A Sedgwick County commissioner has requested an audit of the county’s purchase of the Internal Revenue Service building last year.
Jim Howell said he hopes his request will determine whether the 2014 commission used procedures he says are in place to ensure that the county – and taxpayers – get the best deal possible when buying property.
The county paid $5 million for the six-floor, 94,580-square-foot building at 271 W. Third St. in December and renamed it the 271 Building.
Architectural plans presented to commissioners last month estimated renovation costs at $6 million, including plans to move the county’s car registration tag office into the first and part of the second floors.
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Among other projected tenants were the Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department, the Metropolitan Area Planning Department and the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards.
Those plans are on hold after a majority of commissioners last month asked the county to find more economical ways to use the space.
Howell said last week that he’s “not confident we got a good deal” on the building.
The transaction was finalized shortly before Howell joined the board. Two current commissioners, Richard Ranzau and Karl Peterjohn, opposed buying the building. The vote was 3-2.
“It’s really not the best building in terms of configuration for our needs. It’s going to cost a lot of money to make it usable,” Howell said.
“To me, this … audit is an attempt to say, ‘OK, we got here, here’s how we did this and here’s some things we should’ve done differently; we didn’t do this right, there’s better ways of doing this,’ whatever. And hopefully this will provide us with a sense of what not to do again.”
Allen, Gibbs & Houlik will conduct the audit. It’s expected to take about 40 hours to complete and cost an estimated $10,000.
Howell said early last week that he was working to finalize the audit request document. After that’s complete and it gets a nod from the county’s legal department, it will go to the firm, which is expected to return a report in about a week.
Commissioner Dave Unruh, who was part of the majority that voted to buy the building, said he doesn’t support Howell’s request.
“I think it’s not a wise use of general fund money to spend up to $10,000 for an audit on a building purchase that’s already been completed and every detail of it has been made known to all commissioners,” he said.