WASHINGTON, D.C. –
, R-Missouri, spoke on the floor of the Senate on
Thursday, saying the General Services Administration has
“apparently been unresponsive to the ongoing health concerns
of their employees and tenants at the Bannister Federal
Bond based his concerns on fears exposed during our
investigation into more than 100 Bannister Federal Complex
employees who say they fear their medical conditions could be
linked to known toxins there.
Bond is calling for an Inspector General
investigation into the concerns.
Bond is also closely watching for results of
tests at the facility’s day care
“In the next day or so, tests will come back on the
levels of Trichloroethylene or TCE, a dangerous carcinogen at the
Banister Complex,” Bond said.
“These tests were called for after a local TV station
reported unexplained illnesses afflicting Bannister workers and a
possible link to toxins at the complex,” Bond said, referring
Action News investigation
Bond said his office is hearing from parents of children at
the day care who are afraid.
“While the pending results of these tests are of
concern, the more disturbing fact is that these types of scares and
reports are becoming commonplace at the Bannister Federal
Complex,” said Bond.
Bond faulted the GSA for not being forthcoming about workers'
fears about a growing list of their sick and dead colleagues.
Bond made the comments while defending his efforts to block
the appointment of the GSA’s top executive.
The Missouri senator is battling with the agency over
whether to proceed on a $175 million proposal to open new
government office space in downtown Kansas City.
The move would allow employees to leave the aging Bannister
Federal Complex for new office space.
Senator Kit Bond
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Today, I rise to shed some light on the situation going on at
the General Services Administration (GSA) – a tangled mess of
bureaucracy I’ve been fighting against the last five years.
Yesterday, the President accused me of holding the nominee to
be Administrator, Martha Johnson, hostage. Now I feel no joy in
holding up this nominee, but the hostage I am concerned about is
NOT the one looking for a DC job.
Instead, the hostages I am worried about are the 1,000 people
working in a dump in Kansas City at the mercy of an agency that
refuses to act to remedy a problem they acknowledge exists. Again,
the hostage, with respect, is not Martha Johnson; the hostages are
the 1,000 Kansas City workers at the Bannister Complex.
As Senators we have a few tools at our disposal to carry out
our responsibilities. One of those important responsibilities is
oversight of the federal government. And one of these tools is to
force the Senate to debate – and actually vote – on an
issue rather than just be a rubber stamp for the Administration.
While he has criticized me for using this oversight tool, the
President wielded it himself when he was a Senator in this very
Senator Reid shares some responsibility in delaying Martha
You see, Johnson’s nomination actually passed out of
committee in May. Was she ever called up for a vote?
No. Because until July – when I formally placed an
informational hold on the nominee -- the Senator from Nevada,
according to Congress Daily, delayed her confirmation to ensure
that taxpayer dollars were still being used to send federal
employees to Las Vegas to meet, gamble or whatever one does in
Senator Reid has his priorities regarding the delay on this
nomination and I have mine. He wants more federal employees in Las
Vegas; I want federal employees in Kansas City to work in a
building with a roof that doesn’t leak.
Now some are complaining about the delay of this nominee. But
the truth is that the Majority Leader could have confirmed Martha
Johnson in May, June or July.
In addition, the Majority Leader picked last Thursday as his
day to file cloture on this nominee. As the Senator in charge of
the schedule, he could have picked any date in the last seven
months to file his cloture motion. But he waited until last
There are many reasons why a Senator might wish to place a
hold on a nominee that are related to our oversight
It is important to have debates like this not only when the
qualifications of the nominee are at stake, but when a federal
bureaucracy stops being responsive to the people and communities
they serve. That’s the real issue here.
Martha Johnson’s qualifications are not in doubt. But
as you will hear in a minute, the GSA is not being responsive to
the people of Kansas City.
The history here goes back about five years, and is a part of
a larger plan to move all tenants out of the dilapidated Bannister
Federal Complex. GSA initiated a plan to construct a new building
in downtown Kansas City in order to move the final jobs out of the
The community of Kansas City – all of the leadership,
the elected officials and others – had worked with the GSA to
get a building – a new building to replace the Bannister
The existing building - by any stretch of the imagination -
is extremely expensive to operate, will be sparsely occupied, is
not conducive as a good workplace, and needs to be replaced.
After three years the plan had the approval of GSA and OMB,
and all the financing had been committed in order to construct a
building on a lease-construction basis.
So what happened? With no warning, GSA called up to the EPW
committee the week of the markup to effectively put their OWN hold
on the very project they developed and approved, citing GSA’s
shift away from lease-construction plans.
For anyone following the project this latest move by GSA
defied logic. After all, three months earlier in June of 2008, GSA
was holding roundtables with real estate developers on the value of
the lease-construction plans and telling them how they could seek
In scrapping their own plan, GSA ensured that after all other
tenants vacated the inefficient, 5.2 million square foot complex;
more than 1,000 federal employees would be stuck working there.
That is about 5,000 square feet per employee. This
nonsensical plan would cost taxpayers 13 to 15 million dollars
annually just to mothball unused space and operate shared heating
and cooling equipment. That’s $13,000 to $15,000 a year per
employee for the UNUSED space.
I am also convinced that this was the best path forward that
for nine months they even went as far as to conduct an analysis to
justify the continued use of the Bannister Complex.
In this 60-day analysis “GSA concludes that the
Bannister Complex should be a mid-term hold (approximately 15
years).” This translates into nearly 10 years of continuing
to run a complex at 20% capacity.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out those
numbers are not a good use of taxpayer dollars.
However, yet again, GSA decided to change its mind in
September of 2009. This time GSA agreed to their original position
-- that a new building in Kansas City was GSA’s
Please bear with me – I know this is confusing.
Imagine how the Kansas City community feels after being
jerked around for five years. We all feel a little like Charlie
Brown. Every time we get ready to kick the ball down the field, GSA
So where are we now? Now that GSA has gone BACK to their
original objective that they earlier rejected?
Unfortunately, we are not even one step closer to a new
building for these workers. GSA has still taken no action, the
people of Kansas City haven’t heard anything and we still
haven’t seen an official plan out of GSA.
GSA agrees that Kansas City needs a new federal building so
it shouldn’t be asking too much for lawmakers and the
community to be told their plan, yet they have stubbornly refused
to produce one.
I met with Martha Johnson. I have worked with the Acting
I have asked repeatedly for GSA to come up with an official
plan to move Kansas City forward; they have refused. This is broken
bureaucracy at its worst.
Mr. President – my bottom line, the reason I am on the
floor today opposing this nomination is quite simple.
As Missouri’s senior Senator, my job is to fight on
behalf of the people that elected me. My job is to make sure that
bureaucrats in Washington do their job and serve the people.
GSA continues to ignore the Kansas City community.
My efforts have always been about keeping 1,000 jobs in
Kansas City, not blocking this one job in Washington.
My colleagues should be aware that there is more bad news at
this very same Bannister Federal Complex.
At the same time GSA has been unwilling to move forward on a
new building, they have also apparently been unresponsive to the
ongoing health concerns of their employees and tenants at the
Bannister Federal Complex.
In the next day or so tests will come back on the levels of
Trichloroethylene or TCE, a dangerous carcinogen at the Banister
These tests were called for after a local TV station reported
unexplained illnesses afflicting Bannister workers and a possible
link to toxins at the complex.
While the pending results of these tests are of concern, the
more disturbing fact is that these types of scares and reports are
becoming commonplace at the Bannister Federal Complex.
It is also alarming that I learned about this information
– not from GSA – but from the media.
Based on media reports, the implications for the health of
these workers is so serious I have called for an investigation.
I have asked the Inspector General of GSA to get to the
bottom of these alarming health allegations.
I will work with the proper authorities on all levels of
government -- such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry to uncover additional information.
And it goes without saying that I will demand more
transparent and comprehensive testing throughout the entire
For the safety of the workers, we need to know what is going
on at Bannister now, what has gone on in the past, who has known it
about, and how to move immediately to protect those potentially at
The bottom line is that these workers deserve answers.
This situation at GSA tells the American people that all they
can expect out of Washington is business as usual.
A government that is out of touch with their concerns, and
slow to act. Well, I don’t support business as usual. For
these reasons I will vote against the nomination and ask my
colleagues to do the same.
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