The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 53

THE $14 MILLION Richard H. Poff Federal Building
was heralded as part of Roanoke's "new era" in the inaugural issue of The Roanoker in the fall of 1974.
A photo of the under-construction, 14-story tower
ran alongside a cover-story essay by Founder/Publisher
Richard Wells that cited the new federal building as part
of downtown Roanoke's reinvention.
No longer.
Today, the structure has become a different kind of
symbol: One of governmental waste, malpractice and
bureaucracy.
"It's a slap in the face of the taxpayers," says 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte.
The Poff Federal Building was selected for a $51 million renovation project funded through the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known
as the federal stimulus.
But through a mix of mind-bogglingly bad (and allegedly illegal) bid management, cost overruns and allaround poor planning, the project cost has escalated to
more than $80 million.
As the renovation limps to its conclusion, all tenants
have returned: U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Marshal
Service, U.S. Attorneys' office, the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Veterans Administration.
Court officials, though, say renovation work has not
only not improved their working conditions, but it's
actually decreased functionality and security. The elevator still malfunctions. The renovation plan didn't take
security into consideration, despite protests from people
who work in the building, especially in federal court.
Because of the renovations, the formerly bulletproof entrance to judges chambers was replaced by a
glass door and security cameras in the hallways were
rendered useless due to technical compatibility issues.
Jury members must leave through the courtroom, often
right past defendant and his or her family and friends.
Similarly, the only grand jury room entrance involves
walking through a private lobby, often filled with witnesses, targets and their friends.
In June, Glen Conrad, chief judge for the U.S. district
court's western district, told a congressional subcommittee that security hadn't been enhanced and in fact
was diminished in some cases.
"For me, the most bothersome and disturbing reality is that five years from announcement of the Poff
Stimulus Project, and after expenditure of millions of
dollars, the user functionality in the court portion of
the building has not been enhanced whatsoever, in any
way, shape, or form," Conrad said.
HOW DID THIS well-meaning project, designed to
update the building and make it more energy-efficient,
go so horribly wrong?
The problems started with the stimulus bill itself,
THE

R OANOKER.COM

passed in February 2009. Designed to alleviate the national recession of 2008 and 2009, the bill funded socalled "shovel-ready" projects and provided budgetary
support for state governments. The GSA, the agency
responsible for most of the country's federal buildings,
was awarded 273 stimulus projects worth $5.2 billion.
David Ehrenwerth, the GSA's regional administrator,
told Congress in 2011 the Poff Building was selected
because it was "an under-performing asset."
"Our building surveys and studies show that significant reinvestment is needed to repair this aging building," Ehrenwerth said. "The Recovery Act provided us
with the opportunity to invest the funds necessary to
update the building systems and features with highperformance ones" such as energy-efficient walls, an
electricity-generating solar system on the roof, and new
lighting and mechanical systems.
The flash nature of the funding, however, meant that
the GSA rushed the process.
"They did this in a hurried fashion to try and spend
money to stimulate the economy," says Goodlatte, who
sparked scrutiny of the project in 2010 when he publicly
called for a halt to the work. "They took a project that
shouldn't have been treated this way. Suddenly, from the
GSA's budget perspective, they had free money. They
decided they could do this very quickly and that they
could do it with money that wasn't in their budget."
The GSA based its cost estimates on a feasibility study
instead of an independent government agency, which
violated the Federal Acquisition Regulation, according
to a 2010 report from the Office of Inspector General.
It also shrugged off questions as to whether the government should just tear down the building and start
fresh. Ehrenwerth argued that constructing a new
building would cost twice as much as renovating the
old. But the GSA didn't conduct a cost/benefit analysis
of whether to renovate or start from scratch until after
the bid was awarded.
GSA spokeswoman Gina Blyther Gilliam: "Options
included selling to a private developer, who would perform renovations and lease back space, or construction
of a new facility that would suit the needs of both the
Courts and the Department of Veterans Affairs. That

COURT OFFICIALS, THOUGH, SAY
RENOVATION WORK HAS NOT ONLY NOT
IMPROVED THEIR WORKING CONDITIONS,
BUT IT'S ACTUALLY DECREASED
FUNCTIONALITY AND SECURITY.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014

53


http://www.THEROANOKER.COM

The Roanoker - September/October 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - September/October 2014

Digital Help Guide
From the Publisher
The Look
The 360
The Gossip
The Flavor
The Gist
The Calendar
Roanoke in the Year 2054
Appreciations and Deprecations: Perspectives on Roanoke Over the Years
What Really Happened with Design ‘79?
The Poff Building Debacle
Roanoke Then & Now
40 Stars of 40 Years
Covers Great, Covers Not-So-Great
Green Building
Restaurants of Old … and Still Here!
Dining: Fiji Island and the New Yorker Deli
The Dish
The Perfect Weekend
Retire-VA
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Intro
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Cover1
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Cover2
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 3
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 4
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 5
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 6
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 7
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Digital Help Guide
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 9
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - From the Publisher
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 11
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Look
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 13
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The 360
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 15
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Gossip
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 17
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Flavor
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 19
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Gist
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 21
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 22
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Calendar
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 24
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 25
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 26
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 27
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 28
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 29
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Roanoke in the Year 2054
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 31
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 32
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 33
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 34
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 35
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 36
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 37
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 38
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 39
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Appreciations and Deprecations: Perspectives on Roanoke Over the Years
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 41
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 42
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 43
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 44
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 45
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 46
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 47
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - What Really Happened with Design ‘79?
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 49
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 50
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 51
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Poff Building Debacle
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 53
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 54
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 55
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Roanoke Then & Now
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 57
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 40 Stars of 40 Years
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 59
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 60
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 61
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 62
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 63
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 64
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 65
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 66
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 67
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 68
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 69
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 70
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 71
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 72
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 73
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 74
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 75
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 76
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 77
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 78
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 79
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 80
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 81
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 82
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Covers Great, Covers Not-So-Great
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 84
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 85
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 86
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 87
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 88
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Green Building
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 90
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 91
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 92
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 93
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 94
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 95
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 96
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 97
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 98
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Retire-VA
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R2
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R3
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R4
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R5
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R6
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R7
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R8
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R9
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R10
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R11
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R12
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R13
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R14
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R15
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R16
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R17
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R18
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R19
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R20
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R21
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R22
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R23
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R24
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R25
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R26
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R27
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R28
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R29
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R30
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R31
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - R32
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Restaurants of Old … and Still Here!
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 100
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 101
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 102
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 103
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Dining: Fiji Island and the New Yorker Deli
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 105
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 106
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 107
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 108
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 109
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Dish
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 111
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 112
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 113
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - The Perfect Weekend
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Cover3
The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - Cover4
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