Culling unused or inefficient state buildings is the goal of legislation a state committee began working on Monday.
The effort will be based on a survey of state property prepared earlier this year by the Program Evaluation Division of the General Assembly calling for the disposal of 17 properties, along with a more recent assessment completed by a real estate appraisal firm. Also in the mix is the governor’s “Project Phoenix” plan to revitalize downtown Raleigh with a mix of shops and government offices.
State Budget Director Lee Roberts told a subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee that all three of those elements fit into Gov. Pat McCrory’s emphasis on urban renewal and design since taking office.
The overall plan, Roberts said, is to identify places that use more space than they need, such as paper archive storage; outdated, dilapidated and inefficient buildings that are wasting state money and could be used for revitalization; and assets that the state no longer needs to own, such as the prisons that have closed due to a reduction in prisoners who have been moved to county jails and placed on supervised release.
$26 billion Estimated value of state-owned buildings
There are thousands of state buildings across North Carolina worth nearly $26 billion, in addition to $1.6 billion in state-owned land and $65 million in yearly leases. The Program Evaluation Division report recommended getting rid of 17 properties, 12 of which are houses located near the State Capitol built between 1870 and 1947.
The report also found that the state doesn’t have a formal process to identify and maintain data on unused and under-used property, and the state doesn’t manage the property well.
A representative of the outside real estate appraisal firm told the committee on Monday that better centralized management would improve the state’s ability to use space more efficiently, comply with regulations, and control costs. Overall, the firm found, capital maintenance has been deferred for too long.
The committee also heard from John LaPenta, who the administration has hired to focus on Project Phoenix, which McCrory hailed in his state of the state address as one of his key goals. LaPenta said he is finding eight to 10 projects where under-used buildings on valuable land in downtown Raleigh could be turned into public-private partnerships.
He said the project will start in Raleigh initially and then spread to other parts of the state.
The meeting didn’t have enough members to constitute a quorum. Sen. Rick Gunn, a Republican from Burlington, said he was using the chairman’s prerogative to direct the Program Evaluation Division to start drafting legislation that would allow for the disposal of assets that are identified, and addresses improvements in managing the remaining assets.
The subcommittee will meet again next month to discuss that. Gunn said a third meeting would be held before draft legislation goes to the full committee.