Archive for Saturday, November 18, 2006

City, county may buy Farmland plant

Property would be fixed up, turned into industrial park

November 18, 2006


Douglas County residents may be getting ready to play a high stakes game of wait-and-see.

City and county commissioners appear to be on the verge of spending a significant amount of money to purchase the vacant Farmland Industries plant east of Lawrence.

But the public won't know how much money will be spent on the defunct fertilizer plant until after the two governments have committed to sign the check.

Various elected leaders this week confirmed that the two governments are seriously interested in buying the environmentally damaged property and cleaning it up to be used as an industrial park.

"Here's what I think will happen: I think we will acquire the land," County Commissioner Charles Jones said. "And then we'll start making some decisions about putting it back to work."

The Farmland project is in bankruptcy court, which means the property ultimately will be sold to the highest bidder during a live auction.

"We can't really announce what our top-dollar price is," Jones said. "That's not a very good way to enter an auction."

Elected leaders, though, are trying to assure the public that they would be reasonable in any acquisition efforts.

"Nobody is interested in making a wild or foolish decision about the ground," said City Commissioner David Schauner. "We'll be operating within reasonable parameters."

Jones, though, said the risk to the public may not be as great as once thought. He said that he's optimistic that the city and county could purchase the 467-acre property for a price that would not require a tax increase.

Jones also is confident that cleaning up the property - which has been contaminated by nitrogen fertilizer spills over its 50 year history - won't be a financial risk to the public. That's because the bankruptcy court required Farmland to set aside $6 million in a trust to pay for clean-up costs.

Multimillion-dollar question

Schauner also confirmed that there's a second administrative trust that has $8 million to $10 million in it for the property. That trust fund is creating questions because it is not clear whether the proceeds of it would go to the purchaser of the site or whether it would be returned to the bankruptcy estate.

"That is an $8 million or $9 million question we're trying to get answered," Schauner said.

That money could pay for extending roads and sewer to the site to make it a viable business park, leaders said.

Jones said the positive side of the infrastructure costs is that the community can tackle those at its own pace, unlike the environmental clean-up, which is mandated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Bioscience bait

Economic development leaders are hoping the city and county find a way to purchase the property. Mike Maddox, chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board, said the Farmland property can be a key tool in increasing the city's presence in the biotechnology industry.

"There's a lot of opportunity out there, and this is a big piece of land in one piece," Maddox said. "I hope we'll think creatively about some things we can do to attract some real serious bioscience companies."

No auction date for the property has been set. The bankruptcy court won't set one until somebody agrees to make an opening bid. A handful of private companies have expressed interest in the property, but city and county leaders said they don't think the private sector ultimately will purchase the property.

That's because city and county commissioners have stood strong in saying that the only uses for the property should be industrial. Some private groups have said they want to use portions of the property for retail or residential uses. Others have not publicly disclosed what they would use the property for.

City and county commissioners control the zoning of the property. Elected leaders have said they think the private sector isn't interested in using the property solely for an industrial park because that is the type of project that would take many years to produce a profit.


conservative 11 years, 6 months ago

This is just stupid. There are private groups willing to spend the time and money to clean up the site. If the commission wants to make sure it is solely industrial they should make sure it is zoned that way.

There are empty spots all over the East Hills Business park. The only way there is a demand for this additional space is if the city commission relaxes their opposition to all things growth, or if the commission is planning to GIVE the land away.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

The city is already overbuilt in both residential and retail.

Buy the land, and make it available to companies who are interested in coming here because it's a good place to live. We need companies who respect their employees and the rest of the community, but we don't need to join the rat race to the bottom that cities like Ottawa are running.

armyguy 11 years, 6 months ago

Would you please put the crack pipe down, if you think an industrial park won't turn a profit in Lawrence.

One of Lawrence's larger employers will be moving a distribution center out of town this summer if a large enough spot is not found. Another large employer is expanding. Many companies have looked at Lawrence but not found enough space or restrictions on Lawrence.

The last thing we need is the commission deciding who gets industrial land in the city.

armyguy 11 years, 6 months ago

I meant too many restrictions in Lawrence.

pelliott 11 years, 6 months ago

Farmland ran a very dirty shop. When I worked with them on projects their constant suggestions of ways to get around, evade or ignore simple environmental rules drove me to dispair. I found them a disgusting group of people, I mean those at the top, knew many fine hard working employees. What condition is that land? If a government entity takes the land it will absolve the corporation of it's liability for the pollution it poured on the land. The corporation has responsibility for their clean up costs. Gosh I really grew to hate Farmland, the more I watched their operation. Do any of the old employees share my fears or can you assure me that in day to day work life they were clean? The lands is probably a nightmare cleanup job.

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

Conservative wrote: "...or if the commission is planning to GIVE the land away."

You might be on to something. The operative phrase is "bio-tech," meaning KU research funded by state and Federal tax dollars.

SteelHorseRider 11 years, 6 months ago

Bowhunter99 - good call.

How can we have enough money to buy without a tax increase while we have sewer, water, and road problems!?!?!? Either way, reality is the city and county has no business buying this property.

Simply put, how can we trust corporations to come clean on what is unclean at that location??

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

Lately, in Kansas, economic development has become a code word for more government jobs.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 6 months ago

build a casino and resort make money and have fun.

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

In the last few days we have read of a $30,000,000 library project, the unknown millions to buy, clean up and develop the Farmland property, the $40,000,000 for storm sewers in North Lawrence, an unknown millions of dollars to purchase flood plain farm land in North Lawrence to develop into an industrial park, the homeless shelter, $700,000,000 plus to bail the regents institutions out of their failure to maintain their buildings, Gov. Sebelius' plan to provide health insurance for thousands of children.....

All the while we know that Kansas is losing population, and its tax base is shrinking as more and more operations that could be provided by private industry are taken over by government and not-for-profit entities.

Property owners cannot continue to shoulder this burden all alone.

Kansas should consider a bold move: remove the tax exemption for all not-for-profit organizations, including endowment associations and athletic corporations and churches, etc.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

Godot has hit it in the nose. The only sector of the Kansas economy that has seen any growth is the public sector.

I won't even comment on the stupidity of the City and County who can't maintain current streets and sewers buying this toxic waste dump and turning it into a bioscience industrial park for corporations that respect their employees, without a tax increase. If Lawrencian's believe this load of bio-hazardous waste being spewed by the PLC Kommissioner they deserve the highest sales and property taxes in the State along with the record deficits.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 6 months ago

Every community on the planet wants a piece of the bioscience pie. Why not look elsewhere as well?

Can green biz bring environmental and civil rights communities together? Posted by David Roberts at 3:09 PM on 25 Aug 2006

The folks at the Greenlining Institute sent along an issue brief they just produced, about how green business represents a chance for the environmental and civil-rights communities to partner with each other. It's somewhat schematic, but interesting, so I've reprinted it below. Lemme know what you think.

The Green Solution for People of Color: How the Advent of Green Business Can Bring Together Two Movements by Nanya Collier, Academy Fellow

The Current Divide

A deep divide presently characterizes two key progressive movements: environmental groups and civil rights advocates. The rapidly-growing "green industry" or business that contributes to an equitable and ecologically sustainable economy could change all this.

Historically, mainstream environmental organizations have ignored the unique issues facing low-income and minority communities. While well-intentioned environmentalists might sometimes try to recruit low-income and minority communities to their cause, rarely do they reciprocate by acknowledging the daily issues faced by minority communities like housing, crime, poverty, and low educational attainment.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

More cut and paste nonsense from merrill, proving yet again he is smarter than Larry King and Rosanne Barr combined.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 6 months ago

"All the while we know that Kansas is losing population, "

This is pretty typical of the "facts" that Godot bases his arguments on.

Charles Jones 11 years, 6 months ago

Hey Reality Check: if you think the private sector is dying to take on this site you might want to check this reality...the property has been on the market for going on four years. No bidders so far.

Why not? The only way they can make money is with residential and commercial development. The city has mapped the land for industrial growth. Good for them....we need it.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

I think it is a quantum leap to assume if the private sector doesn't want the property that the city should buy it. If the private sector doesn't want to pay for the property neither do the taxpayers!

In fact there were several private groups looking at the property but the Kommission did their best to drive them away. This article states: "We can't really announce what our top-dollar price is," Jones said. "That's not a very good way to enter an auction." Auction implies multiple bidding parties.

Check out these other LJW stories about other PRIVATE buyers interested in the Farmland property and you can assume there are other PRIVATE potential interested buyers who didn't make the paper.

armyguy 11 years, 6 months ago

I guess it would make a nice site for the Homless shelter

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

Bozo, look to the future regarding Kansas population. From the LJW Oct 27 article "Kansas to become Giant Retirement Community"

"Demographics. Laszlo Kulcsar, an associate professor of sociology at Kansas State University, said current trends dictate that by 2030 the single largest population category in Kansas will be people older than 75. Or to look at it another way: The state's expected to add 251,666 people between 2000 and 2030. Only about 15,000 of those people are expected to be people younger than 64.

"For every 10 people that Kansas gains between now and 2030, nine of them will be over 65 years old," Kulcsar said. "Think of the social demands that will place on our systems. It is pretty much mind-boggling."

Kulcsar said people also shouldn't confuse Kansas' situation with what's happening in Sun Belt states, where well-heeled retirees are moving in. In Kansas the aging is happening in place. The reason older residents make up a larger percentage is because younger people are leaving the state and taking their higher fertility rates with them. The aging of the population is a national trend, but Kulcsar said it is happening faster in Kansas."

The wage earning population in Kansas is shrinking, and will continue to shrink into the future.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 6 months ago

Cities do not do well in cleaning up major pollution and contaminated sites. The City of Wichita is a shining example of what NOT to do.

There are many reports in the EPA superfund and Contaminated Site cleanup that show that when cities take control, the sites take longer to clean up and they cost more. The solution is to just clean up the site and take care of that problem.

ALl this dancing around with this site.. and SFAAP is all about getting the cleanup money... and then NOT using it for that purpose, or scrimping on the environmental cleanup and ending up with a half a$$ed cleanup, an continuing a contaminatin problem.

THAT is the history of cities taking care of environmental problems.

Remember when the City of Lawrence parked 20 truckloads of SOIL next to the boat ramp?

Well here is an excerpt from that City meeting that showed that KDHE knew BEFORE they parked it there that it was contaminated, and LIED in print in the LJWORLD!!!


Also during the City Manager's report, Chuck Soules, Public Works Director, presented information on the fuel leak at the Central Garage. He said in February staff presented to the City Commission a report that the fueling facility at 11th and Haskell Avenue indicated a fuel leak from the City's underground storage tanks. He said they immediately shut the tank down and contacted KDHE. He said staff looked at all the options for replacement and what staff needed to do to remove these tanks.

He said staff came before the Commission to discuss the option of the Public Works Department removing the tanks to install new tanks. The project began August 5th and with KDHE on site, staff removed 4 tanks and hauled them to the west 40 site. The contaminated soil was also removed. KDHE has a limit of 300 parts per million (the acceptable limit is <100 parts per million for action as general remediation). When the tanks were removed staff worked with KDHE until all the soil within that <100ppm limit was taken out of the area an the area was backfilled.

On Thursday, staff began excavation for one of the new tanks. He said staff had contacted KDHE to inform them that they were starting this process. The new tanks would sit to the north of where the existing tanks were installed. The soil that was excavated was taken to 8th and Oak near a boat ramp.

Soules said staff did make a mistake in that the petroleum left an odor. However, when KDHE tested the soil, it was slightly detectable. He said he did not know how sensitive KDHE's instruments were, but it was not a big issue with them at that time.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 6 months ago


On Friday, Dave Murphy, Friends of the Kaw, was contacted by a citizen who had concerns of where the soil was placed in proximity to the river. Mr. Murphy contacted KDHE and asked them to go monitor the site. KDHE retested the soil and again, it was low. He said KDHE original thought was to contact the City on Monday because it wasn't urgent from their perspective. This was not satisfactory to Mr. Murphy.

Soules said staff thought it was inappropriate to place the soil at that location. As soon as staff was contacted, a crew was sent to the site at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and worked until 9:30 p.m. and came back first thing in the morning and removed the remainder of the soil.

He said he contacted Mr. Murphy and KDHE and both are satisfied with the work that was completed. He said staff has removed all the soil from the 8th and Oak and it was taken out to the west 40 area.

Here is the LIE from KDHE:

AND PEOPLE WONDER WHY I HAVE A PROBLEM and an axxe to grind with KDHE.

They simply are not very good at their job, and they allow cities to slide with the environmental regulations.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 6 months ago

A leaking UST on a CITY of LAWRENCE site and ther was ONLY 100 PPM in the soil????

You have to remove a UST for that level? That would be below the need to clean up, so why would they remove the UST???

COVERUP! Caught the City of Lawrence and KDHE again.

How many UST sites does KDHE have to screw up before real reform happens??


MOre Kansas SItes that are DEFERRED out of SUPERFUND and the process is not up to snuff with EPA federal:

"Superfund: State Deferrals: Some Progress, But Concerns For Long-Term Protectiveness Remain "

Also the state keeps whining about money and how much less they have but they criticize EPA:

"Some States Cannot Address Assessment Needs and Face Limitations in Meeting Future Superfund Cleanup Requirements"

Here is KDHE's response to the EPA OIG report:

Page 71:

"KDHE agrees that there are global concerns with funding. In particular, federal and state funding in Kansas has been consistently reduced over the last few years. These reductions are leading to assessment backlogs as discussed in the audit report, but more importantly the reductions in funding is leading to orphan sites that can not be addressed following assessment."

"3. Executive Summary, page ii - "Until these backlogs are eliminated, the States cannot assure that sites posing the greatest threat to human health and the environment are being addressed promptly, and the backlog may limit the States' capacity to address future hazardous waste sites, including sites on the NPL." Comment - KDHE is averaging five to seven new sites per month. These sites are screened to determine the sites with the greatest risk. Sites posing the greatest threat to human health and the environment are being addressed promptly by the state of Kansas. Sites that are believed to be low priority remain on the list of sites to be assessed. KDHE believes that for the state of Kansas, the statement "States cannot assure that sites posing the greatest threat to human health and the environment are being addressed...." is not accurate. Currently, KDHE believes that all sites with known human health and environmental risks are being addressed by either the state or EPA Region VII. We are unaware of any known site with a moderate to high risk that is not being addressed. However, this may not be the case in the future if there is a continual decrease in state and federal funding."

And here is a hoot KDHE telling EPA they need to hire properly trained people:

"EPA should develop training for their project managers to create a philosophy of continuous system evaluation and optimization. EPA should seek project managers with strong technical background in site remediation and empower those managers to perform system evaluations as data is generated."

ASBESTOS 11 years, 6 months ago

Do you REALLY want to trust KDHE with environmental impacts and cleanup???


Richard Heckler 11 years, 6 months ago

Put a COSTCO with a grocery Store on that site.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

The only grocery store you have any influence with is The Merc. Why dont you ask YOUR buddies about YOUR idea! Hint: It ain't going to happen in a million years and unless the City owns a business they can't just "put" anything there, except possibly a bus company.

snowWI 11 years, 6 months ago

Clean up the Farmland site , and make sure that all contamination gets cleaned up as well. Also, the rusty parts have got to go. I have a phobia about rust and that plant scares the heck out of me when I drive by it.

pelliott 11 years, 6 months ago

Dear marion, real smart idea, boy that federal funding that kicks in when you buy rotten property sounds great, is that some special fund that only you know about. Offering to take on Farmlands responsibility hence absolving them of it and shifting it to some nonexistant superfund accessibility is maybe the smartest thing you have come up with. Oh by the way, if you have another dollar you should buy the old city landfill by the river.

Sigmund 11 years, 6 months ago

"That's because the bankruptcy court required Farmland to set aside $6 million in a trust to pay for clean-up costs. Schauner also confirmed that there's a second administrative trust that has $8 million to $10 million in it for the property."

I think the $6 million from the FEDERAL BANKRUPTCY COURT and $8-$10 million in ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST qualifies as "FEDERAL FUNDS" in my book.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 6 months ago

Bankrupt or not, why isn't Farmland responsible for the cleanup? They had executive officers, specific employees to oversee safety in many areas as well as inspections, and those individuals should be accountable for the existing results of their performance, even if the company is defunct.

I couldn't even get out of my school loans if I filed bankruptcy--I don't think I could get vandalism or littering charges, and if I spilled a lot of toxic nitrogen somewhere, I would probably end up in jail and with a lot of fines and costs to pay.

Just more poor people having to pay while the rich can walk away?

Let's put an F*ing golf course there, a really nice, exclusive one, and give the illnesses back to those who made them possible. We can even extend free membership to Compton, Schumm, Taft, and all the others who work so hard for unregulated trade.

ASBESTOS 11 years, 6 months ago

"and if I spilled a lot of toxic nitrogen.."

The nitrogen is not the big deal here. It is all the PROCESS chemicals. Some bad ones such as Hexavalent Chromium used as a corrosion inhibitor in the cooling towers and systems.

Nitrogen production from natural gas takes ALOT of cooling and compressing of the gasses in the process.

A former Lawrence resident won a large case with the Hex Chrome issue.

Someone needs to contact her on behalf of the citizens.

She is into fighting "deception" these days.

Godot 11 years, 6 months ago

Asbestos, would you live in a house built across from the Farmland property, just south of K-10?

ASBESTOS 11 years, 6 months ago

I don't know what constituents are in the water, nor do I know the water gradient. However there is no drinking water coming from that area. I would have to go through some due dilligence before I would live there, certianly before I purchased a house next to it.

I certinaly would not want to do dirt work out ther or foundation work on the site until there is a clean bill of health issued by the FEDERAL EPA. I don't trust the KDHE nor the EPA Region 7 on their assessments.

They have ran too loose and fancy free with the regulations when it comes to cities, and bankrupt property owners. They tend to let the pollution slide, and the cleanup levels, and actions are then hidden. THE records are not available because KDHE makes them so difficult to get.

THere has been a lot of movement at KDHE recently. People have been getting moved around.

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