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Federal government shut down

FILE PHOTO: Pat Washington (center) a furloughed federal employee of the USDA Farm Service Agency protests outside of the Federal Center on Goodfellow Boulevard in St. Louis on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Photo By David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

St. Louis officials are looking for sites to keep some 2,000 federal employees who work out of the General Service Administration’s Goodfellow Federal Complex in the city.

The facility at 4300 Goodfellow Boulevard was originally built as a munitions plant during World War II and houses about 1,500 U.S. Department of Agriculture Employees as well as employees from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration and GSA, according to the union that represents workers there.

A federal audit of the complex published earlier this year found high lead levels in the cafeteria and former child care center, ignored contamination studies and a persistent failure to warn or inform workers about known cancer-causing hazards on site. Employees at the complex have advocated for new offices due to the problems.

The American Federation of Government Employees said last month that USDA told its employees that GSA plans to eventually cease operations at the Goodfellow complex.

“GSA has also made USDA aware of its plan to cease operating at the Goodfellow Complex in the future,” USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration Donald Brice said in a June 26 letter to employees, according to an announcement from the AFGE. “Given the lack of important employee amenities such as the credit union, cafeteria and child care options, and consistent with the Department’s One Neighborhood space utilization initiatives, USDA is working with GSA to secure a new location or locations for all USDA employees that currently reside at the Goodfellow Complex.”

St. Louis Development Corp. Executive Director Otis Williams said Friday the city is looking for sites to meet the federal government’s needs. He said the government has indicated it needs a new building by 2024 and that it would like to stay in the city but will examine all its options. The city’s efforts were first reported by the St. Louis Business Journal.

In June, the USDA announced it would move two of its agencies, the Economic Research Service, a statistical agency, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funds cutting-edge agricultural science, to the Kansas City area from Washington. The agency said then about 550 positions were planned to be moved by the end of the year. St. Louis had made the short list of cities vying for the jobs.

A GSA representative couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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