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Capitol repairs could begin this year

Published (3/23/2012)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Wayne Waslaski, senior director of real estate and construction services for the Department of Administration, outlines a $221 million plan to renovate the State Capitol during a March 20 meeting of the House Capital Investment Committee. Spencer Cronk, the department’s commissioner, right, looks on. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)After years of commissions, studies and plans, it’s time to “commit” to the renovations needed to the 107-year-old State Capitol.

It will take approximately $221 million and, in the process, temporarily displace nearly 300 workers and offices for elected officials. But Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker), chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee, says it’s time to get the job done. “That’s what I want you to vote on today,” he said before the committee approved HF2754 March 20 and moved it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Howes sponsors the bill that would bring to life the most recent plan to update the historical building, with an appropriation from bond proceeds.

Restoration would take place over a four-year period, with work limited to that “necessary to restoring building integrity and structural soundness,” according to the bill. Besides mechanical and electrical retrofits, new security would be implemented and there would be a telecommunications upgrade.

Wayne Waslaski, senior director of real estate and construction services for the Department of Administration, said the plan would be “sequenced” so as to cause minimal disruption to the governmental work that takes place in the facility; however, it would require temporary displacement of some offices.

While supportive of the restoration, DFLers question the need to bond the complete project this year.

Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) said that the amount to fund the project will directly affect bonding for other infrastructure. She referred to the roughly $250 million capital investment bill the committee was to act on the next day. “The reason tomorrow’s bill has to be so small is because of this bill … yet none of this can be spent right away,” she said.

Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) reminded members that a $500 million bonding bill was enacted last year, as well.

Howes said that it is time to commit, in law, future Legislatures to the protection of the building. “I’ve chosen, with advice, to go for a full package.”

Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) said financing for this project should stand on its own. “We want to remain proud of our building. It behooves the citizens of the state to find money for the Capitol.”

The companion, SF2531, sponsored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.

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