Problems with water damage, additional need for security improvements and other unforeseen costs have added $30 million to the cost of a major State Capitol renovation, Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers learned Friday.
If the additional money is approved by lawmakers, it would push the total price of the multiyear renovation to about $300 million. Dayton and lawmakers discussed the additional costs Friday in a meeting of the panel overseeing the project, which also saw leading lawmakers second-guessing some of the decisions by the project's architects.
The biggest chunk of the additional $30 million in costs, about $17 million, is tied to addressing what the architects described as "water intrusion and settlement." Last spring, demolition work tied to the renovation uncovered evidence of widespread water leaks into the Capitol basement, particularly beneath two outdoor staircases on the east and west sides of the building.
Dayton and lawmakers expressed some irritation about the idea of having to pony up more money for the project, but there seemed to be bipartisan agreement that it probably was necessary.
"I don't know what the alternative would be," Dayton said. Said Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester: "This seems in order — we're mobilized, we're in there already, let's do it right."
The additional spending has to be approved through the legislative process. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said some of that might be able to come from construction bonds, but also suggested a portion may have to come directly from the general fund.
About $20 million from a contingency fund for the project is mostly spent, which Dayton said was unfortunate but not surprising.
"It's a huge building and it's 109 years old," Dayton said.
After discussing the cost overruns, Dayton and lawmakers haggled with the project's planners about public access to the building.
Several senators were upset over tentative plans to park school buses and place handicapped parking spots directly at the building's front, facing south, toward downtown St. Paul.
Bakk and Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, expressed a strong preference that school buses could instead be parked along the building's east side, on Cedar Avenue. Bakk noted that a new Senate parking ramp under construction just north of the Capitol would have a lot of handicapped spots.
Dayton, as he has previously, weighed in on the building's art. A recent assessment by the Historical Society valued the building's art assets at a stunning $1 billion. Dayton, however, has been critical of certain aspects of the art, suggesting it overemphasizes Civil War battles and portraits of former governors.
A subcommittee of the Capitol Preservation panel has been working on envisioning how to highlight existing art and possibly incorporate new art as well. The panel on Friday backed a request for an additional $3 million to restore existing art.