County buys former IRS building

WICHITA, Kansas – Sedgwick County taxpayers are spending about $14 million to buy and renovate the former IRS building downtown. The cost includes $5 million for the building and more than $9 million to renovate it. That does not include the cost to pay off bonds used to pay for the project.

The building at 271 W. 3rd St. was home to federal government offices for two decades. KSN took an exclusive look inside of its six floors and more than 94,000 square feet.

Supporters, including County Commissioner Dave Unruh say the $14 million cost for the building and renovations are worth it.

“Since we can put all these different departments in the government footprint the price of buying the building is really pretty favorable,” Unruh said.

Two of the county’s five commissioners voted no, Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau. About 40 locations were on the table; this was one of three options made available to commissioners.

“The whole process I simply don’t have confidence in where I can look my constituents in the eye and say this is the best deal for the taxpayers unless I can do that then I can’t support it, I suspect we can do better,” said County Commissioner Richard Ranzau.

The building became available in December of 2013, one month after the federal government offices moved out the listing agent says it has been well maintained.

“There is very little if any deferred maintenance,” said listing agent Marlin Penner of John T. Arnold Associates in Wichita.

Penner adds the building was built to federal government standards and is 20 years old.

Supporters say one of the perks is all the office furniture, cubical walls, desks, chairs that are already in the building that they would have had to buy if they moved somewhere. Still, the price tag could reach about $18 million when the cost to pay off bonds for financing are included.

“Part of the bond issue payments will come from lease payments that were made elsewhere,” said County Manager William Buchanan.

This project actually replaces two others that were set for next year, the building of a new tag office and a new building and construction department. Those projects are being cancelled and consolidated into this one.  The county office will include a newly created city-county consolidation of its code violations department. Also being housed there; the county appraiser, environmental resources, and space for the office for the sheriff’s department plus the county’s tag office.

County leaders say it would not be possible to move any money used for purchasing the building to fund other projects.

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