Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

Wood might withdraw Oz support

August 23, 2001

Oz Entertainment Co. is in jeopardy of losing the support of one of its two advocates on the Johnson County Commission.

Commissioner Doug Wood, who twice voted to approve Oz's $861 million redevelopment plan for the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, said his disgust over the company's latest maneuver concerning a possible debt owed Wyandotte County has him reconsidering his support.

"I'm getting a little frustrated," said Wood. "If it's not resolved, I'm not going to vote to go forward."

At issue is $550,000 Oz received from Wyandotte County Unified Government and the Wyandotte County Board of Public Utilities when the company was seeking to build its Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park there.

Earlier this year, Oz sent the county a $150,000 check, now in an escrow account, for its part of that total. The company is seeking an agreement with BPU that would have Oz buy power from the utility to erase the remaining $400,000.

Last month, state Rep. John Ballou, R-Gardner, and Commerce Department Secretary John Sherrer asked Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall to decide if such an agreement would satisfy state statutes.

Monday, Oz attorney John Petersen sent a letter to Stovall stating there is no debt to forgive. He argued that Oz received grants, not loans, from Wyandotte County and BPU.

Wood made a similar argument during a recent commission discussion on the county's independent review of Oz's financial plan. But, he noted Wednesday that the commission agreed to stipulations suggested by Commissioner Annabeth Surbaugh that required Oz to resolve the issue before the study could go forward. The commission agreed to reconsider the review Sept. 25 if the issue was unresolved.

Wood suggested Oz exercise one of the options listed in the stipulations and put the disputed money in an escrow account.

"When the (repayment) provision was put in the legislation. Oz told me it wouldn't be a problem," he said. "If it's not a problem, put the money in an escrow account. All this maneuvering is just going to take time. If they back this up to Sept. 25, it will be December before we get results from the feasibility study."

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