New state office building planned on MSP site

Planning and design also announced for new Fulton State Hospital

The old Missouri State Penitentiary site, above, is the location of a new state office building being planned by state lawmakers.

The old Missouri State Penitentiary site, above, is the location of a new state office building being planned by state lawmakers. Photo by News Tribune.

Thanks to a substantial increase in Missouri government’s income, state lawmakers now are planning a new state office building in Jefferson City, repairs and improvements to the Capitol and a start to replacing the Fulton State Hospital.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced the work Thursday.

“With personal income up and our unemployment rate below the national average for the 43rd straight month, Missouri’s economy is clearly moving in the right direction,” the governor said. “That is why I have instructed the state budget director to prepare a Governor’s Amendment to the fiscal year 2014 budget that will allow, if these trends continue, for strategic one-time investments in priorities I laid out in my State of the State address earlier this year.”

Hours later, the House passed and sent to the Senate a two-year capital improvements bill that added the projects Nixon proposed, although with different amounts for some cases.

The House-passed bill included:

• $38 million “for planning, design, and construction of a state office building including space for and renovation of the Missouri Department of Transportation Central Office.”

State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said the building would go “on the grounds of the old State Penitentiary, which I think is the type of investment which can kick-start redevelopment of that area. I think it’s the best news that Jefferson City has received out of the General Assembly and state government in a long time.”

• $50 million “for stonework, window repair and other structural repair for the State Capitol Complex.”

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said: “You’re about to hit 100 years old (for the Capitol) and we have a lot of problems here. We have a lot of water problems, specifically. ...

“If we can get the leaking stopped, then we can — as the budget allows and time allows — get some other repairs done inside.”

Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, is reluctant to spend the state’s surplus income too quickly.

“Since it’s just for one-time expenditures, and it’s going for much-needed improvements to the Capitol,” he told the News Tribune, “I’m OK with it.”

And, Barnes noted: “We’re not talking about cosmetic changes.

“We’re talking about things to make the building safer for people who work here, that have been put off for a number of years, if not decades.”

• $13 million “for planning and design for the replacement of the Fulton State Hospital.”

State Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, was thrilled, telling colleagues during debate on the capital improvements bill that she was told five years ago that she never would get funding for replacing the hospital.

“I am ecstatic, that this is the beginning of a process that needed to happen a long time ago,” she told a reporter. “It is a first step in the right direction.”

Before redistricting last year, Kehoe’s Senate district included Callaway County.

“We’ve been talking for years that Fulton Hospital absolutely has to have something done,” he said. “So, doing the initial step to do some design and planning work for Fulton is a needed step that would have to be done, no matter what.

“And I think it’s a good idea to get that process started.”

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, represents the area now, because her 10th District was moved during redistricting.

“I absolutely agree with the governor that, if there is some excess funding out there, the first place it needs to go is Fulton,” she said.

Justus acknowledged the state needs to build a new mental health hospital, since parts of the current facility are as much as 150 years old.

“If we’re going to move forward on this, we have to have architectural plans,” she said. “We have to flesh those (ideas) out, and that’s going to cost money.

“As long as that’s the first step in hundreds of millions of dollars coming to it then, yes, we need to do that.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said: “Initially, I was interested in the idea of just trying to build the entire thing now, which we potentially could do. ...

“I’m OK with this idea, as long as we do follow through and build the rest of it. Building a new facility is $211 million.

“We’re going to have to find that money in the coming few years, from somewhere.”

The House-passed budget also includes $20 million “for state park and historic site maintenance, repair, renovation, and construction.”

Nixon said in his announcement: “As we continue to monitor these positive trends, strategic investment in key assets, such as our state parks, is a fiscally prudent approach to moving our state forward.”

This article updates and expands on initial coverage reported on Thursday.

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