Nixon releases frozen capital funds

Funding was earmarked for Capitol repairs, address government’s space needs

Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday released $132.5 million in capital improvements funds lawmakers approved last May — the final part of a $400 million withholding he made last summer.

In a news release, the Office of Administration noted the released money includes:

• $28.5 million “to extend the life of Missouri’s State Capitol building.”

• $53 million for priority maintenance and repair projects for facilities statewide.

• $38 million “to improve the efficient use of state buildings.”

• $12.5 million to improve State Parks for visitors in all regions of the state.

Last May, lawmakers designated the $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.”

Lawmakers and Mid-Missouri officials said last year the new building would go on the Missouri State Penitentiary Redevelopment site.

But, OA Commissioner Doug Nelson said Friday afternoon: “Let me say at the beginning, emphatically — there will not be the building of a new state office building for employees.”

Nelson said Nixon has told OA to study state government’s space needs and “look at a series of plans — different plans that we’re going to develop, working with many different state agencies — and those plans will address and allow us to maximize existing space.”

Nixon set no deadline for completing those plans, but Nelson said OA intends “to have it completed as soon as we can.”

The lawmakers’ concept last year was that building new office space at the old MSP site would allow the state Transportation department to move its Central Office, leaving the current MoDOT headquarters between the Capitol and Jefferson buildings as space the Legislature could take over and use for people who now work in the Capitol.

One big concern is the lack of accessibility to a series of mezzanine offices on the House side of the Capitol’s first floor, where some representatives’ offices are squeezed into the space above the floor-level offices — with just two sets of stairs connecting one level to another.

It’s been that way for decades.

“Obviously, the concern in the Capitol Building is compression of the space here,” Nelson said, “and, obviously, the mezzanines come to the forefront.”

The plans Nixon ordered OA to develop “will address those issues in the proposals we’re going to give the governor.”

Nelson is confident there’s enough available space in buildings the state already owns — such as the Agriculture department building’s third floor, at 1616 Missouri Blvd., or MoDOT’s Central District headquarters complex across the street, at 1511 Missouri Blvd.

His study will include possible uses for the St. Mary’s Health Center complex between Missouri Boulevard and Bolivar Street, just southwest of the Capitol Complex.

Nixon in January asked lawmakers to spend $10 million renovating that building, after St. Mary’s owners agreed to donate it to the state, with about a third of the space designated for use by Lincoln University’s nursing programs.

St. Mary’s plans to begin using its new facilities, now under construction along Missouri 179 south of Edgewood, in November, and would donate the old property to the state sometime next year.

“That’s obviously one of the pieces that we’re going to consider as a component in a few of the plans,” Nelson said. “That’s a large facility, and a portion of it would be available for state use.”

The state late last year signed a 20-year lease with the federal General Services Administration, to use the two floors above the Main Post Office, 133 W. High St.

Nelson said design work already has begun for about $1 million in renovations there, but no decision has been made about what agencies will use the space.

The bulk of the money released Friday is targeted at the Capitol.

Last May, lawmakers envisioned a project replacing all the building’s windows because many of them have been leaking.

Nelson said state officials now think the work can be done without replacing the wood windows installed about 30 years ago.

“Our plan is to go through and replace all the seals and gaskets, and any of the hardware involved with the windows,” he explained. “Obviously, if we see a situation that requires more than that, we will assess that and take care of it at that time.”

But the windows work may be among the most visible parts of a project to waterproof and re-seal the entire building, including spaces underneath it.

“Part of our challenge is the south side, and that will involve extensive work that will include removal of the south steps, work involving the Carriage Drive and allowing us to get underneath the building,” he said. “Then we will go from ground level all the way up to the parapet and tuckpoint, and fix any cracks — and then we will go from the parapet all the way up to the dome.

“That project is in preliminary design, and we anticipate — best-case scenario — it being completed in December of 2017.”

The building’s 100th anniversary is 2018.

Officials also plan to renovate and modernize the Capitol’s six elevators, upgrade the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system and repair areas along the North Capitol Drive, including the pavers around the Centaur Fountain.

That work will be in stages, Nelson said.

“We’re obviously going to have to work around legislative sessions (and) the 4th of July,” he said.

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