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Landscape changes at 22nd and Vine

By DAWNE LEIKER
dleker@dailynews.net

Even though Kevin Zimmer was aware the brick building at 22nd and Vine was set for demolition, he was taken aback when seeing it unfold before his eyes.

“I had to drop my kids off at school, and I turned the corner, and there was M & D (Excavating) just starting to crush into the front office where my office was,” he said.

Zimmer, area engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation, worked in the former KDOT building at 22nd and Vine until KDOT moved its maintenance and construction offices to its new facility on Frontier Road, just off U.S. Highway 183 Alternate and Interstate 70 in March of 2000.

“There were a lot of folks in and out of that office,” Zimmer said, as he discussed the history of the building. “When Interstate (70) was being built, all the technicians that inspected the work were housed in that building on the north end.”

Ellis County purchased the Vine Street property from KDOT in 2002 for $514,595, according to a February 2002 Hays Daily News article.

The brick building never was used for its original intention, a Rural Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services building, and has served as a training facility for law enforcement and as county storage since its purchase by the county.

Demolition got under way Tuesday and moved quickly.

The only hitch was the building’s main office, which County Administrator Greg Sund said was built like a tornado shelter.
“(Demolition workers) said there was so much steel in it they could barely get it to move,” he said.

Although M & D Excavating’s contract didn’t include inspection or removal of asbestos, Sund said an environmental assessment performed in 2001 showed no friable asbestos in the building.

After demolition is complete, construction of the new Commerce Bank building on the site is slated to begin July 1.

Commerce Bank acquired the property in somewhat of a swap agreement when Ellis County commissioners signed a letter of intent in June to purchase the Commerce Bank building at 718 Main in exchange for $1 million cash and the county’s property at 22nd and Vine.

For more than a decade, administrative and law enforcement center space needs have been a county concern. The move of administrative offices to 718 Main will allow the Ellis County Courthouse to become a dedicated law enforcement and court facility.

According to Commerce Bank president Tom Thomas, construction of the new one-level 8,000-square-foot banking facility at 22nd and Vine is estimated to be completed in six to nine months from the time of groundbreaking.

Thomas said he also was struck with the changing face of 22nd and Vine, as the 62-year-old building was dismantled and relocated to the Ellis County landfill.

“It’s starting to look a lot different with those older buildings down,” he said. “Different, and kind of sad in a way.

“There’s a lot of history in that corner through the years.”