The Edmond Sun

Local News

March 1, 2013

Speaker’s bill calls for downsizing state-owned properties

EDMOND — None of the state of Oklahoma’s most underutilized properties are located within the City of Edmond, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. A 2012 report of the 5 percent most underutilized state properties was ordered by the state Legislature to enable a comprehensive property listing.

A beneficial aspect of government efficiency will be the reduction of underutilized office space, Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon said this week to The Edmond Sun.

“I’ve been working for the last couple of years to evaluate what property the state of Oklahoma owns,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “We’re the largest state owner of property, but we still don’t know how much we own.”

Underutilized assets should be liquidated, while also funding and repairing vital assets to the state, he said. Repairs to the state Capitol and fulfilling the infrastructure needs of the Office of Chief Medical Examiner should be resolved, Shannon said.

State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said performance metrics also allows employees to work efficiently from their own home, reducing the property cost of the state’s footprint. This enables telework and allows the state to reduce the size of its real property footprint, said Murphey, chairman of the House Government Modernization Committee. Many of those properties can be put back in the free market to produce tax revenue, he added.

“We know that the income from privatizing underutilized property should be in the millions,” Murphey said. “If you look at the replacement value of those properties/buildings it likely runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The actual market-driven price may be less than this, Murphey said. Understanding a property’s replacement value is important when realizing how much money the state has invested in properties that are underutilized, he added.

“It is our goal to stop this practice,” Murphey said.

Properties are listed in a tier system with Tier 3 defined as the most underutilized. These state-owned properties include three Department of Human Services entities; the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center at Enid, the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center at Pauls Valley and the Laura Dester Center in Tulsa.

Other state-owned property on the list includes the Haskell Building, located at Conners State College in Muskogee; the former Oklahoma City central laboratory of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, a Tulsa office studio of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority; and the State Capitol Publishing Museum, located in Guthrie and operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The museum closed indefinitely in 2012.

“We also know that there are other savings to be found by looking at that report,” Murphey continued. “For instance, we can walk-back the state’s dependence on leasing space by forcing state government to avoid those costs by better utilizing the space it does have.”

Millions of dollars saved each year could fund deferred maintenance without debt issuance, Murphey said.

“The Speaker’s House Bill 1910, which we won approval for in the Government Modernization committee on Thursday, does all of this,” Murphey said. “It forces the state to stop the practice of allowing state agencies to lease space when state-owned space sits unused.”

Also, state officials will continue to be required to study and identify underutilized properties each year.

TO LEARN MORE about the states most underutilized properties, visit http://tinyurl.com/a6gnrnz.

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