Two million-dollar projects have emerged as the city works to convert the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant into a nearly 400-acre business park.
Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider approving a $1.2 million contract to build an a road in the business park. At the same time, officials don’t know how they will pay up to $1 million in cleanup costs for a newly discovered landfill on the site.
“We’re still working on that issue with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment,” said Chuck Soules, director of public works. “It is a long process.”
The covered landfill was discovered a few months ago. Soules said the landfill isn’t known to contain hazardous materials and holds mostly old office equipment, construction materials and other debris.
Since discovering the landfill, city officials have expressed hope that money from an approximately $8 million environmental remediation account, funded by the now-defunct Farmland corporation, could pay for cleanup. But Soules said Monday that the city hasn’t yet won approval from state officials to use the remediation money.
That means general city tax dollars may be used, although Soules said the city still intends to argue to use the remediation fund. The city has access to the remediation fund to clean up nitrogen contaminated groundwater on the site. But the city’s agreement with the state doesn’t call for the remediation money to be used for the landfill, in part because the city didn’t know the landfill existed at the time the agreement was signed.
Work to build roads and infrastructure at the business park, which has been named Lawrence VenturePark, is going more smoothly. Staff members recommend that commissioners approve a $1.2 million contract with Lawrence-based R.D. Johnson Excavating to build an extension of O’Connell Road, which currently ends at Kansas Highway 10, north to 19th Street. The new section of O’Connell won’t be connected to 19th Street until 2016, when the city plans to make significant improvements to 19th Street between Haskell Avenue and the Venture Park property.
The city is not taking bids for the $1.2 million road project but rather negotiated the price with R.D. Johnson based on the prices the company bid to build other roads in the business park.
When R.D. Johnson won the infrastructure bid in March, the O’Connell Road component was not included in the bid package because city officials thought it would push the project above the $7.8 million project budget. But bids for the infrastructure came in about 40 percent lower than anticipated, which caused city officials to begin looking for ways to add the O’Connell work back into the project.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.