UPDATED — In February, a state official told Have You Heard? that the Department for Children and Families was “at the goal line” for signing a deal for space that the U.S. Postal Service is vacating at 2601 S. Oliver.
Apparently, though, someone has moved the goal line. The players in the lineup may have changed, too.
“We’re still exploring all of our options and haven’t made a final determination on that yet,” says Theresa Freed, a DCF spokeswoman. “That is one of the options that we’re considering.”
Does that mean the postal deal is less likely than it had been?
“I wouldn’t say that it is any more or less likely,” Freed says. “As a department, we don’t discuss contracts until they are finalized.”
In June, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the Finney building when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30. More than 550 of those employees are with DCF.
The city presented the state with what a state spokesman called “a very aggressive lease renewal offer” last summer, but the spokesman said DCF has needs the Finney building can’t fulfill.
State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, has voiced concerns from the beginning regarding DCF and other agencies vacating the Finney building. He wonders what the holdup is now.
“That’s another concern in an ongoing series of concerns about how … good of a decision the move is in total,” he says.
“I don’t have any inside information,” Ward says. “I call, and they give me the same line. … These negotiations are delicate, and we’re just about done.”
One by one, most of the other agencies from the Finney building have signed new leases.
Ward calls DCF “the 500-pound gorilla.”
“This thing was ginned up to go,” Ward says.
“They were ready last fall,” he says of leaving the Finney building.
“Yet here we are in April, and the biggest one hasn’t got a deal yet.”
One issue may be when the postal service will leave the South Oliver space.
“Our lease on the building on Oliver Street expires in Sept. 2015,” said postal spokesman Brian Sperry in an e-mail. “We are in the process of transferring all operations to the Remote Encoding Center in Salt Lake City.”
Sperry won’t say when the postal service plans to vacate the building or whether it may be before September 2015 – a full year after DCF would need it.
“All I can tell you is that we plan to be out of the facility by Sept. 2015.”
Dale Goter, the city’s government relations manager, says the city is open to DCF staying longer than its September deadline to be out.
“In the event that the state of Kansas encounters a temporary delay in relocating the Wichita operations of the Department of Children and Families from the Finney State Office Building, the city of Wichita is prepared to negotiate a short-term lease extension.”
Goter says that doesn’t mean the city isn’t looking for other alternatives for the building in the meantime.
“Anticipating that the state of Kansas will eventually execute its announced vacation of the Finney building, the city of Wichita is continuing to explore alternative uses of the facility.”