Though the decision lacked transparency, Sedgwick County’s purchase of the former IRS building across from City Hall achieves a number of good goals at a reasonable price.
A place near City Hall to put the merged city-county Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department, housed with the Metropolitan Area Planning Department to create a convenient one-stop shop for builders and developers. Check. A sorely needed replacement for the cramped main Sedgwick County tag office on Murdock. Check. An opportunity to consolidate under a county-owned roof some other operations that now lease space. Check.
The County Commission’s 3-2 vote Wednesday to purchase the six-story, 92,000-square-foot facility at 271 W. Third St. meets those criteria, as it provides a welcome example of the county and city of Wichita working together to serve citizens. The county is seeking 132 extra parking spaces in a city-owned lot next door.
It also serves downtown’s reinvention, giving new purpose to a building that the IRS and several other federal agencies vacated last year. The employees moving to the building will include the 65 or so at the County Appraiser’s Office now working at the former Wichita Mall on East Harry.
Asked why the purchase was announced and approved as an off-agenda item at Wednesday’s meeting, County Manager William Buchanan pointed to the need to close the deal quickly once agreement with the seller was reached late last week, and to the earlier request-for-proposal process related to the MABCD and MAPD. Those are valid points, though the $5 million purchase and $6.3 million in renovations are a sizable investment of public dollars worthy of public debate.
But overall the move seems likely to pay off, including in the satisfaction of seeing the current tag office close for good.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman