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State Taxpayers Foot Bill For Empty Office Space

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The building is Piatt Place. A few years back it was the Lazarus Department store.

Today, it's a home to the state government and as a state taxpayer you're paying for a lot of unused space.

With Auditor General Jack Wagner, KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan found some 50 conference and meeting rooms -- none of which was in use -- or showed signs of ever being used.

More than a half dozen were assigned to the Department of General Services.

"As you can see it's not in use," Wagner said.

"Oh my Lord – another Department of General Services meeting room," he added. "How many Department of General Services meetings rooms are there? We can be sure of one thing – too many."

Several state departments moved into Piatt Place after Piatt and its partners bought the old state office building for $4.6 million.

Now, the state is paying more in one year of leases than it received in that sale.

In addition to Piatt Place which it is leasing for $3.2 million a year, the state is spending another $1.2 million to lease space at 11 Stanwix Street and another $900,000 to lease part of the Chamber of Commerce building on Seventh Avenue.

The total cost of all those leases comes to $5.2 million – about $600,000 more than the state got in the sale.

And you can add to that space across the street from Piatt Place in the Warner Center for LIHEAP and the state Department of Welfare's public assistance office, the state is leasing this Class A office space in the Warner center for another $700,000 a year.

The decision to sell the state office building and lease these properties was made by the Rendell Administration. A spokesman for the new governor Tom Corbett disavowed any responsibly.

"It's something that this administration will try to avoid by making better decisions with taxpayer money."

The Piatts and their company Millcraft declined to appear on camera, but told KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan the sale of the state office building will be a good deal for taxpayers since they plan to invest $45 million, turn it into apartments and condos and return the building to the tax rolls.

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