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Schwartz Says She's Looking Out for Taxpayers

Council member Carol Schwartz says she's saved taxpayers money on the leasing agreement for the police department's evidence warehouse in Southeast Washington.

Last month, the council approved a $1.1 million, 15-month lease that had previously cost $264,000 annually. Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) objected to increase, to no avail.

Though Schwartz voted for the lease, last week she met with the building owners, Curtis Properties, to urge them to change the contract. Schwartz didn't like that the contract called for the lease to increase even more if the city needed to stay beyond the May 1, 2009, deadline. At that point, the city would pay $12.50 a square foot, which would be up from $11.81 this year. For the past two decades the city has only paid $2.69 a square foot, an amount that the property owners and city officials acknowledge was below today's market price.

In addition, after that 2009 date, the city would also be locked into an 18-month lease, whether evidence is stored in the building or not. A new warehouse is in the plans, but it's unclear when construction will be completed.

Enter Schwartz. She said she's gotten the city out of the additional 18-month lease and its higher rate.

"If there is any needed time after that it will be paid for on a month-by-month basis with an end date to be determined," Schwartz said in a statement. "The rate after May 1, 2009 will remain the same as we voted on for a portion of 2008 and 2009 and would not bump up as it would have in the original agreement."

Schwartz notified the Office of Property Management about the agreement and expects the council to get another lease to vote on.

"This time it will be a fairer deal than before and will save money for the residents of the District of Columbia," Schwartz said.

By Yolanda Woodlee  |  April 3, 2008; 6:55 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
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