MSP repairs moving forward

The state is moving forward with repairs and mold remediation at the old Missouri State Penitentiary, but no specific date has been confirmed to start the 2014 tour season.

Late last year, the city agreed to split with the state the estimated $2 million cost of repairs and mold remediation at MSP, in exchange for a long-term contract with the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, or CVB, for use of the facility.

At the end of September, the CVB temporarily suspended all tours of the historic prison site, only to later announce the cancellation of all 2013 tours because of mold found at the site. Officials previously stated the goal is to reopen the prison by April, in time for the 2014 tour season.

Ryan Burns, spokesperson for the Missouri Office of Administration, said design activities for the renovations and cleanup are underway and final bids for the project “will be received in late February and reviewed at that time.”

“As far as the state is concerned, we are absolutely on schedule,” Burns said.

When asked if the state still planned on being able to reopen the prison for tours by April, Burns said it’s always been the plan to open in spring and the state is committed to that, though she could not give any more of a specific date for reopening.

Diane Gillespie, executive director of the CVB, said in her talks with OA, the goal is to open by March 15 or April, though she said there will be a meeting next week to discuss the timeline further.

“I know that they (the state) are trying to expedite the process,” Gillespie said.

The $2 million from the city and state will fund cleanup of hazardous material, window repairs and window closures in Housing Units 1, 3, 4 and the gas chamber, and each of those units also will have their roofs replaced. Burns said Plexiglas has been added to the windows on the south side of Housing Unit 4 and flashing repairs will be made.

Sen. Mike Kehoe recently sponsored a bill in the Missouri Senate that would allow events held at the Capitol or MSP to serve alcohol. Earlier this month, the City Council passed a resolution in support of Kehoe’s bill because it could widen the type of events held at the old prison, even potentially assisting any fundraising needs.

Kehoe’s bill has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.

In the Missouri House, Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, has sponsored a similar bill, which will be discussed Wednesday in a Special Standing Committee on Corrections hearing.

Olivia Ingle of the News Tribune staff contributed information used in this story.

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