Archive for Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Time crunch

Sunflower developers given two weeks

December 24, 2003

Developers who responded to the Johnson County Commission's invitation to submit proposals to redevelop the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant expressed surprise that they faced a two-week deadline to submit critical financial information to the county.

"I guess they accelerated their timeline," Hunt Midwest Enterprises President Lee Derrough said. "We had a meeting with Don (County Counselor Don Jarrett) last week We went through what the county really wants. We weren't thrown any timelines."

At a work session last Thursday, Johnson County Commissioners agreed the six proposed developers would have until Jan. 1 to submit information demonstrating the financial ability to clean the plant's polluted soil and the means to purchase insurance that would provide funds to clean up unexpected soil contamination. The information is to be submitted to a four-person panel that commissioners agreed to appoint.

In Commissioner Doug Wood's words, the panel of Jarrett, County Economic Research Institute President Dennis McKey and two other as-yet unnamed members would determine those prospects able to "write a $60 million check."

For the past six months, the County Commission has been negotiating the purchase of the 9,065-acre plant for the price of cleaning sites contaminated with five decades of off-and-on rocket propellant production at the World War II-era plant. The county would like to rid itself of the property and responsibility of its environmental cleanup by immediately reselling it to a private developer.

Six developers have notified the county they are interested in taking that role. Kessinger-Hunter & Co. of Kansas City announced its interest in May 2002 and is already negotiating terms of a transfer with the county and state. Five other prospects -- Hunt Midwest Enterprises or Kansas City, Kansas Wind Power of Lenexa, Pollution Risk Services of Cincinnati, Ohio, LS Commercial Real Estate of Overland Park, and Overland Park realtor, Doug Dowell -- responded to the Commission's informal request-for-proposal process this fall.

The panel is to report its findings Jan. 8, commissioners agreed, but some flexibility was allowed when Commissioner Ed Peterson expressed doubt about the quality of work done in such a short time period.

Although Peterson didn't object to the panel, he said the work should best be left to the redevelopment authority.

"I feel strongly this is a long-term commitment," he said. "I just feel we would be better served starting out on the right foot and that would be appointing a redevelopment authority."

Commissioner John Toplikar said he would like time to ask the views of area legislators and those of constituents in De Soto and elsewhere in the district.

The Legislature passed a bill last year that allowed the Commission to appoint a Sunflower redevelopment authority with wide powers to direct the plant's development.

Jarrett provided the Commission with a draft resolution that would create a redevelopment authority. The draft kept to a minimum the powers and responsibilities that made possible such an authority in a bill the Kansas Legislature passed last spring, he said.

The Commission is to consider the resolution in January.

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