WaPo and Vanity Fair both reported about the renovation at the Chief of Mission Residence in Brussels, the official residence of the US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Excerpt via Vanity Fair:
A sampling of State Department contracts reveals that since September 2018—just a few months after Sondland’s Senate confirmation—the embassy in Brussels has been awarded $95,109 for a pergola, $13,301 for a pool-Jacuzzi heating system, $33,625 on wooden household furniture, $208,683 on a professional kitchen remodel, and two bathroom renovations, one costing $53,809 and the other $82,354. Additionally, the State Department spent $103,748 on a hotel, to ostensibly serve as an alternate residence to the embassy while the building undergoes renovations for months of September and October of this year. (In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Department confirmed that updates to the residence had been funded in 2019 “as part of its regular 17-year cycle of reviewing and refreshing furnishings and interior décor in representational residences.”)
WaPo’s reporting estimates the renovations at nearly $1 million including a $209,000 professional kitchen, and a $223,000 family kitchen. The actual obligation may actually be higher than first reported.
A sourced familiar with the matter told us that the Chief of Mission Residence (CMR) was built in 1990 so one’s guesstimate is that the residence is due for renovation as one of those “representational spaces.” The first contracts were awarded in September 2018, just two months after Sondland got to Brussels. (Sondland was confirmed via voice vote on June 28, 2018). Folks who understand how funding in government works can see that this “wasn’t all his initiative.” But .. because there’s always a but, we understand from our source that the great bulk of the project items were added “more recently.” The Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) reportedly approved all of it and the Office of Acquisition Management (State/AQM) awarded the contracts.
So a fairly modest renovation project was amped up until the contract award to an 8A firm reached $2.5 million? More? Our source also told us, “Whether that much renovation was needed, or exactly how lavish is too lavish for a representational residence, I can’t say.”
Definitive Contract 19AQMM19C0088 is a Fixed Price Federal Contract Award. It was awarded to Pono Aina Management LLC of Oklahoma on Jun 12, 2019. The definitive contract is funded by the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (DOS). The potential value of the award is $2,504,000 with potential end date of June 11, 2020. The solicitation procedure is marked “simplified acquisition” and the set-aside type is marked “8(A) Sole Source.”
Sondland's embassy in Brussels has been awarded over half a million dollars in taxpayer funding, including $95,109 for a pergola and $13,301 for a pool-Jacuzzi heating system https://t.co/9CSHQWsIna
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) October 16, 2019
Gordon Sondland is using nearly $1 million in taxpayer funds to overhaul his Brussels ambassador’s residence – $400,000 in kitchen renovations, nearly $30,000 for a new sound system and $95,000 for an outdoor "living pod" with pergola and electric heating. https://t.co/SOmoLdMpq1
— Paul Sonne (@PaulSonne) October 17, 2019
From the outset, Sondland’s ambition was clear, as was his fondness for the trappings of the job. We found he spent at least $91K of public money updating the ambassador's residence. I popped over there this weekend. Renovations are still under way. https://t.co/Y4LGFS4miZ
— Michael Birnbaum (@michaelbirnbaum) October 15, 2019