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State agencies reducing leasing of private buildings

If you live in the Bismarck-Mandan area, you may have noticed a “For Sale” sign on the “Gold Seal” building on Divide Avenue, north of the Capitol.

For a number of years, the state leased that building for the environmental division of the state Health Department – which later became its own agency, the Department of Environmental Quality.

It was one of a number of locations leased by the state.

"At the start of the 2019 biennium, we had approximately 440,000 square feet of space that we leased off of the Capitol grounds," said state Facilities Manager John Boyle.

Boyle said some of that was in state owned buildings, like the WSI (Workforce Safety and Insurance) Building, which has a few state agencies in it besides WSI.

"Starting in the 2021 biennium, we've reduced that by 120,000 square feet," Boyle said.

Boyle said the DEQ had rented 40,000 square feet in the Gold Seal Building. He said that department has moved into the building where the state’s Information Technology Department is headquartered. That is also a leased building. Boyle said ITD pays $1.7 million to lease its space, while DEQ was paying $600,000.

"So now, by them moving over there, and lasing from ITD, the two of them are paying the $1.7 million," Boyle said.

Boyle said the Public Employees Retirement System moved into the building where Workforce Safety and Insurance is – saving money there. And he said agencies like Commerce and Parks and Recreation – that used space in the WSI building – are now back on the Capitol grounds.

"We actually have about 30,000 square feet moved back to the Capitol grounds, because of teleworking," Boyle said.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant a number of state employees had to work from home. And Boyle said that has continued, even as pandemic restrictions eased.

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