By William Patrick | Watchdog.org

The U.S. Government Services Administration has a $31 million plan to fix a $10 million federal courthouse in downtown Pensacola plagued from the start with toxic mold.

The GSA is paying $4.7 million in rent for tenants who have for more than a year been farmed out to other federal buildings and $6.25 million for their relocation.

Costs for the relocation while the government tries to reclaim its unusable building are expected to rise to $20 million over the next five years.

“This is a situation where the facility itself has had problems from the very beginning. Poor design problem, poor construction, and GSA, unfortunately, has been trying to sweep the problem under the rug,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican whose district encompasses Pensacola.

“Incredibly, GSA has never answered to anyone, much less its tenants, for its failure to properly address, and competently resolve, the situation,” wrote the court’s Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers in a letter to the Public Buildings Service, a division of GSA.

The U.S. Courthouse for the Northern District of Florida was built in 1997, under a construction-lease arrangement. A private developer, known then as the Keating Corporation, constructed the $10 million building on land owned by the City of Pensacola.

The GSA agreed to lease the building from Keating Corp. for a 20-year term. The district court and other federal tenants paid rent to the GSA. The agency is responsible for all maintenance and capital improvements.

The courthouse’s 1997 opening was delayed eight months because of water intrusion and mold problems. Repairs were needed nearly every year since, often multiple times a year and at significant expense.

According to Rodgers, the district court paid GSA a total of $34 million in rent over the past 18 years — $5 million more than GSA has paid the developer.

“These numbers are staggering, particularly when you consider that the courthouse cost $10 million to build, but it is even more disturbing that despite the substantial rent and resulting profit to GSA, the water intrusion and mold problems still exist,” said Rodgers.

The GSA provides and manages office space for federal employees. It has 12,000 government workers and a $21 billion annual budget.

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