Lawrence City Commission gives general consensus on capital improvement plan

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City pools, splash pads and pickleball took up much of the Lawrence City Commission’s discussion of the five-year capital improvement plan Tuesday evening.

Commissioners gave general consensus that they agree with the CIP as staff presented it. (Read more about that at this link.) They won’t give the CIP final approval until their Sept. 10 meeting, when they will also adopt the 2025 budget, according to the agenda item.

The plan, which spans 2025-2029, includes about $530 million in projects, $172 million of which are slated for 2025.

Finkeldei asked about a pickleball project that was listed on the summary spreadsheet as unfunded, but the project page said it would be funded. The project would place pickleball courts near near the softball fields at Clinton Lake, but city staff members are not recommending it for funding.

Commissioner Lisa Larsen and Mark Hecker, assistant director of parks for Lawrence Parks and Recreation, said they have received noise complaints about the pickleball courts at Lyons Park in North Lawrence.

“That’s something a lot of municipalities have learned, that you really need some distance from those pickleball complexes away from residential,” Hecker said, “so that’s one of the things we’re trying to address with this.”

Commissioners did not ask to fund the pickleball courts.

They did discuss planned renovations at the Outdoor Aquatic Center. Plans currently call for the city to add a splash pad at the outdoor pool at Seventh and Kentucky streets.

The city is also planning to convert the wading pool at South Park — which would need major renovations before it could open again — into a splash pad. Commissioners discussed whether that might be too close to the splash pad that’s planned for the big pool.

Hecker said the city could also look at nixing the plans for South Park and instead putting a splash pad elsewhere. He said the city is currently working on another survey to seek community feedback about that.

There are no splash pads west of Iowa Street yet, but in the future, the city might look at Dad Perry and Holcom parks, Hecker said.

Larsen said she would like the city to look at possibly opening access to the future splash pad at the Outdoor Aquatic Center to the public for free, since the other ones — at Burroughs Creek Trail and Lyons Park — are free to access. People have to pay to be admitted to the pool.

Melissa Sieben, director of municipal services and operations, said she and Jeff Crick, director of planning and development services, are recommending the city undergo a comprehensive study of land use and transportation in North Lawrence and around the downtown area.

The study would help identify grants that could help fund projects in the future. There’s “so much federal rail money out there right now,” for instance, she said.

A study “positions us better to dream bigger,” she said. She said they first wanted to establish whether the commission would be interested, and from there, she and Crick will look at timelines, deliverables and a more defined scope for the study.

Larsen said she thinks the study is a good idea.

However, “We’ve just got to get this Loop done. And we’ve been battling this since I’ve been on the commission,” she said regarding segments of the Lawrence Loop that still need to be completed, including one from Seventh Street to Constant Park in the downtown area.

Mayor Bart Littlejohn encouraged city staff to seek out grants, particularly with regard to land acquisition for affordable housing.

“I think you guys have done a good job of setting the table for us,” he said of the capital improvement plan as a whole.

A summary table in the plan breaks down the projects that city staff members are proposing to be funded and others that they are not:

20240618-City-of-Lawrence-5-year-CIP-summary

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Kaw Valley Almanac for July 15-21, 2024

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