by William Skink
A brief article at NBC Montana regarding what to do with a Federal building downtown caught my eye. You can probably guess, from the title of the article, why: Missoula federal building possible homeless resource after space declared surplus.
Apparently declaring this building surplus space was a big step in figuring out a future use for a building that is over 80% vacant and costs half a million annually to keep open.
The agency that declared this space surplus is the General Service Administration (GSA), and apparently it’s the GSA that is looking for a homeless organization to possibly use the space. From the link:
GSA officials say the building is 84.1% empty. The Forest Service moved out of the space back in 2015. Plus they say it costs around $500,000 in taxpayer money to keep the building running each year.
That’s part of the reason the city and county hope to acquire the space, but both know there are hurdles in the way of making that happen. The GSA says it first considers using the space to help the homeless.
“If a homeless organization comes in and shows interest that they will have a priority to submit a plan and application for the building,” said Missoula County strategic initiatives manager Casey Gannon. He says that’s why they’re holding off on spending any more money.
Since I didn’t know much about the GSA, I did a little digging to better understand their role. Here’s an idea of what they claim their mission and strategic goals are:
“Deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across government.”
Vision: Effective and efficient government for the American people.
Values: Service, Accountability, and Innovation
Save taxpayer money through better management of federal real estate. We will deliver cost savings and value for taxpayers through smart asset management while also providing cutting-edge workplace solutions that help agencies fulfill their important missions.
Despite these lofty claims, the apparent reality is this building (which costs half a million to operate) has been 84% empty for five years waiting to be declared surplus, and now that this has occurred, the GSA will continue to sit on this building hoping some homeless organization will show interest?
Am I missing something here?
Missoula County is already shelling out money for this building. From the first link:
The city and county already contributed $100,000 each for surveying the building and seeing if it meets their needs. It will also tell them how much more they’ll need to spend in renovations.
If all goes as planned, GSA will hand over the title to the historic building in the heart of Missoula by September 2022.
It’s a move proponents say will save taxpayer dollars and make the building a one-stop shop for city and county needs.
I added the emphasis because this is where the story is. With such a broad, general statement, the obvious question is this: what does a “one-stop shop for city and county needs” actually mean?
As our elected braintrust dribble out details on the future use of this federal building, check back here for local context you won’t get anywhere else.