Effort to sell Oklahoma's unused buildings, properties continues

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: March 10, 2013

Oklahoma is closer to getting a handle on its inventory of buildings and properties in order to sell unused and underused properties and could soon have one panel instead of nearly 200 state agencies negotiating building leases and managing building needs.

It's all part of a plan by House Speaker T.W. Shannon for Oklahoma, the single largest owner of buildings, land and leases in the state, to sell its unneeded property and underused buildings. Proceeds would be used to pay for maintenance costs of other state buildings, including repairs to the state Capitol.

Eventually, an eight-year plan — similar to the long-range plans used by the state Transportation Department for road and bridge projects — would be developed to manage the state's buildings and properties. Right now, 163 state agencies handle their own building needs.

“It's time Oklahoma become better stewards of our state assets and the taxpayer's money,” said Shannon, R-Lawton.

“For too long, we have allowed state buildings to decay, neglected to carry out much needed repairs and held on to properties that remain empty and unused.”

Consolidation plan

The House of Representatives last week passed House Bill 1910, authored by Shannon, which calls for consolidating several infrastructure committees, including the State Capitol Preservation Commission, and redirecting their authority to a new panel, the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission. Other panels being consolidated are the Capitol-Medical Center Improvement and Zoning Commission, the Oklahoma Building Bonds Commission and the State Facility Capital Needs Committee.

The commission will oversee liquidating underused assets identified by a process authorized in a bill by Shannon that was passed and signed into law two years ago. Shannon last year authored legislation, which became law, that created the Maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund. Money from the sale of unused and underused properties would be deposited and be available for infrastructure repairs; legislators would also be able to appropriate money into the fund.

“We think this will begin the idea of how we move forward in setting the foundation for an eight-year, pay-as-you-go plan for addressing the state's needs, like the state Capitol,” Shannon said. “We're certainly the only one coming forward with a plan (to repair the Capitol) that doesn't involve bonds, and this lays the foundation for that.”

Shannon said he supports the governor's plan for lawmakers to appropriate $10 million immediately for the Capitol: $8 million to repair the exterior of the Capitol and an additional $2 million to develop a plan to repair and renovate the rest of the building.

Shannon is reluctant for the state to issue bonds to pay for repairs to the nearly 100-year-old building. It's been estimated repairs could cost as much as $160 million.

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