Budget proposal includes large investments to Docking, KDHE lab in Topeka

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Kansas Legislature has passed a budget today that includes money for the Docking State Office Building and Kansas Department of Health and Environment lab.

The plan sets aside $120 million toward renovating Docking. Exactly how the renovation will proceed will be decided at a later date.

Much of the 12 floor, 64-year-old building doesn’t have people working in it.

The budget also includes up to $65 million for the KDHE laboratory. Currently near Forbes Field in Topeka, officials said the department is in desperate need of an upgrade.

Some of that money could come from the federal government, possibly coronavirus relief funding, to help pay for the labs that have been heavily used during the pandemic.

The new or renovated lab would have to be in the Topeka area.

Some lawmakers want to see the Kansas Museum of History move into Docking to create space for the KDHE lab at the museum. Large cement walls are an attraction for lawmakers at the museum site, as well as getting the museum in the capitol complex in Downtown Topeka. Those decisions will come at a later date.

Topeka Representative John Alcala said keeping those jobs in the community would be a win for Topeka. He also said fixing up Docking will improve downtown.

“I’ve watched it go from its peak and I’ve watched it to where it’s kind of deteriorating over a period of time, but the investments are starting to happen. Some of the old buildings you see down there, people have bought those and so it takes time to transition into spending money and getting buildings up to par,” Alcala said.

There are people not on board with moving the museum downtown, including Alcala. He said office space from Docking would be beneficial.

“Putting the money back into Docking, and that’s refurbishing it, all the existing floors, I think that’s very important,” he said.

The budget will need approval by Governor Kelly.

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