Gov. Mike Parson was a state senator about six years ago, when he was approached about supporting a bonding bill intended to make needed repairs to the Missouri state Capitol.
"All of us in state government — the legislators — when someone had a bonding bill, we always referred to it as a Christmas gift," Parson told contractors and state workers who over the past five years have been involved in renovations at the historic building. "It has a lot of presents under it, but they're never going to be opened because it's never going to happen."
If other lawmakers really wanted to pass a bonding bill, he told his associates at the time, he'd support it.
"It's not easy to do that in the state of Missouri," Parson said. "But I do want to thank the legislators at the time for them having the courage to do that."
He also thanked the administration that was in the Capitol at the time.
Parson said Thursday during a celebration of the project's completion that he can't think of anything he's done in his career that was more important than the work at the Capitol.
Renovation and preservation of the Capitol took more than five years at a cost of $49.3 million. Workers began the project in 2015 and just completed it in December.Gallery: Missouri Capitol renovation
The work was undertaken in phases — the first of which included repairs to concrete substructure, building terraces and stone work where mortar or sealant had failed.
The first phase was completed in 2017, in time to hold then-Gov. Eric Greitens' inauguration ceremony on the Capitol steps the following January.
Phase two, which wrapped up this past December, included renovation and repair of stone on the outside of the dome and drum (the area with columns between the dome and the main building), assessment and repair of stone facades, repair and replacement of sidewalks and stairs directly off the north drive, repair and restoration off balustrades, removal or replacement of spotlights and warning lights on the dome, and generally cleaning the entire exterior (including more than 340,000 square feet of stone).
The second phase required use of more than 4.5 million pounds of stone for repairs or replacement.
Bronze statues — including the Ceres statue on the top of the Capitol — were also restored.Gallery: Ceres Removal 2018
Other recently completed projects on the Capitol grounds include restoration of the Fountain of the Centaurs, the Signing of the Treaty statue, the Liberty Bell Memorial and the Veterans Memorial.
Crews also completed structural repairs to the Senate Parking Garage this past November.
Forthcoming projects include renovation of the Senate/House Parking Garage elevator, replacement of the escalator on the House side, work on skylights, and work on environmental systems at the Capitol.
"Truly, the state Capitol is an icon. It's one of the top capitols in the United States of America," Parson said. "I tell legislators all the time, if you're not humbled to be in here, if you're not humbled to be part of this, you shouldn't be here."
Vendors and state employees made a beautiful building into an incredibly beautiful building, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said.
The project started and stopped several times, and for years, it never really looked like it would be done, he said.
"It's really cool — as a local guy — to be able to see the end results," Kehoe said.
Now, when you look at the building, you can see the difference the efforts made, he said.
Parson told workers they had preserved a piece of history, allowing the next generations to experience what those before had.
"You've gotten to be part of preserving something forever," Parson said. "It's a pretty remarkable opportunity to have. I don't care whether you're in the administration, or on (Office of Administration Commissioner Sara Steelman's) team, or were contractors, or were a guy out there mixing mud — you get to preserve what state history is all about."