BOE building gremlins linger in ‘sick’ building

BOE building gremlins linger in ‘sick’ building

There must be gremlins living in the Board of Equalization building in downtown Sacramento. What else could explain burst water pipes, flooding, mechanical problems, bats, mold, and falling glass?

bureaucracy, cagle, Aug. 27, 2013

BOE employees have complained for years of safety hazards and moldy, smelly, and even dirty problems at the Board of Equalization.

State lawmakers have been trying to begin the lengthy process of having a new building built, or at least getting the BOE out of the 24-story building at 450 N Street.

Last week during an Assembly Budget Committee hearing, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, raised the issue again. Dickinson has been trying to pass legislation to get the process started to either renovate the building, or move the agency and employees to a new location.

Before Dickinson, then-Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, and then-Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster tried to move legislation for the BOE to move.

The high-rise originally cost $79 million, but has cost more than $50 million in repair costs, according to state insiders. And the cost to make the repairs on the BOE building has grown to more than $70 million.

Long history of problems

The state bought the building in 2006. But the gremlins inside the building had apparently been there since the building was first built in 1993.

Shortly after occupying the building, problems began, and employees began to make serious health claims. There was even talk of abandoning the building and having the Department of General Services sell it.

In the first year, eleven employees filed legal claims alleging that the Board of Equalization ignored repeated complaints about damp conditions and mold, and tried to cover up the problem.

Since then, there has been extensive water leakage from both broken pipes, and leaky windows when it rains. Following the water leaks came the mold. There are the broken elevators, and there was even an infestation of bats. Four entire floors were sealed off at one time because of safety and health concerns, but have  been repaired, reopened and are again being used.

More problems

Part of the problem with moving out is financial. The bonds on the building won’t be paid off until 2021. Some say the Department of General Services is reluctant to vacate the building because the bonds require the building be occupied.

Adding to the complications, Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2014-15 budget would pay for a five-year study on the building, rather than remodel the known problems, or move the BOE out. Some say the governor doesn’t want to incur any new debt, which is understandable. But this problem is not getting any better by sitting… and molding.

In October, the DGS sent out a “request for information” for a study on where BOE employees could move. The BOE said it needs between and 750,000 and 800,000 square feet of office space to house all of its employees. BOE employees are currently in five different locations.

There is no telling when this will be resolved. It’s a mess, and a perfect example of an unnecessarily complicated government bureaucracy, which cannot even figure out how to fix the existing BOE building, or move employees elsewhere. Dickinson’s office said he will keep on trying.

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