About 80 state employees are still working in the Chattanooga State Office Building more than a year after it was scheduled for closure under a Jones Lang LaSalle management plan, reports the Times Free Press. Some think that’s an indication that one of Gov. Bill Haslam’s earlier privatization efforts isn’t going well as the administration looks to a big expansion of outsourcing.
Employees started moving in April, 2014. Most of those remaining work for the Department of Correction.
It was almost exactly a year ago — Sept. 17, 2014 — that a state General Services official told the Times Free Press by email that the department “expected in about six weeks” to issue a request for proposals to find office space for the local Correction Department staff.
Ten days ago, on Sept. 4, a request for proposals finally was issued. The very same day, General Services issued a separate request soliciting local office-building owners to submit proposals to house employees with three other state agencies still in the Chattanooga State Office Building.
Those are the Tennessee Attorney General’s Chattanooga office, the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Human Rights Commission.
Asked about the delays, General Services Commissioner Bob Oglesby last week acknowledged “we’re still trying to find an adequate location [for] those people. I believe [the issue] is the Department of Correction tenant, so to speak. And they’re not suitable for all locations.”
For the Correction Department, that’s due at least in part to one simple fact: Among department employees are parole officers whose job is dealing with released felons, including sex offenders.
…In its initial study of state buildings, Jones Lang estimated it would cost $8.75 million to address repair issues at the Chattanooga State Office Building, with the bulk of the cost going for heating and air conditioning system replacement. Jones Lang actually recommended the state construct a new building. But the Haslam administration opted instead to find private leased space.
Jones Lang, now in charge of finding landlords for many departments, gets a 4 percent commission on each lease.
Meanwhile, Haslam is looking at outsourcing of real estate, energy management and building operations for almost all state-owned buildings including state parks, prisons and Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. Campus workers and Democratic lawmakers are in an uproar over that.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said Sunday the experience at the Chattanooga State Office Building with the Department of Correction doesn’t speak well of the administration’s attempt at further outsourcing.
Having “the old building operating at the same level, it’s not productive,” Fitzhugh said. “It’s obvious they’ve not thought this through. I think they have to realize that some things that government has to do are just different from the private sector and you can’t expect to let the private sector make money off it. And I think that’s been proved time and time again.”
John M. Hull, General Services’ deputy commissioner and head of the State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management, attributed delays to the department “trying to find the unique needs of every agency within the Chattanooga area. There were so many agencies within that building, we just did it in chunks essentially.”