PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Pittsburg State University have something up their sleeves.
Right now, it’s simply a vision – a big dream with an ambitious timeline – but those in charge hope their vision will soon become a reality.
“We’re looking for the long-term solution, but we also need a short-term solution,” said Tony Mattivi, KBI Director.
Enter Pittsburg State University.
If all goes as planned, the fourth floor of Yates Hall will soon be turned into the temporary home for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s regional office.
“We right now are looking at what modifications we would need. We found the money to make the necessary modifications and probably over winter break, we’ll get in there, start making modifications,” said Mattivi.
“Free up some space, which would mean relocating some labs and some classrooms. But being able to get the opportunity for their workspace and our instructional spaces to match up,” said Dr. Howard Smith, Pittsburg State University Provost & Executive VP.
The lease on the KBI’s downtown building is up in June 2024, but the bigger issue is the HVAC’s constant state of disrepair at its current office.
“Many summer afternoons, we have to send people home because we can’t get the temperature below 85 degrees. We can’t control the humidity, which is a real problem because one of the things we do there is we maintain evidence,” said Mattivi.
But there’s a bigger dream in the works.
A 40-million dollar regional crime center and laboratory that could someday be right here, on the edge of the PSU campus.
“The idea behind it would be to have a facility that would then obviously house the KBI, Our campus safety group would probably have a piece of that. There’s also been some discussion of other law enforcement agencies that might also like to have some space in that facility,” said Smith.
The KBI Director is modeling it after a similar collaboration at Washburn University.
“Our scientists serve as adjuncts in the science department at Washburn. Washburn students intern in the lab. We present them with job opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. They are a wonderful recruiting ground for us,” said Mattivi.
“Hopefully we’d be able to link up some of our programs on campus. You know, you’ve got your criminal justice program, you’ve got your county forensics programs. You’ve got types of opportunities here for students to be right in the mix of some real-life scenarios,” said Smith.
The new facility would house the current staff of six to eight investigators, two evidence technicians, and two or three chemists.
But the idea is to double staff with the addition of a Child’s Victim Unit.
“We’re going to ask the legislature this session to close the loop on the Child Victim’s Unit, give us the funding for one in southeast Kansas, and when we get that, I would like to put that in this Pittsburg facility,” said Mattivi.
Funding for the facility would come from the state general fund if approved by lawmakers.
“A 40-million dollar building, bonded over 20 years, is just a shade over three million dollars a year,” said Mattivi.
But, it’s just a vision right now… there’s still more work to be done before a January 2025 groundbreaking deadline, with a construction deadline of July 2026.
“Some folks have told me that they think I’m awfully optimistic with that date, but I’m okay with that. Right? I’m okay with being optimistic, I’m okay with working hard, I’m okay with pushing this to try to get it done as quickly as we can,” said Mattivi.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, and we’re really appreciative of the fact that the KBI’s interested in working with us,” said Smith.