The provincial government is now saving more than $2 million a year by taking up less physical space.
In March 2017, a news release marked the province leasing 42,000 fewer square feet of office space than it had in 2016. That number has increased since, as the Liberals continue working toward a stated goal of 110,000 fewer square feet by 2020, from the 2016 level.
“We are ahead of our targets, actually,” Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker said during a committee meeting, involving a line-by-line review of his department’s budget, at the House of Assembly this week.
Crocker said the department reached a reduction of about 90,000 square feet by budget time, and a new request for proposals was out with the potential to contribute further.
In an interview Thursday, he told The Telegram that request for proposals had closed, and the expectation is another 30,000 square feet will go onto the existing tally after changes to the footprint for Fisheries and Land Resources in Corner Brook are completed.
“It’s moving parts, and totally maximizing use of every square foot of our space,” Crocker said, when asked about how it’s all practically achieved.
He clarified the government is employing a new standard for required office space, mirroring a federal standard. It means a policy of not leasing space with private offices for every employee and using more cubicle areas when jobs don’t require private offices.
In some cases, it’s moving entire groups of people into buildings already owned by the government, where the space is available with a little shuffling.
For example, $273,000 a year is being saved after the move of staff with Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, who were in leased office space in St. John’s, to the first floor of the West Block of the Confederation Building.
That move was possible after some reconfiguration within the Confederation Building.
The first-floor space was previously occupied by staff with Municipal Affairs. That department had what a Transportation and Works department official described as pockets of underutilized space and empty cubicles. The combination of the department of Municipal Affairs and Environment led to a chance for further consolidation of space.
Staff on the first floor were moved to the fourth floor, leaving the first floor free for the staff from Advanced Education, Skills and Labour to move in.
Crocker said the move saves money, but doesn’t negatively affect frontline services.
He offered another example from inside the Confederation Building.
“Up until last year, Transportation and Works was floor six and floor five,” he said.
“Transportation and Works consolidated into the fifth floor, (Children, Seniors and Social Development) went to the sixth floor, and they came off of Elizabeth Avenue, because they used to be where the school board is now.”