Co. plans to make bid for fed building

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

During a scheduled joint meeting between Cape Girardeau City Council and the Cape Girardeau County Commission, county officials made one thing clear: They're determined to get possession of the old federal building.

The county hopes to make an offer to the General Services Administration soon and avoid watching the building at 339 Broadway be put up for auction online.

"There's no question there's a lot of challenges, but at the same time there's no question that county government is committed to get this done," county Commissioner Jay Purcell said.

One of those difficulties occurred when the GSA recently decided that, instead of giving the building to the county free of charge as had previously been discussed, it may prefer to sell it on the Internet. The GSA is concerned that past buildings given away in that manner have gone toward unexpected uses not consistent with laws mandating the free exchange.

But county officials believe an offer for the building will be appealing to the GSA.

One reason is that county personnel who would be moved from the Common Pleas Courthouse on Lorimier Street would only require about 15,000 of the 30,000 square feet of the building. That means the county could allow the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI offices currently housed there to stay in the building.

Rent from those two federal agencies would help county government defer some of the approximately $150,000 annual cost for upkeep and maintenance of the 40-year-old building.

Former county commissioner and building task-force leader Joe Gambill added that both the DEA and FBI have expressed interest in staying in the current building and are currently paying about $25 per square foot in rent to GSA.

By buying the building outright, the county can avoid "headache"-causing federal oversight, commissioners said.

"The idea that they're going to give you a federal building, sometimes that's a deal you don't want to take," Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said.

But Gambill believes it's important the county acts fast. If the building goes up for public auction, it may be lost forever, he said. Federal buildings are typically attractive to private businesses because they are well-maintained.

"One proposal is we go to GSA in Washington with our elected officials, we put a piece of paper in front of them and we'll 'Godfather' them. Make them an offer they can't refuse," he said.

All sides joked that they are unsure if the federal agencies will ever move out of the old building on Broadway. The opening for the new $50 million courthouse on Independence Street has been pushed back until sometime in July with a grand opening scheduled for August.

The previous opening date had been set for April 1 by GSA officials.

335-6611, extension 245

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