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State to lease 2 floors of post office

State to lease 2 floors of post office

November 2nd, 2013 in News

The U.S. Postal Service's main Jefferson City post office at 131 W. High St. is seen in this November 2013 photo.

U.S. Postal Service workers in the main post office, 131 W. High St., are getting some new neighbors - state government employees.

Office of Administration spokeswoman Wanda Seeney said Friday the state has agreed to a 20-year lease with the Postal Service, for the top two floors of the building across High Street from the Capitol.

"It is unknown at this time which agency(s) will occupy the space," she said in an e-mail. "The state is currently negotiating with a consultant (who) will be providing design services for the final build-out of the space.

"The extent of the renovation will not be fully known until the consultant has the opportunity to analyze the space and begin the process of design."

Several area lawmakers, including state Sen. Mike Kehoe and Rep. Jay Barnes, both R-Jefferson City, said last spring the space could be ideal for some offices related to the Legislature's work, such as Legislative Research or OA's Budget and Planning division.

At least partly driven by requirements of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, lawmakers for several years have discussed ways to get more space in the Capitol for lawmakers' offices, so they can reduce or eliminate the mezzanine-level of small House offices, with secretaries outside in a larger, common area, around the Capitol's first floor, that can be reached only by stairs.

Constituents and other visitors with disabilities often are unable to use those stairs, requiring the lawmakers to meet them in an alternative space or in the often-noisy hallways.

Also aimed at helping solve the Legislature's space problem, lawmakers last spring approved a $38 million capital improvements appropriation to build a new state office building on the grounds of the former Missouri State Penitentiary, about eight blocks east of the Capitol.

They envision having the state Transportation Department move to the new building from its current headquarters - at the southwest corner of Jefferson Street and West Capitol Avenue - leaving that building available for other Capitol offices that are not connected with the Legislature.

Some lawmakers over the years also have argued the statewide elected officials with offices in the Capitol - governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer - could be moved to other locations.

All but the governor already have offices in other buildings.

But those officeholders, over the years, have said they should at least have a ceremonial office in the Capitol, where visiting voters expect to find them.

Funding for the new building is part of the two-year capital improvements bill, and was withheld from spending last June by Gov. Jay Nixon, as he signed the budget bills into law.

Nixon has questioned the need for "a state office building for bureaucrats" when the state faces other needs for its money.

But, he said last May, putting the $38 million into a two-year bill "isn't a bad way to do it," because that allows administrators to monitor revenues and release the money if the income supports it.

Seeney said the lease for the second and third floors of the post office is divided into five-year pieces, with a 10 percent increase from one level to the next.

"The annual rent is $103,056 for the first five years," she said, then $113,361.60 for the second five years, $124,697.76 each year of the third five years and $137,167.54 for the final five years.

That's a total of $2,391,414.50 over the 20 years, or an average annual cost of $119,570.73.

The capital improvements bill passed last spring also included $50 million for Capitol repairs - almost twice what the governor requested - and that money also was withheld in June.

But that money is targeted at repairing numerous water problems in and under the building, including replacing the large, weather-worn wooden windows.

When released for spending, it would not be used for the other capital improvements projects.