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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kansas Department of Agriculture preparing for move to Manhattan

April 28, 2013

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— The Kansas Department of Agriculture is changing pastures, and that means a big change for some 160 state employees.

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman announced that the department was moving from Topeka to Manhattan, a distance of about 56 miles.

Rodman described Manhattan as a perfect fit. Having KDA adjacent to Kansas State University, the future National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility and other ag-related entities will "enhance the overall effectiveness of the department," he said.

Others, however, have expressed concerns.

"We're just puzzled at all of this," said Nick Levendofsky, special projects coordinator for the Kansas Farmers Union.

"The Department of Agriculture is a regulatory agency that is part of the executive branch, and in our mind should remain in Topeka," Levendofsky said.

In fact, there is a state law that says simply, "The Kansas department of agriculture shall be in the city of Topeka."

Mary Geiger, a spokeswoman for KDA, said the department would satisfy that requirement by keeping its administrative staff in Topeka. That will include approximately 10 employees, Geiger said. A lab and field office located at Forbes Field in Topeka will also remain, she said.

Rodman, she said, will maintain offices in Topeka and Manhattan. "The reality is he is out and about across the state," she said.

But for the remainder of employees, the choice is to commute, move, look for another job or retire.

Some have complained privately, but none publicly.

Mike Marvin, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said he has heard from some employees upset about the move.

But, Marvin said, management can determine where it wants to do business.

"It's a management right in any contract that I've been associated with that they determine the means and where and how they perform their mission," he said.

Geiger said managers have discussed the relocation with employees. But, she said, she has no estimate at this point how many staff members will stay with KDA and make the move to Manhattan.

Under the proposal, KDA will leave its current digs in the Mills Building in downtown Topeka no later than June 30, 2014, and move into a soon-to-be-constructred, three-story, 50,000 square-foot office building in the Kansas State University Foundation Research Park.

According to KDA, it will lease the building for $686,000 per year, which is $53,000 more than it is paying now, but the new space will be approximately 6,500 square feet larger, so the $13.72 per square foot cost in the new building is less than the $14.57 per square foot cost in the Mills Building. In addition, KDA has the ability to lease extra space in the new building to other state agencies.

The new building will be constructed by the KSU Foundation at a cost of $8.6 million, according to Greg Lohrentz, senior vice president for finance and administration at the foundation.

Lohrentz said no private funds will be used. He said the Kansas Development Finance Authority is facilitating a bond sale that will be paid off in 20 years to coincide with the lease agreement.

Rodman said the decision by KDA to move follows two years of analysis in which 40 proposals were considered. Visits were made to eight proposals outside Topeka, he said.

Several Topeka legislators said the move would produce a hardship on KDA employees, but Manhattan officials welcomed the transition.

"In making this decision, Secretary Rodman and other state leaders recognize that Manhattan is the center for agricultural services and research in Kansas," Manhattan Mayor Loren Pepperd said.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Spending tax dollars to build a building that does not need to built vs remaining in a building that is already home.

Where are the fiscal conservative republicans? The fiscal responsible leadership left town and the reckless spenders moved in..... the bottom line.

Fred Mertz 1 year, 7 months ago

The KSU foundation is building the building - is that tax dollars?

Lots of people in Lawrence work there. Long commute to Manhattan.

flloyd 1 year, 7 months ago

Boy, Manhattan sure has lots going for it these days. Their economic development and all the related spin-off business is kicking our butts.

It's also soooo much more bicycle friendly for commuting.

eljakeo 1 year, 7 months ago

Even the Kansas government doesn't want to live in Topeka.

Fred Mertz 1 year, 7 months ago

How does the quote apply to this situation?

tomatogrower 1 year, 7 months ago

Good question. If anything it looks like it will be costing more money. They will have to train new people to fill the jobs that are lost, they will have to pay unemployment benefits to those who can't make the move, and, even if someone else is paying for the building, they aren't going to pay the moving expenses. There's just more of fixing things that aren't broke.

So_tired_of_the_whiners 1 year, 7 months ago

Wow, where to start. Yeah, let's move all government services to the geographic center not to where the majorty of the popluation is. Great move. And let's move all of the governmental agencies so that they aren't close to one another. That way the benefits of shared resouces and one stop shopping are lost. And let's not give unemployment to folks who cannot or choose not to make the move. Why, because some companies don't offer it? Geez...

So_tired_of_the_whiners 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh, it is so simple? http://www.ehow.com/info_12002736_can-collect-unemployment-job-relocates.html

Expecting employees to commute an extra 2 hours a day is pretty unreasonable without any additional pay.

JayhawkFan1985 1 year, 7 months ago

Leave it to Sam and his cronies...they'll ignore a state law that requires state agencies to be located in Topeka, then they'll try to spin it that more is less. Kansas is so Brownbackward!

ThePilgrim 1 year, 7 months ago

This is a roundabout way to cut the employee head count for the KDA. "We are moving. Oh yeah, you need to move yourself."

Bob_Keeshan 1 year, 7 months ago

So the state is issuing bonds to be paid off by a state agency, and at the end of the lease the K-State Foundation will own it?

Sweetheart deal.

verity 1 year, 7 months ago

This may or may not be a good move for the future, but it seems like bad timing for spending more money and making employees choose whether to move their families, with perhaps a spouse who has a job in Topeka, to Manhattan, or to make the very expensive round trip every day. Too many times people have moved for a job and then been laid off.

We know by now that there seems to be another agenda behind everything Brownback et al do. My guess would be that, at least in part, this is a way to get rid of employees who are not ideologically pure, i.e., they have functioning brain cells.

Shane Garrett 1 year, 7 months ago

Perhaps I can now find someone to car pool with. yeah.

So_tired_of_the_whiners 1 year, 7 months ago

Ok, so no adminitrative staff is going to make the move because they get paid less than 30k. There are other 30k jobs out there than don't require a 1 hour commutes. Manhattan is more expensive than Topeka or Lawrence. So any employee that doesn't want to go through selling their house to get a smaller or more expensive house will be looking for a different job rather than taking a pay cut. Anybody near retirement might stick out the drive for a little while, but the price of gas and the loss of 2 hours a day on the road will end that pretty quickly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this move will gut the agency and reduce the effectiveness of state government. And for what benefit? Oh, they will be located next to NBAF. Like the Feds are going to open the doors to the state and let them look at the various experiments... Got it...

oldbaldguy 1 year, 7 months ago

okey dokey, this looks good for Manhattan. what about the rest of us?

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