Earlier this week, the White House announced that it's looking to sell off excess federal properties -- chief among them, the million-square-foot, 75-acre Fort Worth Federal Center. Says the Obama administration, "Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted each year on government properties that are no longer needed." Which sounded familiar: Over the years, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm and I have had this same conversation about vacant city-owned properties, chief among them libraries and fire stations that have been replaced by newer models.
So I shot Suhm an email, asking: Given the fact she's going to have to cut $60 million to $100 million from the coming fiscal year's budget, will she make a renewed effort to part with those properties?
"It's an ongoing thing," she says over the phone this afternoon. "It's not like I'll say, 'Give me any price any time.' We're not going to sell 'em for a quarter. The real estate group watches the market and sees if they have anybody interested. We don't want to be in the real estate business, but we don't want to just give them away. I'll be curious to see what price [the feds] set for theirs."
She says there are currently three empty libraries: Casa View, Walnut Hill and Lancaster-Kiest; she's not sure how many old fire stations there are, but I know of at least one. "Some of them, off and on, have been leased," Suhm says of the firehouses. "We'll eventually sell 'em, certainly not when we think the price is too low."
As for the budget, council will get its first look at real numbers a week from Wednesday, following the general election. "That's the first time we'll get feedback," Suhm says. I asked how it's going. She says: "I don't like the uncertainty of the state and federal situation. The state's especially worrisome, as they're looking at taking locally generated revenue." A better look will come in mid-June -- "so the council isn't surprised when it comes back from the July break."
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