City: Rounds and Porter building not for sale, not a work release option

The city's Rounds and Porter building is not for sale and not an option for a county work release center, Mayor Carl Brewer said Friday.

City Council members Jim Skelton and Lavonta Williams recently toured the building, which is just west of City Hall, with Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton. Earlier this week, Commissioner Kelly Parks said he had met with Skelton and Williams about the 285,000-square-foot building at 400 N. Waco.

But city officials say they hadn't discussed the idea beyond the tour.

"The thought of that being a work release center is not something's that on the radar right now," Williams said.

Brewer was more adamant.

"As it stands, the city of Wichita never said that the Rounds and Porter building is for sale," he said. "It's not for sale."

If the city were to get rid of a building it owns, "that would probably be the last one," Brewer said.

"I don't know how he (Skelton) and the county got to where they are at," Brewer said. "It doesn't matter because the council is saying that is not in the plans to sell that building."

Williams said more discussion should have taken place about the building, which holds evidence gathered by police as well as long-forgotten office furniture.

"There had been no in-depth discussion of having that be a place for work release," she said. "Some communication should have taken place here first before saying that this could be a possibility."

Williams declined to say who moved too fast — Skelton or the county.

"I know that there is an urgency on some people's minds of finding a building, but you tread that very lightly," Williams said. "It's not something that you really rush into. That includes informing people that it will be in their neighborhood."

Skelton said it was reasonable to consider Rounds and Porter for a work release center because of its proximity to the jail.

"I'm just trying to bring ideas to the table, which is part of my job," Skelton said.

Norton said he wanted a tour of Rounds and Porter "just to see what kind of a building it was."

"If it looked like it had any usability, maybe we'd let the (city and county) managers get together and talk about it," Norton said. "I didn't think it was anything the county controlled or anything that I thought the two City Council members controlled."

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gwen Welshimer said she soon plans to ask to put on the commission's agenda the purchase of an industrial site at 1600 E. Murdock for a work release center.

That site, just off I-135, has two buildings — one 47,392-square-foot building that is a mix of manufacturing and office space, and one that is 14,884 square feet. It is listed for sale at $1.6 million and was most recently valued, according to county property records, at $849,900.

The property, owned by Michaelis Oil and most recently home to Nordam Group, is fairly secluded from housing. It is zoned industrial and is fenced. Washington Accelerated Elementary School is a few blocks south at Hydraulic and Central.

Welshimer has said that she and Parks found the site.

Williams opposes a work release center there and said she is planning a meeting with the area's neighborhood association.

Welshimer said Friday that she still thinks the 1600 E. Murdock site is a good possibility as the county struggles with jail overcrowding. The county in 2008 opted not to spend $55 million on jail expansion so it could reduce property taxes.

The Murdock site, Welshimer said, wouldn't require as much renovation as the Rounds and Porter building.

She said she understands the purchase would be subject to city approval because of zoning requirements.