When a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper found a tanker truck loaded with duffel bags full of marijuana near Goddard on Nov. 19, 2000, troopers were at a loss when trying to decide where to store the 3,383 pounds of evidence. They ended up driving the truck to Salina and storing the marijuana there while the 31-year-old driver awaited trial.
Although it’s not an everyday occurrence, Wichita-area troopers occasionally have to make that 90-mile trip when they seize large amounts of drugs or weapons during traffic stops.
That’s part of the reason why Highway Patrol officials will be asking the Kansas Legislature next year to build a new headquarters for the Patrol’s Troop F, which serves Sedgwick and 12 other south-central Kansas counties.
Although the planning is in the initial stages, Highway Patrol officials hope the state can build the center on state-owned land near K-254 and Rock Road for a little more than $4 million. The offices could be shared by other state agencies, such as the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Troop F commander Capt. Dennis Marten said the current Troop F headquarters at 3200 E. 45th St. North, which is just south of K-254 and Hillside, is a 60-by-65-foot building that has outlived its usefulness. The Patrol also has a satellite office near 85th North and Broadway where troopers and field supervisors are based.
The 45th Street headquarters, which has an unsecured reception area, houses a backup dispatch center, a motorist assist office and the room where Kansas vehicle inspections are processed.
Neither building is big enough to hold training sessions or full staff meetings, Marten said.
Building a new headquarters has become a pet project for Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, whose district takes in the site of the current headquarters. Although the 2012 Kansas Legislature is expected to face tight budget challenges, Brunk said he’s looking for ways to make the financing work.
“For 21 years they’ve been after a new headquarters, and they’ve been turned down 21 years in a row,” Brunk said. “They desperately need this, and I’ve decided to take up the cause.”
Brunk said he was among a group of legislators who toured the facilities a few years ago and came away convinced that a new building was needed.
“The facilities over there are frankly way undersized,” he said. “They’ve got file cabinets stacked up in the hallways. There are three desks stacked together in the dispatch area.”
The Legislature’s Joint Committee on State Building Construction heard a presentation about the proposal in Topeka on Dec. 9. Brunk said he planned to pitch the proposal to the Sedgwick County legislative delegation when it meets next month in Wichita.
He said he’s taking the crusade to “just about anybody who will listen to me.”
“If I get done this year, great,” he said. “If I don’t, I’ll be back next year. It needs to be done.”