TOPEKA -- Salina state Rep. J.R. Claeys is interested in arranging a wrecking-ball encounter with the 12-story state government office building adjacent to the Capitol.
On Wednesday, Claeys said the 2020 Legislature should decide fate of Docking State Office Building and authorize construction of a new laboratory facility for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He’s in the process of introducing a series of bills on the subject but would prefer a package deal for KDHE and Docking.
The vice chairman of the Legislature’s joint committee on building construction said he was leaning toward a $15 million project to demolish most floors from Docking and retain the building’s central power plant system serving other buildings in the Capitol complex. That leaves open possibility of building on that site in the future, he said.
He’s not in favor of spending more than $100 million renovating Docking.
At the same time, he said, the state could sell the antiquated KDHE lab on 35 acres at Forbes Field in Topeka and build a $50 million facility on property at the Kansas Neurological Institute. An option would be to replace a state parking lot close to Docking with the KDHE lab.
“I would think that we can all get together and kind of figure out which two pieces fit together the best,” Claeys said. “We don’t need a solution right this minute on Docking. So, maybe it makes more sense to bring that down and focus on getting KDHE done. The real urgency is KDHE.”
A feasibility study authorized by the Legislature led to a consultant’s recommendation to spend more than $100 million fully or partially renovating the 62-year-old high-rise.
Deb Sheals, principal of a company called Building Preservation in Columbia, Mo., was at the Capitol on Wednesday to meet with people affiliated with Friends of Historic Preservation. She would prefer Kansas make Docking modern while retaining its historic character.
“People think old means not functional,” she said. “It’s entirely possible to get state-of-the-art systems, energy efficiency and important historic features.”
The administration of Gov. Sam Brownback embraced a plan to flatten Docking, but that was blocked by the Legislature in 2016. Brownback used his authority to scatter 1,000 state employees to four locations in Topeka after signing long-term leases for office space.