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investigation was made which has resulted in the discovery of most of the missing deeds; the remainder have been supplied by certified copies and the records are now nearly complete, and are properly arranged and filed in this office. The investigation has also resulted in the reclamation of many valuable pieces of property of which the department had lost possession.
I have to report the completion of a schedule of the furniture in the public buildings owned or rented by this department, and the inauguration of a system of quarterly returns of such articles that render their abstraction or destruction without detection impossible.
The supervision of the appropriation for fuel, lights, &c., for the various public buildings, which has been assigned to this ollice, has involved much labor, but it is believed that a considerable saving to the govern. ment will be effected. Should this not be the case, howerer, the cost of maintaining the public buildings of the country will be accurately determined, which could not have been done under the former system. Prior to the present fiscal year no special appropriation has ever been made for this purpose, the expense having been met by an apportionment of the amount among the different departments occupying the buildings, thereby drawing funds for heating and lighting a single building from several appropriations and rendering any supervision over the expenditures practically impossible, besides involving much unnecessary labor and materially increasing the cost.
The appropriation of $40,000 made at the last session of Congress has been found sufficient to meet about one-fifth of the expenses of heating and lighting the buildings, so that it has been necessary to provide for the remainder by apportionment as heretofore. The estimates herewith submitted will, I believe, with close economy, be found sufficient to meet the necessities of the service.
The investigations that have been made as a basis for the distribution of this fund, and during the preparation of the schedule of furniture, have developed much interesting information, and have already been productive of gratifying results, alike in the retrenchments that have been made, the reforms that have been effected, and the errors that have been discovered in the prerious system. Among the graver defects which have been developed is one that will require the intervention of Congress to remedy. Thus far the responsibility of the officers charged with the custody of public buildings and the public property therein has been almost, if not entirely, nominal; more especially over the property in such portions of the buildings as are occupied by officers of other departments. It has been heretofore claimed that the responsibility of a custodian ceases when the adjustment of his accounts shows that the funds advanced to him for the purchase of property have been duly applied thereto, the officers being merely ex officio is custodians of the buildings and contents. Much valuable property has been lost in this manner, and a much larger amount wantonly or carelessly destroyed.
Another evil has been the neglect of many officers to report to this department promptly the necessity for repairs. Careless and inefficient officers in this manner frequently necessitate, by their neglect, expenditure of large sums to save the buildings which slight repairs promptly made would have prevented. I would therefore recommend the enactment of a law making custodians responsible for the buildings under their charge together with their contents, and would also urge in the strongest manner the importance of an appropriation sufficient to warrant the employment of responsible and reliable janitors. I believe that with the exception of the government buildings none of equal
importance are left without guardians. I am aware that the utmost economy in public expenditures is desirable, but I am unable to see that any saving is effected by leaving valuable property exposed, or costly buildings open to the intrusion of evil-disposed persons, and it appears to me that as much care should be exercised in the protection of public property as private individuals exercise over their own. I would therefore strongly urge that the appropriations I have estimated for repairs and preservation of public buildings, for furniture, for fuel, lights, &c., and for janitors, be granted.
Much time and attention has been given to the monthly returns to which I alluded in my last report, but it has been found a difficult task to devise a system that would prove a satisfactory check upon superintendents and exhibit in a clear and succinct manner the progress and cost of the work in each locality. I have, however, by the aid and cordial cooperation of J. C. Rankin, esq., the present assistant supervising architect, who has had special charge of this branch, been enabled to perfect a plan that will accomplish the desired result, though the returns are not as complete or satisfactory as they will be after another season's experience. It is believed, however, that they are sufficiently accurate for all practical purposes, and are used as a basis for the estimates herewith submitted. A uniform system of measurement has also been adopted, which is simple and comprehensive, avoiding extremely technical methods on the one hand, and indefinite local terms on the other.
The monthly report which is rendered by the superintendent embraces all the work done under his supervision during that period; the work done in the previous month, and the amount of work from the commence. ment of operations to that date, thus exhibiting at a glance the cost of each item, and the aggregate, with the comparative expenditures of succeedling months.
The quarterly report exhibits all the material and machinery purchased, expended, and remaining on hand, and the amount of labor performed during the quarter, and consequently embraces three varieties of expenditures, viz: The material," representing what is invested in the building; the "machinery,” (or more properly the “plant,") being such articles as scaffolding, derricks, tools, &c., requisite for the construction, and are convertible when it is completed; and, lastly, the labor which is employed in constructing the building. These reports are accompanied by photographic views showing the condition, and, by comparison, the progress of the work, which serve as an effectual check upon the returns. The enforcement of these rules has involved much labor with, until recently, comparatively small results, mainly chargeable to the difficulties attending the introduction of a new system, and in training superintendents to a proper understanding of the requirements of the department in this particular.
The reports of the superintendent of the Boston post office are appended herewith as an illustration of the system.
The system of operations explained in my last report has been adhered to, and with satisfactory results. The character of the work on the buildings has been in most cases unexceptionable, and the average cost below market rates for an equal quality of workmanship.
Great embarrassment has been experienced by the system of partial and insufficient appropriations heretofore adopted for the erection or completion of public works. It paralyzes the action of the department by compelling it to make contracts for supply of materials piecemeal, increases the contingent expenditures by causing frequent suspensions, and delays the government in the use of the building, thereby
and of the old custom-house lot at Astoria, Oregon, which is at considerable distance from the presont site of the town and of little value.
I would also recommend that authority be granted for the sale of the following property, none of which is at present occupied by the government or needed for its use hereafter: Custom-house lot at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and old United States court-house at St. Augustine, Florida. I recommend the sale of the United States branch mints at Dahlonega, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
I would also respectfully suggest that the enactment of a general law authorizing, under proper restrictions, the disposal at public auction of property no longer needed would greatly facilitate the transaction of public business, and frequently save considerablc sums to the government.
I desire to renew my recommendations that immediate steps be taken for the erection of a suitable fire-proof structure for the use of the appraisers' department in the city of New York. The building at present occupied, though the best that can be obtained, is not well adapted for the purpose, and being of ordinary construction the risk from fire is of course great. The rental at present paid is $73,355, to which sum it has been increased since the date of my last report from $45,000 per annum, and will probably be again increased at the expiration of the present lease, if any opinion can be formed from past experience, the rent having been increased from $32,500 in 1864 to the sum at present paid. It is evident that the present rental would in a few years repay the cost of a suitable building, in which could be provided facilities for the transaction of the public business that cannot be obtained under the present system. In this connection, I would suggest that no better location could be selected than a portion of the battery, and desire again to urge the importance of obtaining the whole or a portion of that property as a site for a new custom-house and other buildings connected with the revenue department. Geo. W. Blunt, esq., of New York City, has been authorized by the commissioners of the sinking fund, in whoin is vested the control of the property, to negotiate for its disposal to the government. He informs me that the city is willing to make a liberal arrangement in regard thereto. The present custom-house is crowded to its utmost capacity, and will, in a few years, become entirely inadequate for the transaction of the customs business of the port of New York; indeed, it is already so. I would also suggest that the removal of the assay office to the same locality could be effected at a comparatively small expense. The present building is too small, the business is annually augmenting, and it appears to me must continne to do so, not only from the increase of business incident to the growth of the city of New York, but from the present and prospective facilities for the transportation of bullion from the mines. The assayer strongly favors the change. The present custom-house and assay office buildings are situated on the most valuable property in Wall Street, and could be sold for a sum nearly sufficient to erect the proposed building.
The new revenue dock on the battery is progressing as rapidly as the limited appropriation at the disposal of the department will permit, and could have been completed this season had a sufficient appropriation been made at the last session of Congress. It is to be built entirely of granite, and will, it is believed, prove cheaper in the end than any temporary structure, and, it is hoped, be but the commencement of pernianent wharves and piers for the city of New York. If a new customhouse is erected on the battery, I see no reason why the proposed barge office building cannot be dispensed with, which would, of itself, be a saving of not less than $500,000.