Senate endorses projects for state bonds it OK'd last week

With little debate, the Missouri Senate on Monday approved the list of 303 building renovation and rehabilitation projects to be tackled with money raised from the sale of revenue bonds.

That list includes more than 60 projects in Mid-Missouri, including $200 million for construction of a new Fulton State Hospital — the only new building among the 303 projects listed.

The list also includes $10 million for renovating the current St. Mary’s Health Center after the hospital donates it to the state early next year.

About a third of the current hospital would be used by Lincoln University, mostly for its nursing program, and Linn State Technical College is interested in putting its Med-Tech program in the old hospital.

The list approved Monday also includes five separate projects at the Capitol, six more at the Governor’s Mansion, Supreme Court Building, and the Truman and Jefferson State Office buildings, and another 21 projects at state-owned facilities in Cole County.

The list has eight projects in the Fulton area in addition to the new hospital, five at Linn State and 19 at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Senators voted 26-4 to send the list to the House.

As he argued last week, Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, continued telling colleagues that selling bonds to pay for the projects isn’t the smartest financial move.

He thinks maintenance of state properties should be part of each year’s regular budget debate.

“The argument that has been made is that we have not budgeted appropriately for deferred maintenance and, as a result, need to raise our debt ceiling 45 percent to borrow the money, to spend the money,” Lamping told colleagues. “It’s very important to me to know that we’ve begun the process of budgeting appropriately for deferred maintenance.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, agreed.

“Ongoing maintenance for assets that are owned by the state should be appropriated on an annual basis,” he said. “I think, if you look at the total amount of deferred maintenance, (it’s) over $600 million, at least.”

Schaefer said the bonding process will help the state get caught-up to where it should be in taking care of its buildings.

“I think at this point, it’s virtually impossible, through the appropriations process, to catch up with deferred maintenance,” he said. “We’re so far behind the curve.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, told reporters after the vote: “One thing that has, thus far, gone unsaid is the cost of upkeep on these buildings when these repairs aren’t made.

“There are several projects — things like heating and air conditioning, and other types of infrastructure improvements — that are going to create efficiencies that aren’t there now.”

If maintenance is deferred long enough, Dempsey said, “It leads to replacement,” which is much more expensive.

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