A proposal to demolish the earthquake-vulnerable General Administration building in Olympia is slipping further into uncertainty as state budget writers await today's revenue forecast.
House Capital Budget Committee chairman Hans Dunshee said this week that the GA project “may be one of the last in or out” of the capital budget, depending on the revenue forecast due for release at noon. The forecast is widely expected to be below previous forecasts, which further reduces the state’s ability to pay for construction projects or move GA’s 600 employees to a new location.
Staffers at the Department of General Administration recently estimated that it would cost $500,000 to $600,000 to preserve the Capitol Campus structure, keeping its operating systems “maintained minimally enough to return the structure to use again.” That is far less than the $6.3 million demolition that Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed in December in her 2011-13 capital budget.
A cheaper “life-support” option would only maintain the life-safety systems such as fire alarms and building access controls, and it would cost $220,000 to $225,000.
Olympia-area lawmakers still are pushing for the demolition of the GA Building in January, and moving out the 600 employees from several agencies who work in the 55-year-old structure. But 22nd district lawmakers are split over knocking down a nearby parking garage and adjacent offices.
Dunshee said he won’t divulge the direction he is taking in the capital budget – or the GA project – until he releases his full two-year construction budget next week – potentially Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. But the chances of demolition sound less likely.
Dunshee said that the Data Center construction project is already going on near the Capitol and that an additional demolition project would offer jobs in Olympia at a time legislators “are saying, ‘I want jobs in my community.’ There’s a desire to spread it around the state more.” In January, Dunshee had asked for cost data from GA if the state simply boarded up the structure and left it vacant. He complained that the demolition of both GA and an adjacent block of buildings would leave a two-city-block vacant area. He described that as putting “a sheep field” into the north campus’s neighboring commercial district.
Dunshee said he’s also hearing that the State Patrol “doesn’t want to go” from its GA digs, despite the governor’s claim it is a legal liability. Spokesmen for the WSP said in January that they didn’t have a preference, despite murmuring at that time their leaders wanted to stay put.
A report done in 2006 for GA said renovation of the structure could cost $90 million, including seismic improvements. That would be more than what a new executive office building on the site was predicted to cost in 2007, according to the agency.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/politicsblog