Lawrence council approves $1.1 million in supplemental appropriations


The Lawrence Common Council voted 6-0 with two abstentions to approve an additional appropriation for $1.1 million, primarily to fund public safety needs in the City of Lawrence.

According to information included in the council’s meeting packet, the additional appropriation to the 2023 budget was recommended by Mayor Steve Collier. It was sponsored by councilmembers Sherron Freeman (District 3 Democrat), Lauren Russel (District 6 Republican), Tom Shevlot (District 5 Republican) and Deb Whitfield (at large Democrat).

The ordinance provides an additional $480,000 for the Lawrence Police Department, and about $297,000 for the Lawrence Fire Department. Other appropriations in the ordinance go toward the council’s expenses for its investigation into Collier’s actions related to the 2022 budget, and legal fees related to litigation over that investigation that the council and mayor have agreed to settle.

The ordinance was introduced in August and had been assigned to the council’s finance committee. The committee has not yet met, and the council chose to bypass that step.

Some council members had questions about specific expenses for the two public safety departments. Lawrence Fire Department Chief Dino Batalis said the LFD expenses are for repairs to the training tower, overtime because personnel have been out sick or with injuries, training and equipment replacement.

Lawrence Police Department Chief Curtis Bigsbee said the LPD appropriations will cover overtime; supplies such as cameras, tasers, ballistic vests and radios; and professional services such as psychological exams for new recruits.

Council President Tyrrell Giles asked whether it was necessary to have a new appropriation now, as the city is preparing its 2024 annual budget.

“This is the first time I remember doing a special appropriation this late in the year,” he said. “I’m open to it but want to know what the priorities are.”

Giles and Councilmember Maria Rusomaroff (District 4 Democrat) abstained when the time came to vote on the ordinance.

Some of the expenses for fire and police had been included in a previous proposal that would have paid for them through the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. That proposal, which came before the council in March, never made it out of committee and the sponsors — Freeman and Shevlot — opted to remove their sponsorship after several months of no action.

Through the newly adopted ordinance, funding will come from the city’s general fund.

The next Lawrence Common Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20.