Panel pares Sunflower list to Kessinger/Hunter
A three-member panel appointed by the Johnson County Commission found Kessinger/Hunter and Co. was the only prospective developer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant with the financial means to meet the county's demands.
The panel of County Counselor Don Jarrett, County Economic Research Institute Director Dennis McKee and Johnson County Planning Commission Chairwoman Carol Whitlock made the determination Tuesday.
The Johnson County Commission agreed last month that Kessinger/Hunter and five other developers would have until Jan. 1 to present the panel with information indicating they had the financial means to purchase the plant for the estimated cost of cleaning up soil contaminated during the production of ammunition and the insurance that would guarantee its clean-up.
The Johnson County Commission is negotiating the purchase of the closed plant from the Army. It would like to immediately resell the plant to a developer that would then be responsible for its environmental cleanup.
Kessinger/Hunter announced its interest in Sunflower in May 2002 and is negotiating aspects of the transfer with the county and state. The other five developers -- Hunt Midwest Enterprises, Kansas Wind Power of Lenexa, Pollution Risk Services of Cincinnati, Ohio; LS Commercial Real Estate of Overland Park; and Overland Park realtor David Dowell -- all responded to the County Commission's informal request for proposals process that closed Nov. 15, 2003.
Charles Hunter of Kessinger/Hunter said he hoped the County Commission would now agree to a more formal and exclusive arrangement with his company.
"There are certain things that just can't happen without the action from the county," he said. "Time is of the essence for a variety of reasons."
Dowell, who attended an announcement of the panel's finding, said Kessinger/Hunter was apparently the only prospective developer able to meet the Jan. 1 deadline.
"I really don't think they gave us a fair shot in terms of getting our financing together," he said. "They should have given us a deadline when we responded in November. Instead, they wait and send a letter on Dec. 23 and had all these people scrambling to get this together during the holidays."
Troy Helming owner of Kansas Wind Power said he couldn't meet the county's deadline. But he said his company's electrical wind generators and other alternative energy proposals could still be a part of Sunflower's future.
"The reason I'm not totally disappointed is that most of the other developers -- even Kessinger/Hunter -- had at least a mild interest in our project," he said.
Dowell said he would appeal for more time.
"I'm not going to push the issue, because I have other things I could be doing," he said. "But I do think they could have handled this better."
The County Commission was pressured by Kessinger/Hunter's ultimatum that the county limit negotiations to the Kansas City real estate company by the end of the week, Dowell said.
"I understand Kessinger/Hun
-ter's point of view," he said. "They've invested a lot of time and money in this. I wish them well."