Editorial: On the move

State government offices aren’t as physically tied to Topeka as they once were.

April 14, 2013


Just like Greensburg is the home of the world’s largest hand-dug well and Cawker City is the home of the world’s largest ball of twine, Topeka is the home of Kansas state government.

Or is it?

No one is likely to move the ball of twine, and Greensburg’s well certainly isn’t going anywhere, but, for better or worse, the presence of state offices in Topeka no longer is guaranteed.

Last week, the Department of Agriculture announced it would move most of its operation to Manhattan. Ag officials touted the advantages of having the department’s hub closer to the agriculture education and research programs at Kansas State University – as well as the new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility being developed on that campus.

That’s a strong and logical motivation for the ag department— made even sweeter by Kansas State’s offer to build a new 50,000-square-foot building to house its offices. The department negotiated a 20-year lease on the building that calls for the state to pay $686,000 per year for the space, which will accommodate 200 employees. The Manhattan space will replace about 43,000 square feet of space the department now leases in the Mills Building in Topeka for $633,000 a year.

The Mills Building lease expires in the fall, which prompted the department last summer to begin exploring various space options. After confirming with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office that they had the authority to put their offices anywhere in the state, ag department officials put out a request for information and received about 40 proposals, including eight for sites outside of Topeka. Negotiations began and the Manhattan location was selected.

The department plans to move most of its 174 employees by June 2014. About 10 people in the main administration office will remain in Topeka, probably moving to space the department leases at Forbes Field, which will continue to house the department’s water offices and labs.

As noted above, the move to Manhattan makes sense for the ag department. In general, moving state offices out of Topeka spreads more state job opportunities across the state and may insulate those offices and personnel somewhat from the political vagaries of the Capitol. Modern technology has eliminated many of the communications issues that may have raised concerns about remote offices in earlier years.

Topeka still is the center of state government in Kansas, but recent moves indicate its hold on state jobs and functions may not be as ironclad as some residents thought. Topekans are understandably concerned about the loss of jobs that would result from moving more offices to other cities, and there undoubtedly are other drawbacks — especially if many other departments decide to seek space elsewhere. Such decisions shouldn’t be based on where a department can find the least expensive space but, rather, on whether a move will directly benefit not only the department but also the state and its taxpayers.


buffalo63 5 years ago

Not knowing much about the interaction of the DOA and K-State's Agriculture program, it seems a logical to have the DOA in the "Little Apple". Hopefully it will be a greater benefit to the K-State programs.

lucky_guy 5 years ago

I think this is a great opportunity. I think all state agencies should be dispersed to the hinterlands. Think how much money we could save if we emptied out the Capitol and sold it to the Koch brothers for a cathedral to their awesomeness. We could disband the revenue department since we will no longer be collecting taxes and move all that function to the counties since all the revenues will be collected from sales and property taxes.
We could outlaw abortion and disband the legislature since that is all they wanted to do anyway. Any other functions could be done but the local count and city commissions since the KS legislature doesn't want to legislate anyway. It would save us millions.

UneasyRider 5 years ago

My impression was that the Capitol and all it's inhabitants were already owned by the Koch's.

UneasyRider 5 years ago

I was under the impression that the Koch's already owned the Capitol and all its inhabitants.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

I suspect that the motivation for this move is to facilitate the intent of the Brownback administration to completely corporatize the farms of Kansas.

So_tired_of_the_whiners 5 years ago

It doesn't make much sense in this administration of shrinking government to move to a larger building at a higher cost and lock that in for 20 years. That is a 50k a year increase. Plus, if the technology is such that you can move from Topeka and eliminate "communication issues" then wouldn't that elimiate the need to move in the 1st place? Can't you use the same technology to work with KSU without the expense of moving?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.