ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Department of Administration officials released an estimate Thursday that it would cost at least $2.4 million per year on top of big upfront build-out costs to rent temporary space for state senators and staff during the ongoing Capitol renovation.
Administration officials gave a range that runs as high as $2.9 million per year, not counting tens of millions of dollars they say would be required to retrofit rental space. The estimate is based on a need to find at least 135,000 square feet nearby. And it doesn’t satisfy the long-term need for space given the reconfigured Capitol.
It’s part of a debate over where to put senators now and later and whether a Senate office building project goes forward. Renting would be a fallback if lawmakers don’t back a new Senate building and a related parking ramp project that have been priced at $90 million and would have 155,000 square feet of permanent space in the shadow of the Capitol.
The House Rules and Administration Committee is the last legislative hurdle for the new office project. But it is also the subject of a lawsuit and has become a flashpoint likely to surface in the fall campaign.
Senators must vacate the Capitol in 2015 to allow for the $272 million renovation to stay on course. The current design presumes that most senators and staff won’t move back in because more space is being converted for public use. If lawmakers change course, there could be delays and added costs to finish the Capitol overhaul.
Republicans have loudly objected to the new building, complaining it was slipped into an end-of-session bill last spring without proper vetting. They have questioned the extravagance of the design and note that only 44 senators will be housed there.
“This looks horrible” to the public, said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. He said it’s not too late to go back to the drawing board.
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said the informational hearing was intended to air concerns over the project and options. An up-or-down vote will come later.
“We’re going to take our time to make sure we get answers,” she said.
House members currently occupy four floors on in a building next to the Capitol.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)