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Archive for Wednesday, September 29, 2010

City of Lawrence makes official purchase of former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant

Demolition of the buildings is expected to start by December. The city received $8.5 million in trust fund money from Farmland Industries, money that was set aside to deal with environmental issues.

September 29, 2010, 10:48 a.m. Updated September 29, 2010, 5:09 p.m.

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The Farmland story

Here are some key dates in the history of the Farmland Industries fertilizer plant property on Lawrence's east side:

1954 - Plant begins production of nitrogen fertilizer.

2001 - Plant is shut down after U.S. fertilizer market takes a downturn.

2002 - Kansas City Mo.-based Farmland Industries files for bankruptcy.

2003 - Farmland sells most of its business divisions to competitors, but there’s no taker for the Lawrence plant, which was Farmland’s oldest.

2004 - Roger Billings, an eccentric businessman dubbed “doctor of hydrogen” makes an offer to buy the plant to make hydrogen fuel cells. The deal ultimately stalls and he rescinds the offer.

2005-2010 - City and county commissioners continue to discuss the possibility of buying the property to convert into an industrial park.

June 2010 — City commissioners agree to a deal to assume ownership of the property after an agreement is reached with an Overland Park-based company that had gained a legal interest in the trust fund set aside to clean up the property. The company is allowed to keep about $2 million of the trust fund in exchange for dropping its objections for the city to take over ownership and the remaining $8.5 million that is in the trust fund.

Sept. 29, 2010 — City takes over ownership of the property.

The deal is done.

After more than five years of back-and-forth, the city of Lawrence on Wednesday officially assumed ownership of the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant on the eastern edge of Lawrence.

City Manager David Corliss confirmed that the final paperwork was signed Wednesday to transfer ownership of the 467-acre piece of ground along Kansas Highway 10 from Farmland’s bankruptcy trust to the city.

“But really, this is just the end of the beginning,” said Corliss, who has overseen the process to gain control of the property, which has been idled since Farmland closed the plant in 2001.

Now, the work begins to convert the environmentally blighted property into a business park that city leaders hope will become a bright spot on the city’s economic development scene.

“I think in 2011 we can expect to start talking to people about locating businesses on parts of this property,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said. “We need to have a certain amount of aggressiveness with this. We’ve made an investment, and now we need to start reaping the rewards.”

Work ahead

Corliss said area residents should see noticeable changes on the property within the next several months. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting agreed to send out a request for proposals from companies interested in demolishing the majority of the structures that remain on the site. Work likely would begin by December. Corliss said the city is optimistic that salvage companies will pay the city to take some of the equipment that is on the property.

Cleaning up the buildings and equipment at the site is just one small part of an overall cleanup effort at the property. The site has soil and groundwater contamination left over from its days as a nitrogen fertilizer plant.

As part of the deal, the city became responsible for cleaning up the environmental issues left behind by Farmland Industries. The city received $8.5 million in trust fund money that had been set aside by Farmland to clean the property. The city will not pay a purchase price for the land, but does have to pledge the taxing authority of the city to cover any cleanup costs that exceed $8.5 million.

The cleanup of the property involves pumping groundwater through an existing pipeline system to North Lawrence, where it is spread on farm fields.

Cleanup plans

City commissioners are optimistic the cleanup can be done with the $8.5 million trust over a period of about 30 years. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has estimated the cleanup costs at $13 million to $15 million over 30 years. But the city is counting on saving money by using city crews to do much of the work that the state had assumed would be done with contract labor. The city also is counting on interest earnings and revenue from future land sales once the property becomes a business park.

Regardless, the site will take millions of dollars in public money for infrastructure improvements.

The city has included about $3 million in new debt in its 2011 budget to provide infrastructure upgrades at the site. Corliss said some of the likely infrastructure improvements include a new road that would run through the Farmland property and connect to the adjacent East Hills Business Park, and an extension of O’Connell Road to connect with 19th Street. A new traffic light at 23rd and O’Connell also is likely, although developers on the south side of Kansas Highway 10 may be asked to pay for part of that project, Corliss said.

Which projects happen first will require further City Commission discussion, but Corliss said he hopes to begin construction on at least some of the infrastructure by late 2011.

The bigger question: What companies will economic development leaders find to fill the site?

Dever said he’s optimistic that the property will be able to attract both a mix of traditional industrial projects — similar to what’s in East Hills Business Park — and new bioscience projects that could grow out of the new biosciences incubator on Kansas University’s West Campus.

“Now that we have an incubator in place, it is reasonable to expect some of these companies will one day need a place to manufacture their pharmaceuticals or their new technologies,” Dever said. “And now we’ll have a place for them to do that.”

Comments

jehovah_bob 4 years, 4 months ago

What is wrong with the business park right next door? There's still empty lots and empty buildings over here and I don't know of any demand to snatch those up.

Steve Miller 4 years, 4 months ago

Norht lawrence has better run off, a better sdump site.

not_a_republican 4 years, 4 months ago

The contaminants are basically fertalizer. Everyone assumes it is some sort of highly toxic industrial waste. But it is basically high concentrations of the same stuff farmers and landscapers put on their fields and lawns. It makes total sense to pump it to a farmer and let them use it to feed their crops. Its a win win situation.

funkdog1 4 years, 4 months ago

There may be fertilizer in the soil around that site, but it's not down in the groundwater.

funkdog1 4 years, 4 months ago

My bad. I guess the article says there is groundwater contamination.

shadowlady 4 years, 4 months ago

you have a point, None 2, it just doesn't make sense to either, there are fields right there in that area, why pump it to North Lawrence.

CountyResident 4 years, 4 months ago

We decry when the federal government takes over the auto industry, but somehow seem to thinks its OK when local government gets in the real estate development business. Isn't this socialism at the local level? I have a feeling the the chamber of commerce and others will be all for this.

Maracas 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure I get the socialism assertion.

kc89 4 years, 4 months ago

The groundwater contains nitrates and is used by the sod farms as fertilizer instead of treating it and discharging.

interploy 4 years, 4 months ago

Maybe you should read the article...

"The city will not pay a purchase price for the land, but does have to pledge the taxing authority of the city to cover any cleanup costs that go above the $8.5 million amount. "

CLARKKENT 4 years, 4 months ago

HEALTHCARE--GOOD POST. ANOTHER PROJECT FOR THE CITY FATHERS TO SCREW UP. CAN ALMOST GUARANTEE THAT THE TAX PAYERS WILL GET TO SPEND A SMALL FORTUNE BEFORE THIS IS DONE.

THESE CITY FATHERS HAVE DONE A LOT OF DUMB THINGS, BUT THIS IS NEARING THE TOP RUNG.

clovis_sangrail 4 years, 4 months ago

This would be an excellent location for a Lowe's. Easy access from K-10 for the folks living out in the eastern part of the county and for East East Lawrence and Oread neighborhood slumlo . . er. . rental property owners. As an added plus, there is already crap all over the ground, so the Lowe's droppings will fit right in.

stopit 4 years, 4 months ago

The private sector did not buy it because they knew it would cost more to clean it. I guess we the people will pay for the city to clean it no matter how much it costs. Tax payers should not be involved in land development. Can we please let the people vote on this?

Flap Doodle 4 years, 4 months ago

Maybe a good location for the reeducation camp Sebelius was talking about a few weeks ago?

Practicality 4 years, 4 months ago

I vote to leave it like it is, no clean up, and turn it into city hall.

flyin_squirrel 4 years, 4 months ago

Not good for Lowe's but a perfect site for the Berry Plastics warehouse.

conservative 4 years, 4 months ago

Actually there were several private investment groups that specialize in environmental cleanup properties that were interested in the property. The city didn't want to leave the redevelopment to them though even though they would have been on the hook for all cleanup regardless of how much more it costs than the amount set aside by farmland. Some peabrains think the city should be on the hook for the cleanup, same peabrains that think there is a demand for that much more business park space next door to the half empty east hills business park.

shadowlady 4 years, 4 months ago

What did you say "new jobs"??? Everytime someone wants to put a business in here, the city of Lawrence tries to keep them out. Remember how long it took Walmart to get in to Lawrence?? And now they are squabbling of where Lowe's should be. Years ago "Cracker Barrel" wanted to come into North Lawrence, but the City had to squabble about the sign being to high. Well, it had to be high so the traffic on the turnpike could see it, but none the less, why squabble over how high a sign should be, it is another avenue for jobs in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 4 months ago

How much is the city of Lawrence paying for the site?

Lawrence,Kansas is never broke no matter what they say. Millions are never very far away when city hall wants to do something.

When city hall does not want to do something then the city is always broke. Isn't this a bit bogus?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 4 months ago

Let the taxpayers vote on the project.

Leaving all decisions to city hall increases our taxes aka never a payback.

irvan moore 4 years, 4 months ago

Maybe we could make it a park and have a monument built to honor the city commissoners for their foresight and courage in buying this ecological nightmare?

BruceWayne 4 years, 4 months ago

Corliss is a fool that does NOTHING to better this city.

lgreen17 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm so glad to know our city has all this money lying around!!

LloydDobbler 4 years, 4 months ago

A private developer who specializes in environmental remediation and industrial development DID want to take over the property. However, City leaders turned their backs on them. I don't know the real reason, but it doesn't make sense that City leaders would want to spend money to clean up and develop this property when a private developer was willing to do it with no expense to the taxpayer. It's as if the Mayor, City Manager and Commission are afraid of any outside help or any perceived lack of control. Their lack of intelligence and obsessive compulsive need to control everything is going to cost all of us taxpayers a great deal of money. Moreover, a professional industrial development company is probably better suited to find paying tenants than our City Commission. It just doesn't make sense.

Mr_B9 4 years, 4 months ago

"Their lack of intelligence and obsessive compulsive need to control everything is going to cost all of us taxpayers a great deal of money. Moreover, a professional industrial development company is probably better suited to find paying tenants than our City Commission. It just doesn't make sense."

This is exactly why they have a thankless job. Another grave mistake by our elected leaders......Shame on you COL.....

fyrfighter 4 years, 4 months ago

other than turning over trash collection to deffenbaugh, this has got to be the dumbest thing the city of Lawrence has EVER done.

friendlyjhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

How about putting the new library, parking garage, and homeless shelter there?

Thats_messed_up 4 years, 4 months ago

Can't have a Lowe's that will bring in millions in tax revenue but CAN take over 467 acres for another empty business park. Idiots! Everyone outside of Lawrence knows how business unfriendly Lawrence is. Why would they want to waste their time and money here?

bearded_gnome 4 years, 4 months ago

and new bioscience projects that could grow out of the new biosciences incubator on West Campus.

---Oh! you got that right, and henderson's drunk/druggie shelter could go in there as a bioscience experiment too!

bearded_gnome 4 years, 4 months ago

merrill (anonymous) says…

Let the taxpayers vote on the project.

---Merrill, do you ever stop to consider just how silly you are in these comment threads???

you advocate here for voters to decide.
... yet you were all for the congress and mr. obama early on taking a public option and shoving it down our throats! a plan that most americans didn't want and don't want now.
your people pushed through Obama's health insurance debacle against the will of the people and at least three fifths of americans want the stupid bill repealed entirely.
you supported Denny Moore taxing us against representation.
and in this you want us to have a vote?
sundry silly man.

Steve Miller 4 years, 4 months ago

can anyone tell me why this will be an enhanced property when the east business district is not even full and is waining in the wind? Where is the magic in this situation ? The just inherited a big baffon.

Sue McDaniel 4 years, 4 months ago

Total insanity......and we wonder why everything in our economy is bad!

justforfun 4 years, 4 months ago

SLT SLT SLT SLT Won't matter unless the road is built!

Glenda Breese 4 years, 4 months ago

North Lawrence already has a cantamination problem from the old FMC,so I reckon sending more their way won't hurt.But realy people what we need are some major stores in this town so OUR tax base can increase, instead of it all being funneled to Topeka and Kansas ! They (the city) can turn downtown into a historical site for tourism.

mumbojumbo 4 years, 4 months ago

This would be a perfect place to store all the vehicles that are ruined due to the streets the city has ignored to fix. A person needs a pot hole map just so you can get around town without damaging the car.

mumbojumbo 4 years, 4 months ago

This would be a perfect place to store all the vehicles that are ruined due to the streets the city has ignored to fix. A person needs a pot hole map just so you can get around town without damaging the car.

MadDad 4 years, 4 months ago

Wait for it, Wait for it, Wait for it........ Cant wait to see how they induce all the round-a-bouts that I am sure they already have in proposal. Tadaaaa

kansasredlegs 4 years, 4 months ago

Since this is an "investment" by City Officials with our tax dollars, shouldn' we taxpayers be considered shareholders and receive a dividen when the property is sold for a profit? We'll certainly get to share the loss/cost overruns of this boondoggle.

btw: Mr. Corliss do you really think you'll be able use City workers? Come on, you don't have enough funds / crews now to fix the roads you have. I'll be watching your future budget requests for personnel which will be diverted to cover this boondoggle. Always easy to cover this up, right? You know how to shift money around without oversight, now acquiring personnel to do other than requested work should be a piece of cake for you.

Glenda Breese 4 years, 3 months ago

Oh good!!! one less idiot to hear from!!>>>>>>>>>

lounger 4 years, 3 months ago

Oh yikes! Saving money by letting CITY workers clean it up instead. Poor Ba*tards! City workers lookout! We know this was not part of your job description in the beginning. Better get some sort of paper work that helps out on the medical bills when some of you get sick from this polluted mess!!!!

pace 4 years, 3 months ago

Thank god, maybe that seeping sore will get cleaned up and back into use as an industrial site. We need heavy industrial sites , we don't need seeping sores. May the management of farmland industry be cursed. The city, the county and the state let Farmland slide into this mess, ignoring their responsibility to regulate, claiming support for the jobs. Letting the bad guys slide always leaves the bill in innocent hands.

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