Archive for Thursday, July 26, 2001

Oz review on hold pending BPU resolution

July 26, 2001

Johnson County Commissioner Annabeth Surbaugh said Tuesday Oz Entertainment Co. must resolve issues with Wyandotte County before a feasibility study of the company's financial plan to redevelop the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant goes forward.

Commissioners agreed to finance an independent feasibility study of Oz's financial package after a 2-2 vote in March failed to reject or approve the company's $861 million redevelopment plan for the Sunflower. Her fellow commissioners gave Surbaugh the task of recommending a consultant.

Helping Surbaugh in that effort is Dave MacGillivray, chairman of the county's investment consulting firm, Springsted.

"We're in the process of evaluating the credentials and expertise of consultants," Surbaugh said. "The process isn't done."

Surbaugh said she hopes to have a recommendation for the commission in two to three weeks. But she said there is another consideration.

"I'm not going to hire a consultant before the BPU issue is resolved," she said.

At issue is a $400,000 grant the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities awarded Oz for project development expenses when the company was considering locating its proposed Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park in Wyandotte County.

Surbaugh said that in her view, Oz doesn't necessarily have to repay BPU to resolve the issue. Any arrangement that satisfies Wyandotte County Unified Government and BPU would be satisfactory to her, she said.

"I'm willing to live with that," she said. "I'm not going to tell elected officials in another jurisdiction what they have to do."

Oz Chairman Robert Kory said his company's attorney, John Peterson, is working on an agreement with BPU. The agreement would commit Oz to purchase power exclusively from the utility for 20 years,

"I have a check for $150,000 waiting for someone in Wyandotte County to say they want it," Kory said.

State Rep. John Ballou is asking the Kansas Attorney General's Office to issue a decision on whether anything less than a full repayment of the grant would satisfy stipulations in legislation passed last spring. The bill gave Oz more time to get its redevelopment plan approved, but a provision requires Oz to repay the grant by Oct. 1.

Ballou said the legislation clearly requires Oz to repay the grant before the Kansas Development Finance Authority can issue sales tax revenue bonds for the Oz project.

"It's pretty cut and dried to me," the Gardner Republican said. "We'll see what the attorney general says."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.