Lawrence and Douglas County will be patient before purchasing the idled Farmland fertilizer plant, officials said Wednesday -- and may not purchase it at all if the cost is prohibitive.
After a closed-door session of city and county commissioners to discuss the purchase, County Commissioner Charles Jones said the two governing boards would wait for Farmland's companywide bankruptcy auction March 26 before taking action.
"We're in no rush," he said. "If the private sector wants to step in and take up the challenge, more power to them. We have to wait to see if it's still on the block."
Jones said a pollution-cleanup consultant toured the site Wednesday morning.
"There are obvious environmental issues of note," he said. "What we need to do is quantify those issues and decide to go forward."
Economic development officials have said the 467-acre site would be a prime site for a new industrial park. Without it, they said, Douglas County would have only 150 acres of land ready for industrial use.
But Jones said pollution cleanup costs could be an obstacle.
"If the costs are too much -- if it's much cheaper to go buy land elsewhere -- then we won't do it," he said.
The federal government has $200 million available to clean up industrial "brownfield" sites. But the city and county can't get that money until after they buy the plant.
"The strategy is to do what we can afford instead of hoping for help," Jones said.
The plant has been idle since May 2001.