Washington State's datacenter fiasco - it's time to pay the bill

The piper has come calling, and it looks like the government will be reaching into the taxpayer's pocket to cover the bill
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor

Back in August 2012 I wrote about the planning and forecasting errors that resulted in Washington State building a datacenter that ended up being five times larger than they actually needed, despite being informed before  well before completion that the project scale was much too large. Last August the state was launching a serious attempt to find tenants for their excess datacenter space, which was built as part of a $250 million state office complex.

So here we are, 7 months later, and as the saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost. The state has failed to get a single additional tenant for their space, which means that every man, woman, and child who lives in Washington will be paying about $5 each to allow the datacenter project to cover its bills for the next 2 years. And yes, Washington state has just under 7 million residents who will likely continue to have their pocket’s picked to cover this boondoggle, as the $34.4 million over the next two years also includes $25.1 million to service the on-going debt on the lease-to-own datacenter building.

According to a report in the Olympian, Rob St. John, director of the state’s Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) agency, told a government committee last week that the CTS simply can’t shoulder the burden for these expenses. This means the state will need to find a way to bill the taxpayer for the necessary funds.

And to add insult to injury, St. John also told the Olympian that he couldn’t raise the rates that the various government agencies are charged to use the facility. He was afraid that to cover the shortfall the rates would go so high that the other agencies would choose either not to relocate to the new facility or find cheaper services from other data center and service providers.

The government continues to brainstorm for ways to make use of the empty facilities, even moving completely away from the idea of using the remaining datacenter halls as datacenters. But with little progress being made it looks like the shortsightedness of the legislature in 2009 will haunt Washington’s tax-payers for quite a bit longer.

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