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Sedgwick County offers tour of shuttered boys ranch

Sedgwick County officials offered a tour of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch on Tuesday to several interested groups in hopes of selling or leasing the property.
Sedgwick County officials offered a tour of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch on Tuesday to several interested groups in hopes of selling or leasing the property. The Wichita Eagle

The Judge Riddel Boys Ranch has sat for more than a year and a half near the shores of Lake Afton vacant, quiet and shuttered.

But Sedgwick County hopes the former youth residential facility for troubled teens will get a second life.

Sedgwick County officials offered a tour of the facility on Tuesday to several interested groups in hopes of selling or leasing the property in the near future.

“Our interest is to find the next use for this piece of property,” county facilities director Steve Claassen said just before the tour.

Denny Bender, executive director of Union Rescue Mission, a nonprofit that serves the homeless, toured the facility, as he did in 2014 when the county first tried to gauge interest in the property.

“It would be beneficial to have a rural environment for their continued recovery and rehabilitation from homelessness and addiction,” Bender said.

Claassen said the facility was overall in good shape, considering it closed in July 2014. He added that vandals have broken into the facility only once.

Some of that vandalism was evident Tuesday: torn-down ceiling tiles, discharged fire extinguishers and a damaged cooler door in the kitchen.

The group, three county officials and five people interested in the property, toured the main facility, including former administrative offices, classrooms, bedrooms and dining and common areas.

They also looked at the property’s gym, wood shop, lagoons, barn and horse stable, which is now overrun with vegetation.

Herschel Herring, a county corrections employee who worked at the ranch for 8  1/2 years, led the tour.

The ranch shut down in 2014 after the state decided not to increase funding, at the county’s request. A request for proposal to lease the property generated no responses at the time.

But the county is now hoping to sell the property or lease it. County purchasing director Joe Thomas, who toured the facility Tuesday, said the option to buy the property casts “a wider net.”

Claassen said the county will also consider proposals that include two neighboring parcels “if there’s a compelling reason and it makes sense.”

Bender says he hopes a facility like the ranch could provide “long-term” rehabilitation for those who’ve been homeless or struggle with substance abuse.

Representatives from WDM Architects and Select Homes, a real estate group, also toured the facility on Tuesday.

Responses to the county’s request for proposal are due March 29.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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