December 3, 2014
U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte continued his long-running criticism of the Poff Federal Building renovation Monday, charging in a congressional report that its government landlord focused on the wrong things, ignored valid criticism, misspent huge sums and barely improved the aging structure.
Instead of ending up with one partially upgraded old building, the government could have built one or two new buildings and gotten a much better value for the $80 million that’s likely to eventually be spent, the Roanoke County Republican said in an interview.
The Poff is Roanoke’s main federal building and a nearly 40-year-old landmark that houses local operations for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Those who have followed the saga and now read the new report will find that Goodlatte mostly repeats earlier criticisms of the building project, which spent about $65 million from 2011 to 2014, and of the building’s landlord, the General Services Administration, which has requested an additional $15 million for added-on work not in the original proposal.
Goodlatte, who has questioned the project since a year and a half before work began in late 2011, now condemns the job as a colossal, irreversible waste of money and effort.
“The project failed to measurably improve the building, extend its useful life, decrease net energy costs or even address the building’s most pressing needs. As a result, the GSA’s renovation of the Poff Federal Building is truly a hallmark in taxpayer waste,” according to the report.
And yet, the GSA is likely to receive the additional $15 million, he said. Too much money has been sunk into the project to stop at this point, he said.
By documenting events in the footnoted report, Goodlatte said he hopes to inform Congress, the GSA and others about what happened and convey common sense process-improvement guidelines to try to improve the GSA and restore the agency’s credibility. Goodlatte is especially upset that the GSA has said no one was disciplined over the episode, not even after the agency’s own inspector general found violations of the law.
The report by the House Judiciary Committee, which Goodlatte chairs, presents 38 pages of detail about the “misguided” renovation job, the GSA’s “mishandling” of the project and its “whitewash” of key facts raised by critics.
In the beginning, the government set out to complete the largest renovation ever for the building constructed on Franklin Road in 1974. The scope of work included a series of energy and other upfits funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Barack Obama’s initiative to accelerate the economy. Goodlatte’s investigation has found that workers never addressed many life and safety concerns, security needs and space issues.
A solar energy system planned for the roof was never installed, even though the goal of energy efficiency was a major reason the GSA scored the project as worth doing, Goodlatte said.
In addition, “security issues are still not addressed,” Goodlatte said, declining to elaborate.
GSA spokeswoman Gina Gilliam did not reply to an email seeking comment.