The county wants more time to decide on a place for a new law enforcement training center after Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell announced the city’s support for one of the bids.
Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Jim Howell said the end of a negotiation period with prospective bidders to build the center was extended from March 21 to May 18.
The delay comes after Longwell announced last week that the city wants the center to be at Wichita State University. Howell said the announcement “complicates” the county’s process of weighing options for the center to train local law enforcement officers.
“The (request for proposal) process has to have some purity built into it so we don’t have outside influences that are really causing us to think positively or negatively about any of the options,” Howell said. “We need to let the process work.”
Howell said he asked Longwell prior to the announcement to not talk about the bids the county has received from the private sector. Longwell presented a proposal by MWCB LLC that would house the new training center on the university’s Innovation Campus.
“It’s caused us to figure out where we’re at right now, and I don’t know what a path forward is,” Howell said. “We’re trying to be partners, and we’re trying to work together.
One partner can’t, on their own, make an announcement like that.
Jim Howell, Sedgwick County Commission chairman
“That’s where I think things went south,” he added. “Because one partner can’t, on their own, make an announcement like that, especially when the process hasn’t been followed and we’ve not decided anything.”
Commissioner Dave Unruh said he’s worried that more delays would prompt some of the bidders to withdraw their proposals. Four real estate and development companies turned in their plans late last year.
“They want to probably either turn their property or do something with it,” Unruh said. “And if we keep slowing down and kind of keeping them on the hook, that doesn’t seem like that’s fair.”
Longwell said after his announcement that it was important to announce the city’s preference for residents and county leaders alike. He wasn’t available for comment on Monday.
It helps them at least fully understand where the city is at. It gives them a launching point to have their discussion.
Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell
“It helps them at least fully understand where the city is at,” Longwell said. “It gives them a launching point to have their discussion.”
Finding a new place to train Wichita police officers and Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies has been an issue for the city and Sedgwick County for years.
The current center is at a former elementary school in north Wichita that was built in 1958.
“It’ll be good news all the way around when we bring it together,” Longwell said.