Opinion

Right there in the fine print; GSA's bureaucratic blunder | Guest column

By Sarah Hanson

—Open letter to Congressman Rick Larsen:

Those who follow the proposed relocation of Customs and Border Patrol in Friday Harbor know very well that the General Services Administration (GSA) negotiated the lease on First and Spring.

GSA is an agency of the federal government that coordinates rentals and real-estate transactions on behalf of other government departments. Customs and Border Patrol merely articulated their desire for a new space, outlined their requirements, and then asked the GSA to find appropriate sites for Field Operations in Friday Harbor.

Like all federal agencies, GSA has a long list of guidelines and requirements that it must observe. In this letter, I will demonstrate that the GSA did not follow proper protocol in securing the lease.

The procurement process for Federal Agencies is governed by Title 40 of the U.S. Code. According to the GSA website, “The new Title 40 reflects the 2002 recodification and has been enacted by Congress. It is now the source of our authorities. It supersedes all of the previous different statutes under which we operate.”

Title 40 of the U.S. Code, under “Ex. Ord. No. 12072. Federal Space Management” gives very specific guidance regarding considerations of site impact and the necessity to inform and receive input from local government agencies.

Under section 1-2 Administrator of General Services:

1–203. In the process of meeting Federal space needs in urban areas and implementing the policies of this Order, the Administrator shall:

(c) Consult with appropriate Federal, State, regional, and local government officials and consider their recommendations for and objections to a proposed selection site or space acquisition.

1–204. In ascertaining the social, economic, environmental and other impacts which site selection would have on a community, the Administrator shall, when appropriate, obtain the advice of interested agencies.

GSA administrators clearly violated 1-203(c) because they did not consult with local government in Friday Harbor. The Town had no direct communication with GSA in calendar year 2013, the year in which the lease was negotiated. What more “appropriate” local government officials could there be?

In my view, these mistakes are critical. GSA was supposed to have consulted with regional and local government officials to consider their recommendations for a proposed site before the site was chosen.

San Juan County Council and Town of Friday Harbor, I implore you to involve yourselves in this matter.  We need our local government agencies to hold other government agencies accountable.

Please stand up. The citizens of Friday Harbor will not rest until you do.

 

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