Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee on government activities, said she believes that the General Services Administration is using "unrealistic . . . quotas" in its federal land sales program "that may be creating a kind of crisis atmosphere in which GSA could not be expected to do its best work."
But Carroll Jones, GSA's federal property resources commissioner, said internal agency targets are much lower than those developed by the Office of Management and Budget for Capitol Hill.
"We'll hit $250 million," Jones said. "I don't really feel that she is correct. We're using a realistic in-house target of $250 million. That's better than three times the 1982 results."
Originally, OMB said $1 billion would be sold by GSA in fiscal 1983, and then GSA and Interior would split $4 billion in sales annually in fiscal 1984 and beyond. Now, those marks have been scaled back formally to $440 million in sales in fiscal 1983 and $643 for fiscal 1984.
Earl E. Jones, GSA's assistant commissioner for real property, said that through June the agency has sold surplus land for $66.98 million--a record.
Collins has been trying to keep the land sales project on a front burner because of the potentially broad impacts that can be caused by changes in the program. For example, she is concerned that the administration is trying to mute traditionally free and discount transfers by emphasizing assessments that show the "highest and best use" often involves some form of development.
Boldly, Education Department officials have testified before Collins' subcommittee that federal rules and a 16-year-old agreement allow free transfers but the administration is subverting the measures.
"Two things are apparent," Collins contends. "One is that the old procedure has been changed, but not by published regulations . . . the other fact is that public benefit conveyances have slowed to a trickle . . . "
While Collins' argument is hardly new, GSA land sales officials say that few of the properties now on the block have been sought for discount transfers. One land sales specialist, James A. Folliard, said the number of applications in the eastern states for such transfers also has declined markedly since the Carter administration.
Don't get scared away, but if you want to follow this one you may need a calculator.
After a June 18 item in this column criticized GSA for fumbling with plans to spend emergency jobs bill money, Public Buildings Service budget chief Ira Jekowsky took umbrage. GSA has allocated "$78.4 million or 63 percent of the $125 million repair and alterations" constructions funds authorized by the law as of June 16, Jekowsky said.
After a little reporting, what emerges is the "reality" side of the issue that the GSA managers don't point to: While more than 60 percent of the money has been obligated to GSA regions, little has been spent. And on top of that, OMB requires that every last dime be paid back out of fiscal 1984 funds.
Statistics show that, GSA had actually contracted for only $347,215 worth of work through the third quarter of the fiscal year--in other words, those were the dollars actually going to jobs that otherwise would not have been created had the bill not passed. The total includes two fairly large projects: a $135,353 elevator repair project in Goldsboro, N.C., and a $126,936 air conditioning repair project for the Vicksburg (Miss.) U.S. Post Office and Courthouse.
Jekowsky points out that the jobs bill stimulated agency officialdom to plan ways to annually distribute funds evenly rather than letting spending slowly increase quarter to quarter.
However, because of the pay-back procedures, only $21.5 million more will be spent on small projects in fiscal 1984 and $24.3 million more than it originally expected to spend in fiscal 1983. Those sums will be paid back out of another construction account: on balance, a wash.
The Senate Public Works Committee has already cast a jaundiced eye at GSA's shuffle and rebutted it by adding $250 million for repair and alteration work, new consutrction and opportunity purchases of buildings.
"I'm glad they did it," said Public Buildings Commissioner Richard O. Haase. "It will allow us to do more work that was scheduled in future years sooner, including fire and life-safety type work."
In Milwaukee, GSA and the Postal Service were negotiating for a lease for a 6,000-square-foot satellite Post Office in a downtown federal building. GSA asked for $17.86 a square foot. Carley Management Co., which owns an adjacent tower building in the same complex, offered the USPS space for $22 a square foot. Guess which one the Postal Service picked?
When GSA Administrator Gerald Carmen got a fact sheet on the matter, he asked Public Buildings Commissioner Haase to call Postmaster General William F. Bolger and tell him personally--to put it tersely, and in Carmen's words--what "his people are doing to him and us, as taxpayers."
Bolger wouldn't take the call.
Grumbled Haase: "His staff referred me to a mid-level regional postmaster. I consider this part of headquarters' management responsibility because it is part of President Reagan's order to be prudent with government space. I have space vacant and they go out and lease their own."
USPS regional officials, however, say they were right, since GSA was offering a rate of $21.87 per square foot for the first two years, not less than $18, as Carmen was told. USPS regional postmaster general Paul Crulin said he will be paying $22.68 per square foot for a five-year lease.