The Finney State Office Building does not suit the needs of Sedgwick County, which had considered moving some of its offices there, County Manager William Buchanan told commissioners Tuesday.
The county hired GLMV Architecture to do a space study of the downtown building, which nine state agencies, including the Kansas Department for Children and Families, are leaving.
The city and county own the building through the Wichita Public Building Commission, which had leased it to the state. Buchanan said there is agreement that the city and county have an option to buy out the other for $1.
Buchanan said he would not recommend locating county offices there because of the cost of renovations and the layout of the building.
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The renovation costs are estimated to be $125.50 a square foot. Based on the square footage of possible county offices that would locate in the building, the renovation costs would be close to $16.7 million, the study said. The county’s current leases across the city cost just more than $1 million a year.
“The building has good bones, a good roof, good AC and heating and plumbing,” Buchanan said of the state office building. “The problem is the configuration of the building.”
A centralized lobby would mean that clients of various county offices would be forced to intermingle, which could create problems, especially for clients of Comcare who often are fragile because of mental illness, Buchanan said.
The county considered as possible tenants the appraiser’s office; Comcare’s addiction treatment services, community support services and outpatient services; corrections’ juvenile field services and pre-trial and drug court; environmental resources; the health department’s clinic and healthy babies program; the housing department; and the offender registration unit of the sheriff’s office.
The appraiser’s office, located in the former Wichita Mall on East Harry, needs 21,961 square feet. Comcare’s addiction services program at 940 N. Waco needs 10,000 square feet. Comcare’s community support services at Twin Lakes needs 26,739 square feet. Comcare’s outpatient services at 1919 N. Amidon needs 13,848 square feet.
Juvenile field services at 3803 E. Harry needs 16,180 square feet. Pre-trial and drug court, also on East Harry, need 11,070. Environmental resources at 2625 W. Central needs 3,405 square feet.
The Sedgwick County Health Department clinic at 2716 W. Central would need 13,000 square feet. The healthy babies program at 434 N. Oliver needs 10,668 square feet. The housing department needs 3,289 square feet. The sheriff’s offender registration unit on East Harry needs 2,630 square feet.
Commissioner Richard Ranzau asked staff to take a second look at the study, saying he didn’t understand why the building was adequate for state employees but wouldn’t be for county employees. He also questioned the need for extensive renovations and said he thought the building should have been evaluated for use by the Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department, a joint county and city department.
“People have been working there,” he said.
A memo from Steve Claassen, director of facilities, fleet and parks for the county, said the county didn’t consider the state office building for the building and construction department because it would not meet the objective of a one-stop location and area parking does not accommodate trucks and taller vehicles with ladder racks and extended tool cribs used by construction crews. A presentation later Tuesday about the county’s capital improvement plan included mention of a $11.34 million project to acquire space for the building and construction department and the Metropolitan Area Planning Department together.
The memo to Buchanan and Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said the only county offices considered for the downtown building were those in leases.
Ranzau later told The Eagle that he believed the cost of renovations was inflated and that he had been told by a construction professional that renovation of the building should cost $40 to $50 per square foot at most.
The building is “like a catacomb,” Commissioner Tim Norton countered. “It’s not friendly to the public. This is a decision that should be good for the next 30 years and not be penny wise and pound foolish today.”
Buchanan said that builders who use the building and construction department “are in and out all the time and need to be as close to City Hall as possible.”
Commissioner Jim Skelton said, “I’m not excited about the state office building. It’s not high on my list.” He advised Buchanan that the will of the board’s majority should count for something and that he didn’t want staff to re-examine the study.