Wyandotte County stuck with $1 million bill for Schlitterbahn investigation

The Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park.
The Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn water park. File photo

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., got a surprise recently: Its taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the Kansas Attorney General’s costs on the Schlitterbahn investigation.

So far, the UG is budgeting $1 million to pay the Kansas Attorney General for costs associated with the criminal case against Schlitterbahn and key employees accused of recklessness in the 2016 death of a young boy at the KCK water park.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t cost that much,” said UG spokesman Mike Taylor. “It’s basically $1 million in a surprise expense.”

The UG is responsible for the bill because former Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerry Gorman asked the Kansas Attorney General to handle the Schlitterbahn matter after the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department investigated the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab.

Those requests come with a stipulation that the county requesting the attorney general’s involvement agrees to pay the costs.

Caleb was killed Aug. 7, 2016, riding the 17-story Verruckt water slide. It was the last ride on Verruckt and has resulted in a myriad of criminal charges against several defendants, including three accused of second-degree murder in Schwab’s death. They’re accused of recklessly designing Verruckt and creating a situation that would lead to Caleb’s death.

A Schlitterbahn attorney on Thursday announced a plan to begin tearing the slide down no later than the week after Labor Day.

Taylor said he didn’t know why Gorman referred the case to the Kansas Attorney General.

“You would have to ask him,” Taylor said.

Gorman, who in 2016 lost his bid for re-election to current Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree, was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Taylor said the news that the UG was footing the Kansas Attorney General’s bills came as a surprise to UG officials.

“The interesting thing about this thing is when Mark Dupree got elected, he didn’t know anything about this,” Taylor said. “I don’t think my boss (UG administrator Doug Bach) did, either.”

The money will come out of the UG’s general fund.

Bach on Thursday unveiled the UG’s budget for next year, a $376 million plan that comes with a recommended 5 percent property tax cut for KCK homeowners and businesses.