Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas to move to New Leaf Plaza

UPDATED — The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas is turning over a New Leaf, so to speak, and moving to the shopping center of the same name at 21st and Amidon.

“It is very accessible and very visible for the public,” says Keith Lawing, president and CEO of the agency that connects workers with employers.

“I really think it’s going to be a perfect location for their new home, although some would have liked for it to stay downtown, I suppose,” says City Council member Jeff Longwell.

“They are at least for a little bit going to keep some of the administration stuff down in the Garvey building,” he says.

The Workforce Alliance had been at the former Commerce Bank building at First and Main downtown and had to scramble to find new space along with other tenants there when building issues, such as a broken elevator and suspended gas service, forced them to go elsewhere.

A site a few blocks down from First and Washington is where the Workforce Alliance temporarily is until the new space is ready.

Lawing says parking had become an issue where the Workforce Alliance was at First and Main.

“We definitely looked downtown,” he says seeking new space. “If we could have found a place that would have been adjacent to a parking garage … it would have been great.”

He says no such place could be found.

Longwell says that initially the Workforce Alliance will take about 26,000 square feet at New Leaf, which is on the southwest corner of the intersection and is home to a Walmart Neighborhood Market.

He says it “is going to be a really nice space.”

“It’s a good location, easily accessible, on a bus route,” Longwell says. “I really like that whole area. It’s kind of coming back a little bit.”

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You don’t say

“Where’s Pete?”

City Council member James Clendenin’s question about fellow council member Pete Meitzner while touring the airport’s new terminal

“He only cares about trains.”

– City Council member Jeff Longwell’s response about Meitzner, who is a leading proponent of bringing Amtrak rail service to Wichita

You don’t say

“I have actually seen the blueprints.”

City Council member Jeff Longwell on how, despite what it may seem, plans for a new Sam’s Club at 29th and Maize Road are moving forward

You don’t say

“All I can hope for at this point is the fact that chicks dig scars.”

City Council member Jeff Longwell, who needed three stitches on his lips after getting headbutted in his regular Monday morning basketball game

Dondlinger and Sons disputes bid process for $100 million airport contract

UPDATED — The scheduled start of construction on a new terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is months behind because the bid process for the contract, worth around $100 million, is in dispute.

Dondlinger and Sons is the lowest bidder, but the contract may be awarded to Key Construction instead because the city doesn’t think Dondlinger met the requirements for building the terminal.

The planned two-level, 273,000-square-foot terminal – which will feature 12 gates, each with a passenger loading bridge, more efficient passenger and baggage security screening, baggage claim and airline ticketing systems – initially was projected to be done in late 2014 or 2015. Due to the dispute, that’s likely to be pushed back.

“We’ve given the city a couple of ways to get out of this mess, and whether they’ll take it or not, we don’t know,” said Jim Armstrong, one of the Foulston Siefkin attorneys working on behalf of Dondlinger and Hunt Construction Group of Indianapolis.

That’s the team that built Intrust Bank Arena.

It bid $99,370,542 for the airport contract.

Key, in partnership with Detroit-based contractor Walbridge, bid $101,500,542.

The Wichita City Council, which will make the final decision on the contract, was updated on the dispute during an executive session Tuesday.

“This is a monstrous decision,” City Council member Pete Meitzner said. “It affects the next 50 years of the terminal and our city.”

He added: “It is a decision that I am not taking lightly. … It just needs to be fair and the right decision.”

Because the terminal will be funded in part through federal grants – airport passenger facility charges and airport revenue will make up the rest – certain requirements must be met in the bids. That includes the stipulation that either 7.11 percent of the contracting business be shared with disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE), such as minority-owned firms, or that the bidders show that they made a good-faith effort to reach that percentage.

That’s what’s at issue in the bidding process. Dondlinger has filed a bid protest, which follows an earlier review of the DBE requirement and a motion to reconsider, both requested by Dondlinger.

“We are firmly convinced that we did more than enough, and frankly that decision-making process is pretty subjective,” Armstrong said.

In response to a request for comment, city attorney Gary Rebenstorf issued a statement that said: “That protest is under review according to the City’s purchasing policy. The review process is confidential. When the review is completed, the outcome will help determine what happens next.”

No one with Key Construction is commenting, but Armstrong said that at the time of the initial bid, neither Key nor Dondlinger reached the 7.11 percent.

Armstrong said the city found that Key made a good-faith effort while Dondlinger did not.

“We don’t know how they made that determination,” Armstrong said. “From what we have been able to determine, we don’t think that’s a correct decision.”

Armstrong said when Dondlinger made its bid, two of its DBE contractors hadn’t yet been certified by the Kansas Department of Transportation, but they have now. He said that puts Dondlinger over the 7.11 percent.

“We’re just at a loss to explain why this has happened, to be honest with you,” Armstrong said, “because Dondlinger has been involved with the minority business community for years and has always actively participated.”

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You don’t say

“Do you want some ice cream?”

City Council member Jeff Longwell’s question to a reporter he was speaking with on the phone as an ice cream truck passed him Wednesday

You don’t say

“I want to open a hot dog stand.”

City Council member Jeff Longwell’s idea after hearing the Koch Cafe news

You don’t say

“I’ve thought of you as a mother figure. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I love my mother.”

—Outgoing interim City Council member Roger Smith’s comment to fellow council member Sue Schlapp, who also served her last day on Tuesday

“When I got around to my turn, I said, ‘Sue — and I truly mean this from my heart —you’ve truly been like a grandmother to me.’ ”

— City Council member Jeff Longwell’s joking response to Smith’s sincere comment

“I take it as a badge of honor. . . . I can think of a lot worse things to be remembered as.”

— Schlapp, a grandmother of 14, whose new job is senior constituent liaison for the state Department of Commerce

Petroleum Club management to take over City Hall Cafe

WICHITA — The Wichita City Hall Cafe is going to reopen Jan. 3 under new management.

The same group that manages the Petroleum Club, the Walkway Cafe at the Bank of America Center and the Atrium Cafe at the Ruffin Building is going to provide food service at City Hall.

“We just kind of have a concept going that’s fairly easy to duplicate,” says general manager Kathy Latham.

She wasn’t looking to expand her food service.

City Council member Jeff Longwell happened to be at the Bank of America Center for an event and had some of her group’s food.

“I thought their food was delicious,” he says.

City Hall had just lost its previous food provider, so Longwell suggested Latham submit a proposal.

“It’s all about timing I suppose,” he says.

Longwell says Latham’s group has a great track record.

“It should be a natural to have a cafe that people can rely on,” he says.

Latham says her staff does an excellent job, though she thinks City Hall will be it for expansions.

“I don’t want to go past my limit of what we can do successfully and good,” she says. “I don’t want to stretch ourselves to where we’re just slinging food.”

Longwell is thrilled the City Hall deal with Latham worked out.

“Trust me,” he says, “when you weigh as much as I do, you know good food.”

City mulls proposals for Wichita Ice Center

0107icerink_mb4.jpgUPDATED — There’s concern swirling through the ice skating community about a possible change in management at the Wichita Ice Center.

The city issued a request for proposals and now is evaluating three potential center managers.

That includes Virginia-based Rink Management Services, which currently manages the center, New Jersey-based Ice World Consulting and Genesis Health Clubs, the only local group that submitted a proposal.

Some parents of children who skate at the center have contacted the city to express concern that Genesis, which doesn’t operate any ice facilities, appears to be the front runner.

“It would be detrimental to our skaters if a company took over the ice rink that had no experience,” says Lisa Totten, whose 11-year-old daughter is a competitive skater at the center.

“It’s not just a business. There’s technical expertise they need to know.”

Doug Kupper, the city’s director of park and recreation, says no decisions have been made on new management yet.

“To speculate who is and who isn’t going to be managing the ice center is premature because we don’t have anything at all finalized. We’re nowhere near where we need to be in even going to the City Council with a recommendation.”

In 2006, Rink Management got a two-year contract with the city to run the center, and that’s been extended with two one-year contracts.

There are no renewals left, though, and the city had to issue an RFP “whether we liked them or didn’t like them,” Kupper says.

However, Rink Management’s contract has been extended to March while the city makes a decision.

“They’ve been pretty good,” Kupper says of the company, adding, “There’s always room for improvements.”

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