This past week Governor Nixon and a bipartisan group of legislators, along with the media, toured the state capitol building to examine firsthand some deterioration of the century old facility. What they found was a bit surprising, to say the least.
When Missouri became a state in 1821, Jefferson City was determined to be the location of its capitol. The first capitol building was built there between the years of 1823 and 1826, only to be destroyed by a fire in 1837. A second structure was completed in 1840 and served the state until Feb. 5, 1911, when lightning struck the dome and burned the structure to the ground. Missouri’s third and present capitol building was built on the same site overlooking the Missouri River. It was completed in 1917 at a cost of $4,215,000. It was a well constructed building, using Carthage marble and reinforced steel and patterned after the United States capitol building in Washington D.C.
As Missouri’s present capitol building approaches the century mark, it is still one of the most beautiful and serviceable state facilities in the nation. It is a building of which all Missourian’s can be proud. However, with time, weather, and the natural aging process, the structure is beginning to bear their marks. We now must address the need to repair and renovate this grand state treasure.
The Office of Administration—Division of Facilities Management conducted a recent governor’s inspection tour. Their representative explained what needed to be addressed so as to keep the building in good condition for future Missourians to use and enjoy. One of the major areas of immediate concern is the building’s basement, where water damage is taking its toll. Moisture leaking through the building’s stonework has caused major cracks and is rusting the structural reinforcement steel. Mold is growing there, as are stalactites and stalagmites. The foundation of this historic structure, especially on the building’s south side underneath the old carriage passage driveway, is being gradually undermined. And, as water continues to come through the damaged stonework, the structural integrity of the building is being compromised.
Major work was done on the capitol building back in 1980 and 1981 that addressed the leakage problem, but that was 35 years ago and the problems have resurfaced and are worsening. Repairs to the building are currently underway. New heating and ventilation systems are to be installed and work is to be done on the windows in an attempt to alleviate the moisture problem that exists in the building.
The estimated cost for making the necessary repairs is $40 million for external stonework. Another $35 million is needed to correct other structural deterioration. Total repairs are estimated to be $75 million.
An idea put forth to pay for the repairs is to use the new bonding authority granted under a law that was passed last Session. This would allow the state to borrow up to $200 million for needed repairs for state colleges and universities and to borrow up to $400 million to be used for state facilities. There is good support among legislators as well as with Governor Nixon, who said, “This is the most cost effective time we could make these necessary long-term investments.” He was specifically referring to the low interest rates—probably at around 4%. Because no specific bond renovations were designated in the 2015 budget, the governor is asking lawmakers this Session to approve a project-funding list, which would include between $40- and $75 million for the capitol’s renovations.
Although I was not one of the legislators on the governor’s tour, I did have the opportunity to view the basement area shortly afterward and observe the damage myself. While it was interesting to view the capitol from another angle, it was also disturbing to see this splendid structure so much in need of assistance. I feel the capitol project is necessary and one in which the legislature and the governor can work together. Hopefully, we can leave things a little better at the end of our tenures than they were when we began. I will keep you updated as work progresses.
May the joys of the holiday season be with each of you. Merry Christmas!