by Mary Rupert
Local officials now are taking a look at putting a parole office in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan., on a former industrial site.
A community outcry was heard when the state Department of Corrections announced it would locate the parole office next to the Pandarama day care at 7th and State Avenue in the downtown area of Kansas City, Kan. Several persons opposed the idea of about 600 parolees a month, about 30 a day, visiting a parole office next door to a day care.
State Rep. Val Winn, D-34th Dist., who was instrumental in helping residents who opposed that location, said she had heard a new location is under consideration. The current location is on 18th Street at a medical office building not far from I-70, but the lease is not being renewed as higher-paying tenants are being sought. In February, Rep. Winn led a legislative effort to block funding for any parole office within 1,000 feet of a child care facility.
Unified Government Commissioner Ann Murguia said the old Kansas City Structural Steel site near 21st and Metropolitan Avenue, being restored as a retail and office area, is under discussion for the parole office site.
Murguia said the UG would take this idea to the people of the UG’s 3rd District, through community meetings, and ask them if they think it is a good idea. If the people agree, then she is OK with it, she said. Her position will depend on whatever the people want, she added.
She was not originally seeking the parole office to move to that site, but she said that there has been some preliminary work on adding a public safety facility to the former Kansas City Structural Steel site.
Currently, a Walmart Neighborhood Market is going in at the former Superfund site, which was a silver smelting site in the 1800s and a steel fabrication plant in the 1900s. The Walmart site is at the northwest part of this development site. Also near to the Walmart, on the east side of the development site, is a new Save-a-Lot grocery store that opened Dec. 5. The project was under the direction of the Argentine Betterment Corp.
For about a year, there have been plans to try to work a new police South Patrol building into the designs for this Argentine site, she said. During discussions about the public safety building, the preliminary facility costs were coming back a bit higher than what could be paid for through the project. Then, ways were looked at to cut some of the costs to it. Also under discussion was the possibility of moving the Unified Government’s emergency management office to this location.
When the idea about the parole office locating there came up, she said her first reaction was she was not interested in it. But with a mention of $2 million for a 10-year lease, with the parole office moving at the end of 10 years, she said she would take a look at it. Perhaps, at the end of the term of the parole office, the emergency management office could move there, she said, and so the lease to the parole office could pay for part of the costs of the emergency management office in the future.
“I said I would consider it, take it to the people of my district, and ask them what they think – is it a good idea?” she said. “If we can get over that hurdle, I am OK with it.”
She added that she has never voted against the public opinion in her district.
When it comes to nearby neighbors to the proposed parole office location, Murguia’s family members are one of the closest residents to the proposed site.
One of the first steps for this parole office site location will be a discussion planned at the UG’s Public Works and Safety Standing Committee meeting on the evening of March 24 in City Hall, 701 N. 7th St.
Murguia believes the UG should be involved in finding a place for the parole office.
“If we don’t pick a spot, they’re going to pick one for us,” she remarked. “There’s no better place than a government public safety facility.”