Archive for Monday, December 8, 2008

Kansas legislators delay portion of Capitol restoration project

December 8, 2008


Citing pressure from the public, legislative leaders on Monday delayed a major portion of the Capitol restoration project.

“It’s very bad to go ahead and bid additional renovation projects at the state Capitol at the same time you’re talking about having to reduce education spending and reduce Medicaid,” said House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls.

“Symbolically, it’s just an impossible situation you can’t really justify,” he said.

The Capitol Restoration Commission,- which includes state House and Senate leaders, delayed approving bonds for the final phase of the project: renovation of the north wing and completion of a new visitor center.

The Restoration Commission already has approved $211 million for the building project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

But that $211 million price tag did not include finishing the visitor center and renovation of the north wing. Last year, it was estimated the final cost could reach $285.6 million.

Since then, state revenues have fallen dramatically amid the national recession, and lawmakers will face severe budget problems when the Legislature convenes next month.

But some argued Monday that this was the wrong time to slow down the project.

Jim Miller, executive vice president of JE Dunn Construction Co., the project’s contractor, said double-digit inflation for commodities such as copper and steel has disappeared.

“We have a window to take advantage” of lower prices, he said.

House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, agreed.

“Now we have construction costs that are low, we have people unemployed and 3 percent interest rates. Now is the time to build highways and renovate the Statehouse because it costs the taxpayers less, has a better impact on the economy and puts people to work,” he said.

The commission’s decision suspends architectural and engineering design work on the north wing, which was to be put out for bids in August. Neufeld said this would give lawmakers more time to assess the state’s financial picture.

The project has been ongoing since 2001. When originally envisioned in 2000, the cost projections were in the $90 million to $120 million range.

According to officials, the escalating price has been caused by a variety of factors, including add-ons, such as a $15 million parking garage and a new ground floor of office space. Also, inflation, until recently, had been much higher than was expected in 2000, and workers have found numerous problems in the building that weren’t apparent at first.


situveux1 9 years, 4 months ago

“Now we have construction costs that are low, we have people unemployed and 3 percent interest rates. Now is the time to build highways and renovate the Statehouse because it costs the taxpayers less, has a better impact on the economy and puts people to work,” he said.This is what I love, let's spend money we don't have because it'll create "jobs."Now, JE Dunn is a multi-state contractor. Is it possible that those "jobs" will be filled by out-of-state workers? Maybe.And who's going to get those "jobs." Is it going to have to be someone with construction experience or can the guy who got laid off at an assembly plant get that "job?" Or what about an out of work executive, do you think he's going to want that "job?"If you don't have the money, don't buy it. What in the hell has happened to common sense?

Danimal 9 years, 4 months ago

Hopefully the Capitol building doesn't fall down during the delay. It's not like this whole project is just a face lift, it got expensive because there are more problems than they originally thought. Guess what? Delaying the restoration of the Capitol only means that it will cost the tax payer even more $ to fix further down the road.

The_Bends 9 years, 4 months ago

The capital restoration project is the most extravagant waste of taxpayer money in the past three decades.Land is cheap in Topeka--particularly downtown. Why on earth would anyone choose to excavate/build below the capital when you could build across the street for 1/4 the cost? The reason legislators say the excavation is necessary--it gives them the easy access to their staff. Now, couldn't the same thing be achieve with a staff building across the street, a wifi network, and some laptops? What BS.This yet another example of why Kansas' overly-ideological bent takes attention away from real problems--like this one.

myvotecounts 9 years, 4 months ago

Some of the work at the Capitol building may have been planned to preserve the structure, but much of it appears to have been an unplanned, expensive restoration and replacement of artwork and fixtures. Some restrooms that I think used to have metal stalls, now have gorgeous thick raised oak panels for stalls. New light fixtures in the Senate chamber cost several thousand dollars apiece, I believe, and were selected to complement the lavish and detailed ceiling artwork that was restored, all I assume, at taxpayer expense. These cosmetic renovations should have been funded through private donations. I would like to see a news story that details what has been spent on this project, so taxpayers can see for themselves the cost of the structural work versus the cost of the cosmetic work. The legislators keep telling us this work is necessary to keep the Capitol building from falling down, but when I go in the Capitol building, I see lavish cosmetic work, and after eight years, the so called "necessary" work isn't done yet. I have no information with which to judge how much was spent on necessities, and how much was spent on lavish cosmetics, but each time I go to the Capitol, I get angrier at what I see. If it turns out the cosmetic work was not a significant cost, I would be glad, and appreciative for the information. But my hunch is that the cost of the cosmetic work has been significant, is the reason for much of the cost overruns, and is the reason the structural work isn't done yet. This is like a project that starts out as a home bathroom repair, but morphs into a total bath and kitchen remodel, and before it's all done, a financial crisis hits your household and you have to make a choice between paying your health insurance premiums and finishing the remodel. When that happens, you throw a tarp over the remodel until the time is right to finish it. In this case, that time should be after private funds have been raised to reimburse the taxpayers for all of the unecessary cosmetic work. Again, a news story detailing the eight-year project and costs would be much appreciated.

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