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Asbestos to raise cost of razing Coleman building

The demolition of the old Coleman building downtown will cost $120,000 more than estimated because of asbestos found in 65,000 square feet of roofing materials.

That didn't sit well with Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau.

Ranzau questioned Wednesday why the county didn't test for asbestos before buying the property at Second and St. Francis to demolish and use as a parking lot for Intrust Bank Arena.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said Coleman officials had said they had done some asbestos removal and there was "no observable asbestos," but they could not guarantee there was not more.

Holt said he didn't have a "good answer" for why the county did not test for asbestos except that the original asking price for the property was about $1.8 million and the county paid $600,000.

Ranzau said the building was "not worth the selling price, and there was a reason they let us buy it at that price."

He also questioned spending extra money — about $100,000 — to salvage bricks and arches from the historic building. Some of those materials will be used in the design of the parking lot to be built there.

Holt said residents had told commissioners they wanted to preserve historic features of the building. Ranzau wondered who those residents were.

"I don't know who in the community you were speaking to, but I spoke to thousands of people during the campaign and I didn't have one person say that that was a priority for them," he said.

He said the purchase — along with the cost of salvaging brick and removing asbestos — was "another example of really sticking it to the taxpayers as far as I'm concerned."

Chairman Dave Unruh countered that commissioners considered the purchase "very carefully and thought it was an important part of a comprehensive plan to provide parking" for the arena.

"We got a good price for this piece of blight in the core community of our county," Unruh said. "I don't think any vote I've ever made in my eight years here that I stuck it to the taxpayer. So I kind of object to that characterization."

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said no one had contacted him about wanting to preserve brick from the building but he told Ranzau, "I do think that the county made the right decision in terms of acquiring that property for additional parking."

Purchase of the property and demolition, including asbestos removal, will cost the county more than $1.1 million.

Demolition is expected to start Feb. 21.

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