Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2001

Commission’s indecision creates problems at local, federal levels

March 22, 2001

The Johnson County Commission's vote to delay a decision on Oz Entertainment Co.'s redevelopment proposal the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant was bad news for federal and city officials.

Blaine Hastings, a U.S. General Service Administration realty officer who is handling the transfer of Sunflower, said the federal government would have to review its position now that the county "made the worst possible decision" to further delay its up-or-down vote.

The Army will now have to make a number of pressing budgetary decisions concerning Sunflower, Hastings said. Alliant Techsystems Inc.'s contract to manage Sunflower expires at the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, he said.

The further delay will necessitate the amendment to the transfer agreements released last summer, Hastings said. The federal government is required to get market value for Sunflower and that will change as values of surrounding property increases, he said.

"Valuation is one thing that will have to be reviewed," Hastings said.

The transfer agreement Oz negotiated would donate the Sunflower water treatment plant to DeSoto. It has been GSA's position that discussion of the water plant's future should wait until the Oz redevelopment proposal is resolved. Last month, Hastings assured the city council DeSoto would eventually get the water plant it is now leasing, but refused to put anything in writing.

City officials, meanwhile, are reluctant to make improvements at the Sunflower water treatment plant, including a permanent waterline to the city, until they own the facility.

"It throws us into indecision again," Mayor Steve Prudden said. "We're going to have a discuss it. As usual, we'll deal with it and make forward progress."

Prudden said he was disappointed with the latest delay.

"I'm for DeSoto," he said. "Progress for DeSoto means development of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant."

DeSoto Economic Development Director Marge Morse also expressed disappointment over the commission's action.

"I would have loved to see Oz approved," she said. "I would love to see that 9,065 acres back on the tax rolls."

After last Thursday's meeting, Oz CEO Dick Ferguson said company officials were disappointed but remain confident Oz will eventually develop Sunflower. Any feasibility study the county funds will demonstrate the soundness of Oz's financial plan and its benefits to the county, he said.

Bill Sheldon, president of Taxpayers Opposed To Oz Inc., said he was confident an honest review of the Oz plan will show it doesn't work..

"It's a mess," he said. "They should have done this two years ago.

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