Visitors looking for the WaterWalk fountains might wind up at the county jail instead

WICHITA — Mulvane resident Tom Coppola Googled the WaterWalk fountains the other day because he planned to go to a nearby food truck rally.

FILE  The fountains at WaterWalk.   (June 21, 2013)“I was very pleased to find numerous YouTube videos showing the beauty of said fountains,” Coppola said in an e-mail.

Coppola said he was surprised, though, to see that a number of references on Google showed the address of the fountains as 605 N. Wichita.

Instead of a view of the fountains, visitors instead will find themselves looking at the back side of the county jail if they go to that address.

jail2“The most amazing of all was the fact that the city of Wichita’s own website has the same incorrect address!” Coppola wrote. “Imagine the surprise of a visitor to our fair city, who attempts to find the waterwalk fountains, only to end up in an alley behind the county jail. One would think that with the amount of money spent on these fountains, the amount of money spent promoting tourism in Wichita, and recent attempts by the city to increase sales tax in order to help promote tourism, that somebody would do a better job of making sure that visitors have the information they need in order to view these attractions.”

Coppola signed his e-mail: “A concerned(sales tax paying) resident of Kansas.”

In another e-mail, city spokesman Dale Goter said the city appreciates Coppola’s concern.

“The address was erroneously posted as N. Wichita and should be S. Wichita. We have changed it,” Goter wrote. “Please pass along our thanks to the alert reader who noticed the mistake.”

U.S. Postal Service to open call center in space the state is negotiating for

UPDATED — There’s another twist on the possible Department for Children and Families lease at 2601 S. Oliver, which has been a remote encoding center for the U.S. Postal Service.

The postal service is winding down those operations – its lease expires in September 2015 – but now it’s planning a call center for the space.

“The U.S. Postal Service has completed its posting process and is now training the first group of hires for the new Customer Care Center that will go on line in Wichita, KS in July 2014,” postal spokesman Brian Sperry said in an e-mail statement.

The postal service is still in this building at 2601 S. Oliver, and the state is still negotiating to move in, but it’s unclear what will happen with the space.

The postal service is still in this building at 2601 S. Oliver, and the state is still negotiating to move in, but it’s unclear what will happen with the space.

The center, which will be one of four the postal service has nationally, will answer customers’ inquiries via phone and e-mail.

The remote encoding center has been at the space for two decades. At one time there were more than 1,000 employees there. Now, there are 251 career employees left, meaning employees who are guaranteed jobs.

“Through a memorandum of understanding with union representatives, 251 jobs were posted through a senior bidding process with all Remote Encoding Center employees eligible to submit for the available positions and no external recruitment was conducted,” Sperry wrote. “The newest Customer Care Center will operate out of the former Remote Encoding Center site.”

Sperry wouldn’t say if the postal service is trying to renegotiate for a longer lease or if it’s looking for a possible new site for the call center.

“The statement is all we have to report.”

Jan Manlove, the secretary and treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union Area Local 735, says the union’s “business agent had been working long and hard to get a call center.”

She says on the same day the postal service signed the call center agreement, it measured space at Hutchinson and Ponca City post offices to see if the call center could locate at either one.

“Our union, No. 1, wants to keep the jobs here in Wichita,” Manlove says.

Read More »

Possible DCF lease on South Oliver may not be ‘at the goal line’

The U.S. Postal Service is vacating this building at 2601 S. Oliver, but whether the state Department for Children and Families moves in isn't as certain as it once was.

The U.S. Postal Service is vacating this building at 2601 S. Oliver, but whether the state Department for Children and Families moves in isn’t as certain as it once was.

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.”

That sounds a lot less certain than when Mark McGivern, director of the Office of Facilities and Procurement Management within the state Department of Administration, used the goal line analogy.

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.

Read More »

You don’t say

“If the vice mayor is as good of a politician as I think he is, we’ll be taking the train back to Wichita.”

– City lobbyist Dale Goter, who is flying to Dallas on Wednesday with Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner for a federal workshop on passenger rail service, which the city is working to establish between Dallas and Wichita

State gives city of Wichita notice that nine agencies and more than 700 employees are leaving the Finney State Office Building

WICHITA — The state of Kansas has notified the city of Wichita that its nine agencies that occupy the Finney State Office Building downtown won’t be renewing their leases after 20 years in the city-owned building.

“It raises a red flag,” says Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita). “I have a concern there is a history of the governor rewarding financial contributors with state contracts. I know he has contributors in Wichita that own (buildings) that fall into that category. … I don’t want that to be the reason we’re moving.”

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, says Ward’s fears are unfounded.

“For Representative Ward to say that, what he said was inaccurate,” she says.

There are more than 700 state employees in the building, more than 550 of whom are with the state Department for Children and Families, which formerly was known as SRS. The other eight agencies are the Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Revenue, the Kansas Human Rights Commission, the Department of Health and Environment, the Department of Administration, the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Office of the State Bank Commissioner and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

“We consulted with our agency tenants,” says Chuck Knapp, a spokesman with the Department of Administration. “After visiting with those agencies, we just determined it would be in the best interest of those agencies and their clients to seek space elsewhere.”

Knapp says he can’t be more specific and that each agency will have to answer for itself.

A spokeswoman for the largest tenant couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokesman for another agency referred questions to Knapp.

“I would like them to be able to articulate why this is a good idea, and I haven’t heard any of that,” Ward says.

He says his other major concern is a move from the building will hurt the clients who use it.

Ward was a Wichita City Council member in 1991 when the city was investigating ways to stimulate economic development downtown and proposed a plan to help the state reduce expenses by consolidating numerous offices into the vacant building at 230 E. William, which previously was home to Macy’s. The following year, he was in the state Senate “where we in fact accepted the city’s offer to do that.”

Read More »

You don’t say

“It was an incredibly unique moment for those of us that have been there for 30 years watching.”

– City lobbyist Dale Goter, referring to this week’s legislative tax debate, which he described in a report to the mayor and City Council by saying, “Feelings were hurt, bridges were burned, the rules and decorum of both houses took a major beating.”