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Washington Faces Hefty Data Center Price Tag

State's "overbuilt" facility proves difficult to lease, leaving the legislature with a $34 million shortfall to cover.

Now that the data center in Olympia, Wash., is running data through its servers, the project is in need of some capital to pay leasing and other operating costs.

Rob St. John, director of the Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) agency, told The Olympian that the project needs $34.4 million over the next two years to pay its bills. The CTS agency was created in 2011 to manage the data center facility.
Built as part of an office complex worth more than $250 million, the state has so far been unsuccessful in its efforts to lure additional tenants to the data center facility to help offset its costs.

Policymakers concede that the data center, whose budget was approved in 2009, overestimated the state's data storage needs, especially in light of the impact that cloud computing was starting to have on physical storage space needs.

"It's a Taj Mahal. It's way overbuilt," said Ross Hunter, chair of the House Appropriations committee in the Washington state legislature, who participated in the original vote to approve the project. “I think it was a bad capital budget decision [in 2009 to build it].”

Despite the transfer of information systems from the CTS, and the planned transfer of records from the Washington State Patrol, the state needs only one of the facility's four data halls.

Hunter told The Olympian that the state must make up the shortage, while trying to minimize the impact on Washington taxpayers.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.