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story.lead_photo.caption Photo providedOne of the window archways on the east side of Housing Unit 4 at the Missouri State Penitentiary, shown, is in need of repairs due to several cracks and movement of the stones.

As one repair project on the roof of the historic Missouri State Penitentiary was being finished, another needed structural repair was found nearby.

However, the needed repairs have been put on hold as the owner of the property and the group paying for the repairs discuss how future repairs should be handled.

Housing Unit 4 sustained damage from the May 2019 tornado, which led to replacing the roof. Housing Unit 4 is the oldest remaining building and hasn't been part of the penitentiary tours since the tornado due to safety issues.

As the roof project was being completed on the unit, workers noticed another issue: one of the keystones on one of the east side window archways has a crack heading toward the roof and has moved. A keystone is the top piece of an archway, which does the job of locking the rest of the stones into place.

Kevin Zumwalt, chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau board that oversees preservation of MSP, told the CVB board recently that the window archway has "extensive deterioration" and needs "extensive repair."

While agreeing the work needs to be done to the archway to protect the structural integrity of the wall, board members took issue with the repair process and argued the repair isn't a top priority.

MSP is still owned by the state, but CVB operates tours of the penitentiary, which helps fund preservation of the buildings.

Since the building is overseen by the Office of Administration (OA), repair projects follow a process OA has lined out, which means going through a design phase to see the scope of a project before putting it out for bid.

Since the CVB board would fund at least a portion of the potential repairs, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) would have to be signed with OA.

Zumwalt said the design phase is estimated to cost $15,000, but the MOU accounted for that amount going up to $20,000.

CVB board member Andy Fechtel questioned whether the design phase is necessary and whether the repairs need to be done right away.

"My issue with a lot of this goes back to we have to pay for the asset that we don't own, and we have to follow their procedures, which cost us considerably more," he said. "Even in this instance, we could have just paid somebody to fix it while we were fixing the roof, but now we're delaying it six months and undergoing another expense to design something we've already designed."

Fechtel said he'd like to see either in this MOU or the overarching one between the two organizations that if a project is using CVB money then it should follow CVB procedures.

CVB Executive Director Diane Gillespie said the building's interior needs work before people can tour it again. Without a roof for the better part of two years, she said there's chipping paint and other debris to clean out.

The goal is to do so over the winter so Housing Unit 4 can be part of MSP tours again next season, but Gillespie said she realized last week the work isn't something the CVB staff can handle.

Fechtel agreed getting tours back into Housing Unit 4 should be the top priority.

Carol Buckhead, with Buckhead and Associates which handles CVB accounting, said without Housing Unit 4, tickets to the history tours aren't selling as much.

"We haven't been able to utilize all the buildings on the property, and we've been operating with fewer dollars," board member Hal Dulle said. "Our priority and projects are about our ability to raise this revenue and be able to keep the buildings functioning."

Dulle motioned tabling the MOU until CVB members can meet with Ken Zellers, OA acting commissioner, about the direction for MSP and each organizations' role in achieving that.

Board member Brian Bernskoetter agreed.

"We should redouble our efforts to get an audience with the new commissioner," he said, "and say, 'Listen, we've got these number of things wrong. We don't have a good communicating partner in this endeavor. Tell us what you think is the appropriate thing to do. Tell us what your long-term plans are for this. How do you advise the governor about handling these assets?'"

Dulle's motion to table the MOU received unanimous support.

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