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.

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Mayor and governor meet about Finney State Office Building; state may be zeroing in on new DCF space

WICHITA — The state appears to be zeroing in on new space for the Department for Children and Families near East 47th Street South and South Oliver, even as Mayor Carl Brewer is working to try to keep the office where it is.

“I have been digging into this, and I have heard from reliable folks that the state is looking at (that building),” said Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita), who has been critical of a possible move.

Brewer went to Topeka on Wednesday to visit with Gov. Sam Brownback about keeping DCF and other state agencies in the Finney State Office Building at 230 E. William.

Last month, Have You Heard? reported that the state of Kansas has notified the city of Wichita that its nine agencies that occupy the downtown building won’t be renewing their leases after 20 years in the city-owned space. That means more than 700 people will be moving, more than 550 of whom are with DCF.

According to Loopnet, an online commercial real estate site, there’s a two-story, 100,000-square-foot former Bank of America call center that’s available near the southwest corner of the intersection, and it looks like that’s what the state could be interested in.

“I hope that that’s not true,” Ward said. “I don’t think that’s a good spot. … I don’t think that’s a good location for those kinds of services.”

One of his concerns is that Jezebel’s, an adult club, is across the street.

“It’s not unusual for kids to be part of their parents’ dealing with the state,” Ward said.

He also wonders how accessible the site would be compared to the more centralized Finney building.

Brewer didn’t return calls for comment. A representative of the governor’s office confirmed the meeting but wouldn’t say anything more.

“I know that the governor and Mayor Brewer did in fact meet this morning,” said spokeswoman Sara Belfry. “I believe they talked about a couple of things, including the Wichita office building.”

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Marco’s Cantina may — or may not — be for sale

WICHITA — Marco’s Cantina owner Sam Eddine is considering selling his restaurant and the building it’s in at 6600 W. Central, but he’s dismayed to find out the property is listed on LoopNet.

LoopNet is an online real estate listing site.

The site lists the Cantina’s 5,213 square feet for $1.5 million.

“We’re trying to sell the business, but we’re not final on that,” Eddine says. “I think we’re going to change our minds.”

The Cantina has been in its current building for 15 years and previously was across the street for another 10 years.

Business has “been up and down, just like everybody else’s,” Eddine says.

He’s now instructed his real estate agent to take the property off of LoopNet, at least for now.

Eddine says he thinks he might “want to continue doing what I’m doing.”