By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — Miami’s love affair courthouses is costing taxpayers a bundle.
Not only does it cost a fortune to build a new courthouse, the cost of maintaining the structures they replace is eye-popping.
In 2008, the historic David W. Dyer Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on First Avenue was left for dead when it was replaced with the Wilkie D. Ferguson U.S. Courthouse, a modern version located next door.
Now, the old courthouse costs taxpayers $1.2 million a year, just to keep the place from falling down.
“The Dyer Courthouse has been empty for five or six years gathering mold,” U.S. Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., said.
Shortly after Mica held a hearing on the property, he said he heard from Eduardo J. Padron, president of Miami Dade College, who was interested in acquiring the property.
The General Services Administration, an independent federal agency repsonsible for government buildings, didn’t respond to Padron’s inquiries, Mica said.
“It costs a couple of million dollars to maintain it, and now a couple of more million dollars on mold remediation is required to keep it empty,” the congressma said.
Now, the GSA says it will cost about $60 million to get the old federal courthouse in shape and fit for habitation.
Mica said that if the GSA had followed up with Padron to buy or lease the property, it wouldn’t be in this mess it is in today.
“As you can see from the photos of this beautiful building, it is shameful that GSA has failed to deal with a willing buyer, or lease it to Miami Dade College, who has repeatedly expressed interest,” he said.
GSA reportedly has spoken with Miami Dade College about the structure. A GSA spokesman did not respond to emails requests for information.
But a college spokesman said “there has been progress” in dealing with the GSA to acquire the building.
“We hold the hope that, someday, the Dyer building passes to Miami Dade College, because we have a lot of programs, related with the law, that can take place there, ideally,” Juan Mendieta, the college’s communications director, said.
“We have the experience of dealing with historic buildings. We have the Freedom Tower, the Tower Theater, and the Koubek Center.”
The old Dyer building is just one example of federal property falling into disrepair.
“GSA continues to sit on thousands of valuable assets like this federal courthouse. This waste is absolutely unacceptable when the federal government is closing facilities, reducing services and on the verge of bankruptcy. We must do a better job of turning these valuable properties into revenue generating assets for the American taxpayer,” he added.
While the Dyer building sits empty, the Wilkie D. Ferguson United States Courtwas was overbuilt by some 238,000 square feet with costs overruns of $49 million, according to 2012 testimony during a committee hearing concerning the vacant federal building.
But Miami isn’t the only city with a new federal courthouse.
Between 2000 and 2010, the federal government built 33 new courthouses around the country. According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government built 3.5 million square feet more than it needed. That unoccupied space cost taxpayers $835 million to build and continues to cost $51 million annually to maintain.