- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Democratic and Republican candidates for Kansas Senate districts that include the Docking State Office Building want to consider rehabilitating the building formerly used by state office workers rather than tearing it down as Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration wants to do.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly wants a task force to consider the building’s future, while her Republican challenger, Dave Jackson, wants the state to consider lease-back options with private developers, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2eRKRhe ).

The 12-story office building in downtown Topeka will be mostly emptied of state employees by summer.

The building’s future has been a source of contention between Brownback and state lawmakers for several months after the Brownback administration signed a $20 million lease-purchase contract to demolish the building and construct a new power plant to replace the existing plant in Docking’s basement.

Lawmakers from both parties were upset that the administration bypassed legislative oversight and quickly passed a bill to require legislative approval before the building could be demolished. Brownback’s administration eventually canceled the power plant deal.

Jackson said the state should consider selling the building to a private investor, who could rehabilitate it and then lease some or all the space to the state.

“That would be my question: have we really allowed the input of several developers and put it out to see if it could be sold with a guaranteed lease-back to the state? Or not. It doesn’t have to be all state employees either. They could see what the private market could bring as well,” Jackson said.

Kelly said she wants some, if not all, of Docking preserved, renovated and reoccupied by state workers. State workers have been moved to offices throughout Topeka, which Kelly said reduces government efficiency.

“The Brownback administration is determined to bring the Docking Building down,” Kelly said. “It is my hope that the 2017 Legislature will pass legislation to prevent the demolition and form a task force comprised of legislators, city officials, business leaders, preservationists, architectural and engineering experts to chart the future of the Docking Building.”

Keith Blackburn, vice president of HTK Architects in Topeka, has previously estimated it would cost more than $84 million to fully renovate the building.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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