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Archive for Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Commissioners want to revisit DCDI agreement

June 20, 2000

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The embattled developers of the East Hills Business Park came under additional fire Monday from Douglas County commissioners, who want to re-examine terms of a 14-year-old agreement.

Both Commissioners Charles Jones and Tom Taul want to revisit the county's 1986 agreement with Douglas County Development Inc. about East Hills Business Park.

The county bought the property for the business park in 1986 for $2,500 per acre. DCDI, which is charged with luring industries to the park, must pay the county back $3,000 for each acre it develops for sale or lease to private businesses.

Taul said he feels the land is more valuable than the $3,000-an-acre asking price.

"I think the economic health of the community has changed quite a bit (since 1986)," he said. "I think that's pretty cheap."

Taul also wasn't pleased that the $3,000 hasn't increased to reflect the ever-increasing property valuations. The county pays the property taxes on the unsold portions in the park.

Wakarusa-Kaw Valley Drainage District is also a party to the contract, but commissioners expressed no desire to change the part of the contract related to the drainage district.

In a related matter, Jones expressed concerns about the county's share of a 1998 agreement among DCDI, the city of Lawrence and the county. At that time, DCDI asked the county and city to share in site preparation costs at East Hills for two businesses, Prosoco Inc. and Sauer-Sundstrand Co., now Sauer Inc.

The county and city agreed and signed a 10-year loan agreement through the state's Kansas Partnership Fund. The county's share was $19,000 a year.

County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the 1986 agreement did not obligate the city or county to pay for that kind of work, which is why Jones is upset.

"I'm not sure why taxpayers should pay for that cost," Jones said.

Instead, he proposed redirecting half of the $19,000 to pay for a new covered Lawrence Farmers Market. Market supporters would like to move it from its current home in the 1000 block of Vermont to the city parking lots in the 800 block of New Hampshire. The cost of the new home has been estimated at $284,000.

Weinaug said the commissioners could terminate the last agreement if they wanted.

"The question is if county wants to go back on an agreement made two years ago," he said.

Making changes to the 1986 agreement would be less difficult.

Weinaug said the county could renegotiate that agreement with DCDI, which probably would take a few months.

This morning, commissioners will discuss a $180,000 loan for a drainage improvement agreement that was tabled from their June 7 meeting. On Wednesday, commissioners plan to discuss the agreements with DCDI at 6:35 p.m.

Commissioners also may meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to discuss any unresolved budget concerns from this week's hearings.

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