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Federal Building Construction
Huntington Federal Building Renovation Update
February 1, 2013

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It's hard not to miss the mammoth construction project in downtown Huntington. Work on the federal building, home to the Corps of Engineers, has disrupted traffic flow for more than a year on the corner of 5th avenue and 8th street. Slowly, you can see the transformation from the top down.

Todd Mitchell is the Project Manager for the Corps and said, "For the general public, it wasn't attractive, but it will be."

The corps moved in 50 years ago, and this is the building's first major renovation.
The project is run by a government agency called GSA, General Services Administration and leases the building to the Corps of Engineers. GSA oversees the energy efficient work inside, while the Corps' focus is safety, the structural security of the building. Mitchell could not elaborate on construction details, due to classified information. Mitchell did say, "It will have more security and safety measures."

Currently, only 2 floors are complete. When construction began, employees who worked there had to move to the Pullman Plaza Hotel where the government rented space for temporary makeshift offices.

Steve Brewster works at the Corps and describes what his floor used to look like. "We had furniture that was old fashioned cloth and carpeted floors, not as good air flow and not as good lighting. There have been improvements since the renovation. Now, the furniture is more modern, as well as the lighting and ventilation. The temperature control has improved quite a bit."

The price tag to make the federal building safer and more energy efficient isn't cheap. The Corps of Engineers was awarded $16 million through The Recovery Act and $21 million from the Department of Defense. Each penny earmarked for energy-efficiency and post 9-11 security upgrades total $37 million.

David Tyson is a local attorney and concerned citizen and said, "That figure seems to be astronomical. The building needed to be modernized, no question about that, most agree. But it's one of the hot topics in town, at barber shops, sporting events, people are talking about the renovation of the federal building."

A key player in getting that funding is Congressman Nick Rahall from District 3. Rahall says the earmarked money is justified. "Like the strongest chain, our national security rests within our weakest link. We cannot afford a weak link anywhere in our country. Protecting federal facilities not only saves lives, it forges a stronger national security overall."

Tyson agrees that federal employees need a safer work environment, but not with a $37 million dollar tab. "Well, it is earmarked money, money that's there but that doesn't mean that every dime of federal money has to be spent. And that's part of our problem, we're living way beyond our means as a government. I think most people in this community think the amount being spent is excessive."

Todd Mitchell says the project is justified. "It helps the overall workforce. It's an investment here and in the future, whether it's flood damage reduction, navigation, recreation. We're doing this so we can provide those services to the region."

The project has also created more than a hundred local construction jobs. It's scheduled to be complete for all employees to move back inside by 2014. Traffic patterns along 5th avenue and 8th street will resume in 2015.




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