Millions of dollars in state property unneeded, but not for sale

7:19 AM, May 24, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- More than a dozen buildings owned by the state of Georgia sit empty and unused, but for now there are no efforts to sell any of them.

A spokesperson for the Georgia agency that handles surplus state property says state law makes it impractical to keep state-owned property up for sale all the time.

"We're frustrated," said Katy Pando, Director of Communications for the Georgia State Properties Commission. "We certainly understand how somebody who lives near those properties would want a for sale sign out there, and we encourage them to talk to their legislator."

The state would like to sell 13 buildings that are no longer in use, but previous attempts to find a good buyer failed. Most are now off the market.

"You can't just go rebid, rebid, rebid, and hope someone will eventually bid the market value," said Pando. "We know there's no interest out there and there's a cost associated with that."

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11Alive News was alerted to the issue of empty state buildings when a viewer told us about the Labor Department career center in Lawrenceville that closed in 2002. The building is still empty, grass growing through cracks in the parking lot.

"Nobody sees the waste," said Ed Mach, who lives near the empty building. "I've complained to the Labor Department and even the governor's office over the years. Nothing has been done."

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Efforts to sell the building resulted in a bid of $300,000 in 2007, less than half the appraised value. The state is no longer entertaining offers.

Other buildings sit empty, like the old Metro State Prison in DeKalb County, valued at more than $20 million. There is the former office of the Forestry Commission in Forsyth County that's been closed for over five years. The appraised value in 2007 was over $300,000.

The Properties Commission says selling state property isn't as simple as putting up a sign like you would at your home. State law requires a process that involves paying for two appraisals then taking sealed bids with no chance to negotiate over the price.

Pando says there's no need in going through all of that unless there is interest.

"If we don't know there's some interest out there, there's no point in spending the state's money to advertise buildings that there's not an active interest," Pando said.

A bill presented to the state legislature last session would have streamlined the process. It died in committee.

"If that bill passes next year, that for sale sign will be out there and we can negotiate and take the best and final offer," Pando said.

The state has sold $45 million worth of surplus property over the last eight years.

Only $2 million of that has come over the past year.

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