ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Landscaping, perimeter security needs and other late additions to Minnesota’s major remodel of the Capitol will push the overall cost to $307 million, project planners said Wednesday.
The Capitol Preservation Commission authorized almost $5 million of add-on features — such as $2.4 million to create a plaza in place of a road now in front of the building, $728,000 for additional decorative painting inside and $400,000 to fix up and reopen a long-closed balcony overlooking the Capitol mall. The panel also said it would ask lawmakers to set aside more than $6 million for possible security improvements, such as enhanced lighting or retractable steel poles to seal off vehicle traffic.
The renovation was originally slated to cost about $273 million, but unforeseen water intrusion problems and cosmetic touches have caused the bottom line to grow.
Intensive work on the 110-year-old building has been underway for nearly two years. Once the Legislature adjourns its session this month, construction crews will close the entire Capitol to the public. Only the House chamber is expected to re-open for the 2016 session, with the Senate meeting off site. The renovation won’t be complete until 2017.
Some commission members flinched at the rising price tag but gave the go-ahead anyway. The panel is comprised of Gov. Mark Dayton, top lawmakers, the Supreme Court chief justice and others.
“These items shouldn’t have been viewed as ‘out-of-scope'” to project planners, said Republican Rep. Paul Torkelson, adding, “We will have some explaining to do to the public.”
Dayton said a renovation of this type is a once-a-century undertaking so it’s important to do it right. He said it was unrealistic to nail the cost down to the penny at the outset.
“There are certainly glitches and that. I wish they weren’t occurring. Overall the budget was established and it’s a big project and it’s well managed,” Dayton said.
On security, the commission said it would revisit the specific security features later, perhaps in a closed session. Members said they wanted to assure public safety without turning the place into a fortress.
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