Leaders from the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County are hosting a rare joint meeting Tuesday morning to try to resolve long-standing issues in public safety cooperation between the two governments.
Members of the City Council and the County Commission hope to settle on where to put a new joint law enforcement training center for police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
They also hope to address the concerns of County Commission Chairman Jim Howell about the county fire district’s use of the city-owned Regional Training Center for firefighters.
“I’m still confident that we can come together and solve these issues that have been out there for far, far, far too long,” said Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell.
The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. in City Hall.
Questions over process
Four proposals are on the table for a building where law enforcement officers can train together. They now train at an aging elementary school.
Longwell has long advocated a move to Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus. He says it’s the best idea even though it’s “not necessarily the cheapest place.”
“We’re looking for the best value that checks all of our boxes,” Longwell said.
County commissioners have raised concerns about the price tag. The Innovation Campus proposal, submitted by MWCB LLC, would cost about $9.5 million. The least expensive proposal, from NAI Martens, costs around $6.2 million.
“Both (the cheaper alternative) and WSU can meet the needs of law enforcement, so why wouldn’t we go with the more cost-effective alternative?” Commissioner Richard Ranzau asked.
“We can get the most cost-effective option for taxpayers and save money we can spend on other things,” he added.
Ranzau has also raised questions about how the process unfolded.
One group of county staff members compiled a table, or matrix, of factors to compare the proposals. They found the Innovation Campus proposal to be slightly preferable over two other proposals that were tied with one another.
But County Manager Michael Scholes moved to scrap those recommendations because he felt the criteria weren’t refined enough.
“I thought we could get a better process,” Scholes said.
A second group of county staff members recommended the Innovation Campus proposal by a wider margin under new criteria.
The numerical results of the first committee’s recommendations aren’t available.
Scholes said he hopes to get commissioners more involved in making the criteria used to compare proposals in the future.
“They’re the ultimate decision maker,” Scholes said.