Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2001

Oz deal an educational experience

April 12, 2001

Marge Morse said last week was a learning experience as she helped shepherd a one-year extension of Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant redevelopment legislation through the Kansas Senate.

The De Soto economic development director traveled to Topeka twice last week to testify before two Senate committees considering the extension of legislation that makes public financing available for the redevelopment of Sunflower. The legislation was to expire July 1.

Oz Development Co.'s redevelopment plan relies on the sales tax revenue bonds the redevelopment legislation makes available. The Johnson County Commission requested the extension so it could conduct a feasibility study of Oz's financial plan. The request came after the commission deadlocked 2-2 on the Oz redevelopment plan.

Morse's second trip to Topeka was necessary when Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, announced last Wednesday that her committee wouldn't advance the legislation. A member of that committee, Sen. David Kerr, R-Hutchinson, then transferred the bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Morse said the bill easily passed out of that committee and was passed by the full Senate last Friday by a vote of 31-8. The House had already approved the extension.

"I think they did the right thing," Morse said of the Legislature. "It sends it back to the county level where the decision ought to be made."

Johnson County Commission Chairman Doug Wood said the commission was making progress on the feasibility study. It has decided to have its investment adviser, Springsted coordinate the study.

Springsted will help in the search for consulting firms that will perform those parts of the study that are in their expertise. That should reduce the cost and time frame of the study, Wood said.

As it now stands, the scope of the study would include:

a review of the Wonderful World of Oz's projected attendance and the methods Oz's consultants used to arrive at their projections.

a review of Oz's business viability and the theme park's financial viability. It will include how much of the project's success relies on sales taxes in and outside the theme park.

an engineering review of the infrastructure costs associated with the theme park that includes the county's costs and benefits.

the cost to the county, the De Soto school district and other taxing entities should the Oz project not proceed or an alternative project replaced it.

The scope of the financial review will be further refined in the next few weeks, Wood said. Once that is done, the commission will have a better idea of the feasibility study's cost and schedule.

"I think it's going to cost about $100,000," Wood said. "We're thinking it can be completed this fall.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.