Monday, March 2, 2009
Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner Says as the state’s top financial watchdog it is his duty to oppose the sale of the state office building in Pittsburgh. The state is to open bids for the building Friday and Wagner has sent a letter to Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of General Services James Creedon asking him to discard the bids. Wagner says there is a long list of reasons to not sell the building near point state park but chief among them is timing. He says in the tough economic times and the soft real estate market the state would get “virtually nothing” for the building. Wagner says the state would use up all of the proceeds of the sale covering the costs of relocation to three separate buildings and the first year of lease payments to the new landlords. Wagner goes on to say it would be “ludicrous” to decentralize state operations. He says people in western Pennsylvania know where to go to get state services and spreading the offices throughout downtown is bad management. Wagner admits the building needs to be upgraded but he says the cost is not enough to warrant what he describes as a “fire sale.” The state put the building, which houses 800 state employees, up for sale in April 2008. It had agreed to sell the building to the Buncher Co. for $4.5 million -- a price that Creedon acknowledged was less than the state had expected -- but the deal fell through when Buncher withdrew its bid in early February. Creedon told the house appropriations committee last week that DGS has given prospective bidders until March 6 to match the state's minimum price of $4.5 million for the building. He says if no one meets the price DGS will take it off the market until conditions improve.