After its approximately $3 million purchase, construction on the property at 2733 Midwestern Pkwy has begun with the help of local inmates. They are performing demolition in collaboration with Wichita County Sheriff’s Office.
Originally a Bank of America business, the building is having walls removed to allow for warehouse storage in two-thirds of the building, while the remaining third will be turned into offices for the purchasing department.
“The community loves to see [the inmates] working,” Chris Stovall, controller, said. “Whether they’re picking up trash on the roadways or improving facilities, [they love it].”
Stovall explained how the inmates opt-in to a program to help out in the community. He also mentioned that in the past, inmates have helped with the setup of the annual Festival of Lights with no issues. He said some people may worry, but there’s no need for concern.
Kyle Owen, associate vice president of facilities services, said the inmates hadn’t committed serious crimes and noted that they were working hard on their job.
“There’s an officer with [the inmates] at all times – an armed officer, I might add,” Owen said.
“There are three people that are doing [the demolition], and while they’re doing a great job and working very hard at it, they’re only three people doing it,” Owen said. “It’s a little slower than it might be if we paid a contractor, but the price is right.”
The greatest challenge in this project is the low renovation budget. According to Beth Reissenweber, vice president of administration and finance, the budget is $200,000.
“Painting might require additional funds, but Mr. Owens is being very careful in how he deploys the budget to maximize effectiveness,” Ressenweber said.
This small budget is one of the main reasons inmates are being used.
“It’s a big plus for us,” Owen said. “The budget to renovate that facility is very small, so we’re having to be creative and find ways to do as much as we can with the little amount of money that we have.”
The building, whose purchase was approved at the November 2019 Board of Regents meeting, is planned to be ready for occupation sometime between April 1 and May 1.
“The drawings [of building plans] are being updated, and I hope to get those in the next week or two,” Owen said. “Then, I’ll get with contractors to price the modifications.”
According to Reissenweber, they are turning the building into warehouse storage and offices will allow for the Daniel building to be converted into the Bridwell Activities Center. She also pointed out that diverting large trucks and delivery to an off-campus building is safer for students walking around campus.
“This renovation is part of a domino of planning,” Reissenweber said. “This will eventually lead to a more pedestrian-friendly environment.”
Reissenweber also said this is resembling President Suzanne Shipley’s plan for the campus which was mentioned at the November Board of Regents meeting.