JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — With nearly $30 million in renovations underway on the exterior of the Missouri Capitol, state officials have begun discussing renovations and repairs to the interior of the building, although the length of the project and the potential costs are still unclear.
A consultant hired to oversee the renovations and map out a series of upgrades and historic fixes told the Missouri Capitol Commission on Tuesday that interior renovations could take up to seven years and he wouldn't have cost estimates until the end of December.
"I don't want to sound rude, but you just have to put up with it," said David Hart, executive vice president of Salt Lake City-based MOCA.
State officials have been considering overhauling the offices, hearing rooms and marble-lined corridors inside the century-old building for more than a decade.
The state was considering a $35 million project to turn the nearby Missouri Department of Transportation headquarters into an annex of the Capitol, connected via a tunnel. The problems with the project include that the space would be inaccessible to constituents who cannot climb stairs and it would block windows that allow light into the building.
Under a new plan being worked on by MOCA, Hart said the state could gain an estimated 100,000-square-feet of extra space for lawmakers by extending the Capitol basement southward toward High Street, the main downtown street in Jefferson City. He said an underground visitor center would be added on the north side of the building that could be an entrance for the estimated 450,000 people who visit the building every year.
"Things are fluid. Just stay tuned for the next few months," assistant House Clerk Dana Miller told the commission.
Commission member Sarah Steelman, who oversees the Office of Administration, would not say whether Gov. Mike Parson supports the latest version.
"I think we have a long way to go. I think the cost is where the rubber meets the road," Steelman said.
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Even if lawmakers and Parson approve the project, Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick told the commission it would be difficult to find space for Capitol employees while the work is underway for several years.
"It will be a political nightmare to get everyone to move out," said the Shell Knob Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee. "I'm just trying to be realistic about it. People are going to have to be flexible."
Fitzpatrick said funding the project would be possible if people believe the renovations are necessary to keep the building viable in the future.
"I think we can figure out a way to pay for it. I don't want to put a Band-aid on it," Fitzpatrick said.
The exterior work is scheduled to continue until late 2020. Most of the Capitol has been enclosed in scaffolding while workers repair cracked and crumbling stone on the exterior walls.
In the coming weeks, workers will surround the dome with scaffolding and remove the bronze statue of Ceres, the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships.