Archive for Thursday, February 3, 2005

Water plant deal struck

SFAAP developers agree to deed treatment facility

February 3, 2005

In what both parties hope will mark the beginning of a better relationship, the designated developer of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant agreed to deed the water treatment facility on the closed plant to the city of De Soto.

The agreement came as the Johnson County Commission readied to name Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, a partnership of Kessinger/Hunter and Co. and International Risk Group, the developer of Sunflower.

In a letter to De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson dated Jan. 26, Kessinger/Hunter principal Charles Hunter wrote the partnership intends to convey title of the water treatment plant and its surrounding 10 acres with the closing on the property. In addition, the developers would lease the water tower, reservoir and easements the city now uses for $1 a year with the understanding they would be re-located as Sunflower develops.

The city's capital improvement plan calls for the abandonment of the reservoir and construction of a modern tower off Sunflower property.

The water plant, which the city has leased for six years and now provides all the city's water, has been a point of contention between the city and the developers. The city wants to update the World War II era facility but needs clear title before seeking more than $2 million bonds needed for planned first-phase improvements.

The city won the U.S. General Services Administration's approval in July 2003 to separate the transfer of the water plant from the rest of Sunflower. That process ended when Johnson County officials objected, citing the county's stance that the Sunflower transfer should be completed as a whole.

Alarmed with language in federal legislation allowing the Army to sell Sunflower to a private developer designated by the county, city officials attempted to negotiate an agreement on the water plant with Sunflower Redevelopment attorneys. When that process proved unsuccessful, Anderson accepted an invitation to meet with Hunter, which led to the agreement.

Anderson said he hoped the agreement would change the contentious relationship between the city and developer to one of partnership in Sunflower's development. Should the city choose to go ahead with the costly upgrades of the water plant, it would need upgrades of the water plant, it would need water customers, he said.

"I'm very much happy to move on in a partnership manner, and that means finding out what their thoughts are so we can move on together," Anderson said.

To that end, the city sent a letter to Hunter in response stating the city wanted to meet with the developers and its engineers to conclude an agreement that would account for the future needs of Sunflower.

Another area of partnership could be sewer development, Anderson said. When De Soto's new sewer plant is completed in early 2007, it will put the city in position to provide service to the northern areas of Sunflower likely to be developed first.

Hunter said Thursday he welcomed the partnership approach with the city.

"Absolutely," he said. "There are areas we will be talking about."

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