Carrie Rengers

Sedgwick County may purchase former Dillons property for new tag office

This former Dillons building at the southwest corner of Douglas and Meridian is the likely new home for the county’s main tag office.
This former Dillons building at the southwest corner of Douglas and Meridian is the likely new home for the county’s main tag office. The Wichita Eagle

For anyone who has ever struggled to find parking at the county’s main tag office at Murdock and Water or been stuck in a crowded line there or left standing when there haven’t been enough chairs, there’s hope.

The county is close to a deal to purchase the 20,000-square-foot former Dillons building at the southwest corner of Douglas and Meridian for $1.645 million.

“It would be replacing the main tag office … that everybody struggles with parking for,” says Steve Claassen, the county’s facilities, fleet and parks director.

“We’ve been aware of this need for a long time.”

The county’s bid board, a review group that recommends actions to the County Commission, will consider the purchase on Thursday and is expected to recommend approval.

The Commission is expected to consider the purchase on Dec. 2.

“I’m very optimistic that they’ll approve this,” Claassen says. He says this is “not new news to them.”

The current tag office on Murdock is 7,000 square feet, which sounds much larger than the building appears to be.

It handled almost 375,000 in-person transactions in 2014.

The county has been in the building since 1988. It purchased it in 1989.

“It’s been difficult to find the right property and get the financing … plan put together,” Claassen says.

County Treasurer Linda Kizzire says she’s been working on it since before she was treasurer.

“I’m a firm believer in making it more convenient,” she says. “Every year I’ve asked for a new building.”

The county issued a request for proposals in May then narrowed its choices to three properties.

“This is the one that fits our needs best,” Claassen says.

He says he likes the easy access to Kellogg and “the abundance of parking.”

“That’s really one of the big advantages of that space.”

Kizzire agrees, noting that “to go from 32 spaces to 130 is significant.”

Another factor is the county will own this building, which Claassen says makes more sense financially for the long run, and the other top building choices were leases.

Dome Enterprises LLC currently owns the former Dillons space. Tom Schmeidler is the managing member. He and his group will remodel the space for the county.

“It’s going to suit our needs very well with the improvements that are going to be made there,” Claassen says.

Kizzire says the “spacious openness” of the new space “will provide the citizens a more comforting environment.”

If approved, the new space should be ready around May 1.

Claassen says the county will keep the old space, too.

“We certainly plan to repurpose that property quickly,” he says. “It’s going to get used.”

The county also has three satellite tag offices, including ones in Derby, the 21st and Maize Road area and Brittany Center at 21st and Woodlawn.

Claassen says he wants to reiterate that though the purchase of the former Dillons space is likely to happen, so far it’s only a recommendation.

“It is not a done deal.”

Kizzire says she’s well aware of that, too, but she can’t help already looking forward to the new space.

“I’m just so excited,” she says, adding that she’s “hoping my vision for a new office is going to become a reality for the citizens and my staff.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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