Board Members present: Jeff, Alison, Ted
Community members present: 13
Ted called the meeting to order at 7pm
Our special guest today is Chief of Police Rich Lockhart
Ted thanked everyone for coming out in this heat, the hottest day of the year so far.
Ted introduced our guest, Chief Rich Lockhart, and said we will keep an eye on him, in North Lawrence style. We will have a Q&A session with him after he speaks.
Our guest introduced himself and talked about meeting Ted the first time and hearing about North Lawrence for the first time. Chief Lockhart said he was an officer in Kansas City, Missouri for about 26 years, and he enjoyed all the different neighborhoods there and visiting the community meetings there. He met people in these neighborhoods who were proud of their history and actively involved in their neighborhoods. He said that community policing is about meeting the people you work for in the neighborhoods. The Chief gave us a brief overview of his work and education history. His most recent posting was as the police chief in Warrensburg, MO which is a small college town of about 20K people and 8K students in central Missouri. They didn’t have strong neighborhood associations there, however.
The Chief talked about a few folks who work in the police department in Lawrence, many of whom have diverse backgrounds and educations, and a number of whom are lifelong Lawrencians, some with family roots that go back decades. He said he was surprised that our police force has already done many of the trainings that are considered quite progressive throughout the country. His goal post-pandemic is to have the community get to know our 138 (current number; 155 would be fully staffed) police officers and what they do in the community. He described how fun being downtown was during the basketball celebrations were this spring, and how the interactions with the police force by the public were almost all positive.
A resident asked about traffic enforcement. Chief said that they need to focus on problem areas, so send complaints to the department. The resident said the J turns downtown are a real problem.
A resident talked about speeding traffic on Locust going toward 9th street as well as on North 7th street. Usually it’s the same folks speeding 80mph, and it is often at odd hours, like early in the morning when people might be backing out of their driveways.
A resident spoke about how large trucks on the truck routes usually don’t drive the speed limits. Locust street becomes 6 feet narrower from 8th to 9th street. The Chief asked what the speed limits on the truck routes (arterial streets) are. It is 30 mph.
A resident talked about people speeding off of the bridge, turning east on Elm, and not slowing down until the speed hump early in the 300 block. They also said Walnut Street from 7th to 9th is a problem area.
A resident asked about improvements related to Lyons Park, as there is no stop sign from 24/40 down 7th street, and people just speed rather than slow down to 30 mph when they cross under the I-70 bridge. They are worried about more people and children coming to the park but traffic still rushing by until they get to the tracks.
A resident also talked about the fact that there are no protective railings for pedestrians along North 2nd Street sidewalks south of the intersection. The resident suggested the Chief walk the area when traffic is moving to understand how traffic moves in relation to pedestrians and how fast people drive coming north off the bridge, trying to beat the light at Locust.
Ted asked about the probability of getting neighborhood resource officers again. Trent McKinley, who is still on the force, was actually our first resource officer for NoLaw. We had two other afterwards, but currently we do not have one. Resource officers are more like liaisons between the community and the police department. They are invested in getting to know the people they serve, understand what is actually going on, work with the residents on common goals, and respond to the needs of the neighborhoods.
In Kansas City, they had CAN centers, Community Action Network, staffed by people who worked with dedicated officers from the police department and operated in many neighborhoods. From these centers, the department could connect with people in the neighborhoods at times when they weren’t on call for a crisis. The Chief pointed out there would be differing needs in different neighborhoods throughout the city, so each action center would work on different issues.
A resident asked if cars were ever positioned in North Lawrence overnight. The Chief said that the city is divided up into four quadrants, and there are 4-5 in each quadrant every day. We are in “D” quadrant. Officers are supposed to take calls in the area in which they are assigned. The Chief said that a large number of his officers started in 2020, so during the pandemic, they were trained NOT to get out of their cars. They are working on changing this and interfacing with residents now that pandemic restrictions are eased. They have created a new position for community engagement and diversity, and these officers will attend events. He says if we need a police car up here for any reason, let the department know.
A resident said that their place of work hosted a coffee hour with police officers with staff before the pandemic started and the meeting was quite positive and productive.
A resident asked what the best way is to give input regarding the police department. The Chief said the city commission meetings are a good way to get and give input. But also, you can use this email address: OPA@lkpd.org for praise, concerns and issues with members of the police department. City of Lawrence website: lawrenceks.org also has links for the police department.
Ted said that a couple of chiefs ago, the police chief didn’t think that the police department should not do traffic. This chief though the city should have a traffic division. Ted has talked with the city commission about this idea, but so far, nothing has materialized. Ted meets with each commissioner individually once a month to talk over issues.
Ted briefly highlighted the history of the Sandrats and the Bluebellies for the Chief. Earlier, Ted talked about how North Lawrence used to be Jefferson and was annexed by Lawrence in 1870 after being voted down a few years prior.
The Chief offered to have an officer come to meetings whenever we wish to give us updates about what is going on with the department and the neighborhoods.
Ted brought up two more agenda items for the meeting.
Neighborhood survey: Kirtsy and Jennifer have been working on an online as well as a paper/door-to-door survey for residents that will roll out online and throughout the neighborhood soon. Kirsty was the resident who surveyed people about the loss of the tennis courts. She got the idea to reach out to more neighbors with a survey to see what people are thinking about. The online survey will be posted on Facebook and on the NLIA WordPress site (northlawrencekansas.com). The point of doing the survey is to help the NLIA learn from residents what they like about the neighborhood and what are concerned about. This could help folks who don’t have time to come to the neighborhood meetings get more involved.
Information gathered on the surveys will be de-identified and only used for the purposes of NLIA. None of the information will be sold to third parties.
If you have a neighbor who is not online and wants a paper copy of the survey, you could print one for them and tell them how to get it back to NLIA, call Ted or email the coordinator with their information so we can contact them in person to get them a survey.
NLIA lost its CBDG funding in 2017 because we were no longer 51% low-to-moderate income (we dropped to 41% because of people with higher incomes moving to the neighborhood). So we lost our funding for our mailings (postcards and newsletters), essential paperwork like registering as a non-profit with the state, and what was a small coordinator salary. A printing and bulk mailing of the newsletter twice a year usually ran $1000 per print/postage for a four-page newsletter.
The postcards that we used to send out two or three times a year to notify residents about the picnic and the chili supper would run $300 per mailing.
Currently we reserve a small amount of the money raised at the holidays to help cover the bare-bones of the operation costs of NLIA (with the blessings of these businesses).
During the pandemic, we did not hold most of our usual fundraising activities that would directly cover some of the operating costs for NLIA. The Cabin Fever Chili Supper in February and the fall picnic in September are two events that we will start holding again this year. We will continue to hold our garage sale as well, in which Midland Care holds a fundraising cookout where the proceeds are split by Midland Care and NLIA.
Band night: Dave, a trombone player for the New Horizons Band, spoke about the idea of holding a band night in North Lawrence. He talked about what they did before COVID — playing nursing homes in Lawrence, and joining in with Free State High School in concert. They got the band back together in March this year and had a short spring concert season. They played at Meadowlark, in Baldwin in the square, and Corpus Christi School. Dave also plays in the North Topeka band.
The idea: Hold a concert, at a place in NoLaw that has chairs and a power supply. A resident asked if this could be at the Depot (yes, it could be). People could bring lawn chairs and blankets and there is a covered baggage area on the West end of the Depot that has power.
New Horizons Band doesn’t meet during the summer, so they will reconvene in the fall after Labor Day. They rehearse at 4pm on Friday afternoons and perform at nursing homes during this time as well.
The attendees were in favor of this idea, so we will work on having a fall performance of the New Horizons Band at the Union Depot. We will look at rain dates and other logistics, and think about what musical pieces we might like them to perform.
We did the drawing for the gift certificate. It’s great to have so many members here!
We WILL have a July meeting of NLIA on Monday, July 11th, 7pm, Peace Mennonite Church.
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.
The May 2022 Meeting of NLIA will be in person, 7 pm, Monday, May 9th, Peace Mennonite Church. Snacks and water will be provided. Masks are encouraged.
We will have guests from the city to update us on park improvements and we will be talking about the neighborhood garage sale and cookout event on the weekend of May 21.
To get on the garage sale map online, email the NLIA coordinator with days, times, and location of your sale. Official Sale Days are Friday, May 20th and Saturday, May 21st.
Guests tonight are from Lawrence Transit, Kirsty from Midland Care (and NoLaw), architects working on the sprinkle park at Lyons
Board members present: Ted, Alison, Jeff
Ted called the meeting to order at 6:59 pm introducing the guests who are here to talk to us about park improvements and other issues.
Ted said we want the tennis courts back in addition to having the pickleball courts. Kirsty has been interviewing residents on their thoughts on this. She said it was wonderful to talk with people in the neighborhood. She met some really cool folks! They have thoughtful and passionate ideas about the parks in NoLaw. She bought her house here because she could walk to the tennis courts. She has been a tennis professional her entire life. At first, there was one tennis court and one pickeball court, and that was a great mix, and representational of the unique neighborhood we have. Many folks wanted tennis court nets raised to regulation rates, and many people want a practice wall added.
Folks do not want to lose the basketball courts but also are sad that tennis is not available any longer. One neighbor said without the basketball courts, he would not have made it through COVID. It helped a lot of kids get through the isolation. Kirsty talked with neighbors bout the basketball court use at John Taylor. Neighbors there said that the court are multipurpose. People teach kids how to ride bikes on the courts. People dance and do Tai Chi on the courts. Neighbors will sit and watch kickball and other games at the sports fields in the parks from their front yards. It was unanimous that folks want the parks to add sports and keep the parks diverse rather than take any sports away from the parks.
Kirsty said that folks from Common Ground garden at John Taylor said that a restroom would really help them! Neighbors in the area are concerned that unhoused people might choose to squat in the restrooms, but other neighbors suggested that the restrooms be locked overnight the way they are in Lyons park.
Kirsty said that 7th street seems like a “speedway” from the train tracks to highway 40. One idea was to add more 4-way stops and then have flags and other indicators at those stops, the way the city did when we got stop signs over the past few years at intersections that formerly didn’t have signs.
Kirsty asked for feedback from attendees. Folks talked about time limits at the courts, common courtesy, parking issues, and where trees had been taken out recently.
Ted agreed that we need Lyons to be a multi-sport park. We will be getting a new shelter at the park, and we will keep an eye on the parking issues there.
Next the architects working on the spray park spoke. LandWorks Studio is heading up the project in concert with the city. The spray park has been in the city’s P&R plan for about five years. One is already under construction in East Lawrence on Burroughs Creek Trail. This will be the second project done and it will start in 2022. They are speaking to residents and sharing initial design processes and will be submitting plans to the city in about a week. The earliest a plan could be approved would be early August. The project will be open to public comment throughout the process.
The firm has looked at Lyons park and figured out an ideal space for the spray park, close to the current picnic shelter (which will be upgraded or possibly angled differently in the park when it’s upgraded in 2024), the restroom (which will not change), and the playground (which will be upgraded this year). Spray parks are an aquatic recreation amenity that does not involve any standing water, unlike a wading pool. The water collects in drains and is captured, filtered, and re-used rather than used only once. The parks are more accessible and don’t require lifeguards or knowing how to swim. They have smooth, level, paved terrain, so are more accessible.
SE corner of the park near the playground to the east of the current parking area by the courts is the location, and the playground is also scheduled to be replaced within the next year, so the two will be designed in concert with one another. There is the correct type of access to water and sanitary sewer in that corner of the park. They plan to preserve the existing shade trees as well.
The architects brought design boards with an overview of the spray park location and two concepts that they are looking at for the design in relation to the playground. The playground surface will change to pour and place rubber rather than wood chips. There will also be a new sidewalk put in on the north side of Lincoln Street.
A resident asked if the porta-potty will remain by the pickleball courts. Mark H. said that it’s only there when the regular bathrooms are closed. The regular restrooms will open on April 15th. They are always locked overnight.
A resident asked if there will be regular swings in the updated playground. There is a swing planned, but it looks kind of different from a regular old rubber swing. The resident asked if there will be baby swings. There will be different versions, replacing what we have.
A resident asked if they have spoken to the business on the south side of Lincoln. They have not yet. Ted said that there are going to be new warehouses built on the south side of Lincoln soon, and they will also put sidewalks in.
A resident asked about both summer and winter play. The spray park will only be open when restrooms and drinking fountains are turned on, so spring, summer, and some fall hours. The spray park will have daily hours when it is operational as well and operate on a timer. The features will turn on with a pedal or button, and have a programmed sequence. Parks and Rec is looking at what the optimum operating schedules for the spray parks will be. The playground equipment will be available 365 days a year.
A resident asked if the project would be less expensive if the shelter stayed the same rather than getting renovated or moved. The shelter budget is coming out of a different line item, so it doesn’t impact the cost of the spray park.
A resident asked about the budget and if there was money to make improvements to other parts of the parks, like the basketball courts. Mark said there are multiple projects and funding, which are separate, and that they are planning to resurface the basketball courts this year. The resident said that the baskets are too low.
Residents were encouraged to look at the designs and weigh in on which ones they liked or didn’t like with blue or red dots on the designs. It looks like we won’t get our recreation center with a pool any time soon, but we like this idea!
Mark said that the John Taylor Park restroom CIP/funding will be looked at for 2026. Mark spoke about some of the more updated designs for playgrounds in Lawrence and other shelter ideas, like the sails in Burcham Park. We do like to picnic in the rain… so we are pro roof.
Ted featured the new North Lawrence tee shirt that is based on our new Welcome sign at the Depot. Sign Up did the sign, the city built the frame for it and illuminated it, and Happy Shirt printed the tee shirts. $12 for members, $15 for everyone else.
Ted said that even though we usually do not meet in June, July, or August, we have some big changes happening in Lawrence, and we might want to invite the new Police Chief to visit. If we do have an extra meeting this summer, it will be in the Lawrence Journal World, on Facebook, and on our website.
Ted reminded everyone that even though we were not face-to-face for the last 2 years, NLIA was still busy working for North Lawrence.
The North Lawrence Garage Sale will be the weekend of May 21st. Midland Care will hold their second fundraising lunch between 10am and 2pm. Hopefully it will not be a torrential downpour this year.
A resident asked if Ted had heard complaints about property taxes this year. Ted gave clear recommendations how to appeal —especially finding which properties that the county compares to yours and noting the clear differences. Residents can get a list from the county and compare them and appeal raises or changes in their taxes.
A resident noted that he is one of the folks who likes to watch games in Lyons park from his front yard. He wondered if kickball was going to make a comeback because he really enjoys watching games. Kirsty suggested that we aren’t promoting Lyons park as a great place to play kickball. Our mayor said that the Kaw Valley leagues have not been gathering as much during COVID, and they will be restarting this May.
Ted said he will report back to the city about slowing traffic on north 7th street, especially with the updated amenities that will draw more children and families to the park at 7th and Lincoln.
A member of Lawrence Transit is here this evening to do a presentation about route redesign. She had handouts of the route proposals and did a short presentation. There will be a new transit hub built at Bob Billings and Crestline. The KU routes will change in August of 2022, and the city routes will change early in 2023. There is a survey available, and route proposals are still open to public comment via Lawrence Listens.
Route 4, the current NoLaw route, will have two major changes, possibly three. The route will be moved to North Street rather than Lyon Street, and will connect to a 6th street route during peak frequencies, 30 and 60 minute frequencies. Between 7 and 9 am and in the early afternoons, there will be a bus every 30 minutes, and it will take people downtown, along 9th to the Merc, and out 6th to Rock Chalk Park. There will also be Sunday micro transit service available, similar to dial a ride, or via an app, and it will be more point-to-point. They will also be looking at fare-free service starting in 2023 after the routes are changed. There will also be interline routes available, offering fewer transfers per ride.
We did our drawing gift certificate and Ted mentioned that we have snacks tonight.
Ted closed the meeting talking about the possible pedestrian walkway designs over the river. He said that the projects behind Johnny’s are picking up again after two years of not doing much during the pandemic. The walkways didn’t really have designs for how they would connect and integrate into North Lawrence — just designs for south of the river. So folks working on the projects behind Johnny’s are going to integrate with the walkway folks, and Ted will bring notes and designs to the May meeting.
All new development will be bordered by North 2nd street, and not extend east of there. We are still looking at six possible grocery store chains for that location in the second phase of the project. Johnny’s will stay the same, but Betty’s will have a big building with commercial and residential spaces available. The Gaslight building will be saved, and stories will be added in the first phase. The second phase will include a hotel and a grocery store between the first phase developments and the levee. All facades of the buildings will need to resemble the historic depot and be limited to how high they can be on N. 2nd street. The elevator building behind Johnny’s will also be preserved, perhaps by barn and building preservation folks.
The entire project is required to have its own storm water abatement system and not tie into the existing systems, which get overloaded already when we have heavy storms. The first phase will likely have a retention pond, and the second will include the pump system for stormwater.
The whole walkway/connecting design is furthering the goal of connecting the entire loop around the city, and some folks want bike paths extended around and north of the airport as well (as the levee curves to the north on both ends).
Ted encouraged residents to give input on how we want these things done, since we are the folks who live here.
We did have first responders available, an engine and five firefighters, sitting across the river here when the big KU parade happened on Sunday. Ted was instrumental in getting that to happen; the city does not have a consistent policy or a habit of making sure we are covered every time big events happen. We actually have to ask EVERY time!
We adjourned the meeting around 8:22 pm but people stood around and chatted afterwards.
NLIA will be meeting IN PERSON again tomorrow, Monday, April 11th, 7pm at Peace Mennonite. We will have SNACKS and NEW TEE SHIRTS for sale based on the new NoLaw sign.
We will host guest speakers, including the director of Parks and Rec, and folks from the city will be there to talk to us about certain park improvements, including the splash park, restrooms, and possibly having tennis courts available again.
See you there!
First meeting since March 9th, 2020.
Officers present: Ted Boyle, Jeff Joseph, Alison Dishinger
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.
The North Lawrence Improvement Association will have its first in-person meeting since the pandemic began on Monday, March 14th, 7 pm at Peace Mennonite Church.
Normally, we would gather as neighbors for our potluck picnic at the Lyons Park Shelter on the Second Monday of September. Out of an abundance of caution, we did not hold the event in 2020.
Now, due to rising numbers of Delta Variant cases in Lawrence and Douglas County, we are postponing the 2021 potluck picnic until October.
We will keep an eye on caseloads and transmission rates over the next few weeks and make a decision whether or not to hold the event in October, or whether we will cancel it entirely.
We do miss seeing everyone and we thank you for your patience and understanding. We hope you and yours are staying healthy and well.