The state should sell its underused buildings with the proceeds going to pay for maintenance costs of other state buildings, including repairs to the state Capitol, a lawmaker says.
Rep. T.W. Shannon said he was surprised to learn the state owns about 9,000 buildings, or nearly twice the number of buildings he was told earlier this year. That doesn't include buildings the state is leasing from private landowners.
“When state government owns 9,000 buildings, there is clearly room to liquidate some of those holdings,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “At a time when dollars are very limited, it is inexcusable for agencies to cling to expensive facilities that are no longer necessary to carry out the agencies' missions or basic operations of government.
“The state's infrastructure has almost become unmanageable,” he said. “We've got infrastructure needs all over the state. The money should be reinvested there. It's a one-shot hit, it doesn't need to be used in the regular budget.”
Shannon was author of House Bill 1438, which passed the Legislature and was signed into law this year. It required a review of state assets to potentially reduce excess and provide for better planning. Shannon requested an interim legislative study to review the effects of the legislation, which took effect Nov. 1.
No recent reviews
When his legislation was going through this year's session, records showed about 4,900 state-owned buildings, but officials did not have a comprehensive list of maintenance expenses or needed improvements. No recent reviews had been done to determine if operation of all sites was needed, Shannon said.
John Morrison, interim director of the state Central Services Department, told members of the House of Representatives Government Modernization Committee last week that the state owns about 9,000 buildings on approximately 6,000 parcels of land. Efforts now are focusing on the age of the buildings and the use of the buildings.
“This is all new territory,” Morrison said.
He said his staff is asking each agency what they need in terms of building space and property. The law requires the report to be finished by the end of next year; rules then would have to be developed on how the property could be sold.
“The opportunities are out there, no doubt about it,” Morrison said.
Three counties have state buildings worth more than $1 billion, according to figures prepared by the agency. They are Cleveland County, home of the University of Oklahoma and other state agencies; Payne County, home of Oklahoma State University and other state agencies; and Oklahoma County, where the Capitol and most state agencies have their headquarters, as well as being home to the University of Central Oklahoma.