DES MOINES, Iowa -- The General Services Agency’s initial decision to build a $137 million courthouse on the Des Moines Riverwalk has been met with sharp public criticism and efforts from city leaders to try and change its mind.
Now, U.S. Representative David Young is weighing in, and says he's not pleased with the agency's lack of transparency. In a Congressional meeting in May, Representative Young expressed his wishes that the GSA work closely with the city and the public in general on the plan.
“I just want to impress upon you how imperative it is to also make sure you’re working with the city of Des Moines and the community there, the public community there, regarding this decision and the process as we go forward,” said Young.
Representative Young said he was assured the GSA would do just that, but after the surprise announcement that the agency selected the old YMCA property downtown for their new federal courthouse, Young wrote them a letter saying he was disappointed that neither his office nor the city was kept up-to-date on the decision.
“I want to make sure the people of Des Moines, the Mayor’s Office, the city council, and the residents of Des Moines, particularly in the downtown area where this is gonna be, have a strong voice, that they’re heard, that the GSA listens, that there’s some good back and forth dialogue and transparency. Because with a $137 million investment it’s going to be there for a very, very long, long time, and we want to make sure we get it right and can all agree on this,” he said in an interview.
The city council hoped the property would be used for economic development rather than an un-taxable courthouse, and Young says the GSA has several unanswered questions about the selection.
“Parking issues, sewer upgrade issues, security issues, floodplain issues...we just want to make sure that GSA is answering these questions and they’re accountable,” said Young.
In a letter written in mid-July, Young says the GSA did not use current floodplain data in their environmental assessment, and asks why. He also asks if the GSA took the old Bird's Run sewer system underneath the YMCA property into account, and if they factored the cost of removal into their estimate.
“GSA is going to really have to justify some of the criticism they’ve come under, and try to justify some answers to that criticism. They may change their plans, they may not, but they’re going to have to be really accountable to the taxpayer for every question that folks in Des Moines and the city’s office has,” he said.
Congressman Young says he is supposed to hear back on these issues by the end of the week. He has no preference for the GSA’s selected location, only that the city has a voice in the matter.
Read Congressman Young’s letters here: