K to build bus benches and shelters. The city could not accept the money at that time, because there was no written policy for accepting donations from organizations. The city had to draft a policy first before they could accept the money. Ted told the donor that they should stipulate that the money be used for the project intended only, rather than put into the general fund. East Lawrence and North Lawrence were highlighted as the neighborhoods in need of amenities. Ted will ask the new city manager if the funds are going to be used for this project only, including sidewalks and other ways that riders can access the bus safely. Many of the stops are just a patch of grass on the side of the road.
Ted said that para-transit and transit for the elderly, which are called in for specific pickup, are use more than the regular route that comes through some of North Lawrence. There are two seating areas with some shelter at the main stops on the 4 route, but none on the smaller stops. Which is why we see resident-made “bus benches” out of lawn chairs, etc. Ted believes that if there are amenities at the bus stops, more people would feel more comfortable using the transit system. According to Bob Nugent at the time, a bench on a concrete slab would cost $15K.
Schuyler is talking to Van Go, the kids who make the beautiful benches, about possibly donating benches for bus stops and helping create amenity infrastructure. Ted said that there is a cool bench made out of a big tree on Locust Street (where there is also one bus shelter, on the north side). A resident asked why there aren’t buses running when the bars get out. There is Safe Ride available for folks who cannot drive home.
A resident said that the routes also do not connect well; the North Lawrence bus gets to the library just after other buses that go to the University and further leave the hub. If the transit hub is moved to Bob Billings, we expect that waits and the route times would end up being longer. The bus works decently for students, but it isn’t working for residents actually to get where they need to go.
Alison mentioned that a friend of the Grocery Committee worked with one of the TV stations a few years ago in Kansas City and they filmed his ride from Pinckney neighborhood to Checkers to get groceries.
David (a resident) wanted to let everyone know that (Alice) Carleen Howieson passed away on February, 25th at her home. She was our neighbor on Lincoln Street, and had lived there since 1996 when she built her house. We will post the obituary in a separate post. There is not a memorial service scheduled at this time. Donations can be made in Carleen’s name to the Lawrence Humane Society or a local charity of your choice. Ted thanked David for recalling how he met her and how he helped her over the years. She is going to be terribly missed.
Ted reminded attendees about the successful Christmas donations this last year. (Please see the post with the January meeting notes for the details…) Ted was involved in buying diapers, feminine hygiene items, and delivering bicycles that Wes bought from The Lawrence Recyle-ry to Ballard Center. Ted reminded us that every dollar that was donated stayed in North Lawrence with our families and our “working poor”. We have been collecting for the Christmas fund for over 15 years. Ted is very proud of the businesses and the individuals in North Lawrence that support this fund every year.
Ted said that anyone who wants to attend city commission meetings with him, give him your contact information. The meetings happen the first and third Tuesday evenings of the month at 5:45 pm at City Hall, 6 East 6th Street, the Commission Room, first floor. There is a public comment section during which residents can talk for three minutes about any topic of concern; it is not necessary to get the topic on the formal agenda.
A reminder that if you’re cleaning out your closet this spring, Ballard Center accepts clothing, especially business and business casual clothing, for their “professional closet” clothing pantry. Donated business attire helps people who need to dress well for job interviews and for work.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:17 pm
Stay safe and well, everyone. See you in April!