Lawrence town hall addresses infrastructure, economic development


The approximately 50 people who attended an April 3 town hall meeting organized by Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier and his staff asked questions on a variety of topics, such as road maintenance and improvements, water and sewer service, and economic development.

Collier started the meeting with some remarks, focusing on the accomplishments of his two terms as mayor. Those included utilities improvements, more community events, paving projects and pickleball courts.

“I’m your mayor and I get credit for a lot of stuff, but in reality, I’ve got a great team and they make me look great on a regular basis,” Collier said before department heads took over answering some of the questions residents submitted before the meeting.

Questions were grouped by topic, and the first topic focused on streets — specifically repaving rather than patching.

Director of Engineering Sri Venugopalan said the city receives a fixed amount of money each year from state highway distributions, and it’s not enough to do everything the department needs to do.

“We’re constantly looking for grants so we can do more,” Venugopalan said, adding that the city has been able to qualify for a $1 million grant annually for the past five years for paving projects. “You are going to see a lot of resurfacing done this year. We also set aside around $300,000 every year for patching for other streets that aren’t eligible for this grant money.”

Streets are chosen for repaving based on a rating system, he said, with the worst streets getting priority.

Venugopalan said the city also has done a lot of work on Lawrence stormwater drains that have not received much attention while under the jurisdiction of the City of Indianapolis. He said since that power was taken back, along with the fees that accompany it, Lawrence has been able to make improvements and will continue that effort.

Another question focused on the city’s water service, complaining that the water was discolored.

Utilities Supt. Scott Salsbery said water quality is something he takes very seriously, and the water at the plants is tested multiple times a month,

“We make sure everything runs the way it’s supposed to every single day,” he said.

But that’s the water at the plants. It still needs to get to the homes, and to do that, it needs to travel through the city’s 216 miles of water lines. Many of those lines are old and corroded, he said, which is why some homes are getting water that has picked up some minerals along the way.

Salsbery said the city has replaced about 3.5 percent of its water mains so far, “So we still have a long ways to go.”

Director of Economic Development Dan Zuerner addressed questions relating to new businesses coming into Lawrence. He said a big part of attracting businesses is improving the appearance of the city’s streets. There are plans in the works to add landscaped medians, more greenery separating sidewalks from vehicle traffic, and a wall along the CSX rail tracks to reduce noise for nearby residences and businesses.

Continuing to improve the city’s utilities is also part of the economic development plan, along with more public art and charging stations for electric vehicles.

At the close of the meeting, Collier said that any questions that weren’t answered that night would be answered in writing and put on the city’s website.

The town hall meeting was the first of a series planned by Collier and his administration. Another meeting is scheduled for mid-July.