As state tourism agency mulls new headquarters options, some question financial costs

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The state's tourism and recreation agency is looking into options for a new headquarters after a forced move-in with another state agency in 2015. But some are questioning the amount of money the agency is spending, and would likely spend, to build a new building.

"We’re looking at plans. Construction takes time, so we’re just going through all of the steps to see if this is something we want to do or need to do," said Leslie Blair, a Oklahoma Department of Tourism & Recreation spokeswoman.

"The time frame is not months, it is years to build a new building. So we’re just going through the steps and doing what we need to do to start the process, should we decide that's the path that we want to go.”

Part of that planning takes money. The agency is spending more than $24,000 on figuring out its needs.

The department was forced out of the First National Center back in 2015 and the hundred-plus employees have been sharing space with the Commerce Department at 900 N. Stiles Ave. since.

One option the agency is toying with is constructing a building to the south of the commerce building, paid with a $9 million bond issue approved by the legislature in 2007.

"We don’t know if we’re going to use it. It’s just something that at some point we know we’re going to need new office space," said Blair. "We’re going to have a cost for office space, whether we’re paying rent to another state agency or moving out of the building to some real estate developer or the state of Oklahoma could own an asset."

But some are questioning the timing and placement of the money.

“You’re going to spend $20,000-$24,000 to do a study and potentially spend $8-9 million on a new building?" said Sterling Zearley, the executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. "In my opinion, they should take that money if they're going to bond it, and use to fix up the other state parks, like they have at Lake Murray and Sequoia State Park."

Zearley says the money should be spent elsewhere, especially considering the recent budget woes that have plagued the state.

“I could understand if you use that money to generate additional revenues in the state parks, the lodges, where you need, you can do upgrades, to generate economic impact for those local areas and for the state of Oklahoma," he said.


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