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City Hall

Lawrence looking at more than $2 million in costs at former Farmland site

January 27, 2014


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.


Chris Ogle 4 years, 4 months ago

“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.”

...The new section of O’Connell won’t be connected to 19th Street until 2016,.....

When are we going to reap these rewards?

Scott Burkhart 4 years, 4 months ago

I would say the city got reaped on this one.

Clark Coan 4 years, 4 months ago

I went out there recently and looked around. There are still foundations to be removed and at least one building to be demolished. They leveled a lot of land and Westar is working on a substation, but it looks like work has stalled.

Bob Zimmerman 4 years, 4 months ago

Don't worry. The well-coordinated team of KU and the city economic development group will seamlessly spin-off fantastic biotech companies and recruit global biotech companies to the business and create hundreds of high paying jobs. Their track record speaks for itself.

Mike Silverman 4 years, 4 months ago

The city can throw money down this hole in the name of "economic development" but can barely be bothered to even discuss any kind of actual fiber broadband initiative.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 4 months ago

I agree with the comments above for this article.

There seems to be no problem with the City Commissioners dealing with roads. They apparently can give out money right and left. But I begin to wonder - do they really know and understand what fast fiber internet is all about, and why it is important for new businesses and startups?

It's time to have a series of panels, with live internet streaming, of the best people in Lawrence INCLUDING THE CITY PLANNING PEOPLE, to see what they really understand and what they don't. I've got a suspicion they probably don't understand fiber broadband initiative at all in terms of its relationship to new businesses.

"Venture Park" is one of the -pardon my saying this - most incredibly stupid ideas yet. These people don't seem to understand that the park - which I called "Amos Lawrence Park" in my blog - needs to be related to planning for the whole town, and that amenities in the Park should include food outlets, recreation, trails to the city, and innovative architecture.

If they are relying on the university for guidance, that is generally the wrong place to go. To be honest, many of the professors there are dependent on tenure for income - they have very little idea, I suspect, of what is needed in a city and county wide startup situation.

The City Commission and Planning Department seem to think that by putting up more of the same old buildings - four square walls with a flat front -- companies will come and put their name on the front, and they're on their way. But it's much, much more than that. And it could be done so easily in Lawrence.

Tech Crunch last year held a live internet streaming where new startups presented their ideas before a very intelligent, yet seasoned group of people. Perhaps these all-day internet sessions, such as the Tech Crunch one in San Francisco, need to be shown again to local people, so they can get an idea about where we could go if new business planning for the future is to become a reality for Lawrence. There has to be opportunities, networking, jobs - all in one Park, linked up with Kansas City and Baldwin City, and people throughout Lawrence.

It seems to me that city commissioners and others need to have an overall, complete picture of what needs to happen, if they are going to create an "innovative" environment. I do not see the present people heading in that direction!

You will notice, by the way, that the Journal-World purposely did not put in my blog on the park in the listings of park articles.

I really do begin to wonder - is Lawrence still in the 1960s - or are enough people really up to date that they can discuss these things intelligently?

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