The General Services Administration saved more than $1.5 million in fiscal 1984 by challenging what it believed to be unreasonable property tax increases by the District government, according to John L. Stanberry, assistant commissioner for public utilities at the General Services Administration.
Stanberry said savings in the first full year of the tax-challenge program were "more than we expected and enough to say that we should have this program in place nationwide." Plans are being made to have each of GSA's 11 regional offices begin coaxing landlords who rent space to the government to challenge unreasonable assessments.
Last year, the biggest savings was incurred at the Nassif Building at 400 7th St. SW, where the city appraised the property at $74.2 million and GSA -- working with the owners -- got the appraisal reduced to $46.6 million. In each of the nine cases that have been resolved, the building owner actually makes the challenge before a D.C. review panel and is entitled to receive 25 percent of the savings in the first (and often only) year of the reduced assessment. Five other cases have been resolved in GSA's favor, but savings have not been calculated.
In the case of the Nassif Building, GSA will save $258,575 a year for five years, Stanberry said. David Nassif, who owns the building, is entitled to about $64,000.
"We are going to be looking at any building where there is more than 25,000 square feet of government space," Stanberry said.
Other assessments that were reduced include:
Bicentennial Building, 600 E St. NW, (from $25.65 million to $24.17 million).
Shoreham Building, 15th and H sts. NW, ($14.91 million to $14.02 million).
Gelman Building, 2120 L St. NW, ($9.56 million to $7.76 million).
Riddell Building, 1730 K St. NW, ($23.85 million to $21.79 million).
Railway Labor Building, 400 First St. NW, ($8.86 million to $5.5 million).
Safeway Building, 521 12th St. NW, ($11.61 million to $8.44 million).
Indiana Building, 1201 E St. NW, ($12.32 million to $11.08 million).
Judiciary Plaza, 450 Fifth St. NW ($48.6 million to $41.4 million).
2100 K St. NW, ($30.21 million to $28.7 million).
The government has not been alone in successfully challenging office building assessments this year. The D.C. Board of Equalization and Adjustment has lowered the city's tax base by more than $1 billion, leaving many office buildings assessed at far less than they could be sold for, according to some city officials.
Rate intervention cases before public utilities commissions saved the federal government $23.641 million in fiscal 1984 -- just short of the record $24.874 million saved in fiscal 1983, Stanberry said. The biggest saving was a challenge to a rate hike filed by Potomac Electric Power Co. that would have cost the government an estimated $20.88 million.
George E. Walker, director of the rate case division of the public utilities office, was able to knock that total down to to $7.26 million -- a $13.62 million "gross cost avoidance."
Of the total, $3 million in savings involved GSA's challenge to a decision by Pepco to bill the government for city street lighting around federal buildings. That proposal was dropped.
The Federal Interagency Energy Policy Committee, which is under the Energy Department, has awarded GSA three citations for exceptional accomplishments in energy efficiency, according to Wolfgang Zoellner, GSA's assistant commissioner for building management.
Bob Skinner, a GSA manager in Fort Worth, was honored for "enthusiasm and initiative" in managing energy programs in the south-central part of the country for GSA. In honoring Skinner, the committee said a key to his success was "his active review and adoption of employe suggestions and his involvement in developing and presenting education and training programs." Two GSA units were also honored: the Mechanical Operations staff in the Toledo Federal Building and the Oak Ridge (Tenn.) Field Office.
GSA plans to spend about $295.8 million on repair and alteration work on federal office buildings in fiscal 1985 -- topping the previous fiscal year's outlays by more than $100 million. Although dollar values have not been assigned to all projects, two of the largest are expected to be in the area.
In Suitland, GSA will begin converting office space to special-use space to handle classified material for the Naval Intelligence Command. Construction work will include blocking up windows for security reasons, installing a fire-safety system and upgrading the electrical, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.
And, in Washington, the Auditors Building at 14th St. and Independence Ave. will get a complete face lift as part of a project to revive its historic character. Vacant space will be upgraded and filled with offices, new windows will be installed and a fire-safety system will be added.
In the 98th Congress, 17 federal office buildings under GSA's control were ordered named after past and present members of Congress. Traditionally, only deceased members were honored, but this Congress continued on a relatively new trend to bestow lasting memorials to such men as former senator Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine), former speaker Carl B. Albert (D-Okla.) and then-senator Sen. Jennings Randolph (D-W.Va.).
A GSA inspector general's review of the contract guarding service provided by Citywide Inc. of New York for the Patent and Trademark Office in Crystal City shows that, during the past year, guards had abandoned their posts, were caught asleep, failed to ask for identification from visitors and were spotted watching television, eating snacks or reading while on duty. The IG said the communications breakdown has been repaired, 13 guards have been disciplined (including five dismissals) and the contractor has been asked to reimburse the government for the time that posts were not manned.
GSA has drawn up new regulations that will allow presidential appointees -- including those who must be confirmed by the Senate and those who do not -- to receive a relocation allowance when they and their families move to Washington. The rules, drawn up to comply with a section of this year's continuing resolution, have been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for final review.
Donna Stright, director of GSA's travel and transportation regulations office, said that the law "basically modifies a year-old law that had allowed limited relocation benefits to presidential appointees who were confirmed by the Senate."
"An Ed Meese, for example, under the old law, would not be allowed to have the government pay for his relocation to Washington," Stright said. "There is absolutely no indication of what the change will cost or how many people will be involved."