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State Capitol renovation disrupted by dispute over who will get what space where

ST. PAUL -- Disagreements over how to divvy up space in the renovated state Capitol has stalled the project for a week -- and could prove costly if the delay extends further. The Capitol Preservation Commission agreed to meet again next Thursday ...

 

ST. PAUL -- Disagreements over how to divvy up space in the renovated state Capitol has stalled the project for a week - and could prove costly if the delay extends further.

The Capitol Preservation Commission agreed to meet again next Thursday after members were told a dispute among Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt would prevent the board from authorizing the final phase of the $273 million project Wednesday.

The costs of delay would be about $680,000 per month, said Matt Massman, commissioner of the state Department of Administration.

And if contracts aren’t signed by Jan. 31, they would have to be re-bid and additional costs could be incurred.

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Further, with an improving market for construction work, there’s a risk subcontractors could assign workers to other jobs.

But construction officials said waiting a week wouldn’t cause significant immediate impacts.

“I’ll give a 99 percent guarantee that we’ll have this project approved next Thursday,” Dayton said.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party governor declined to give details about space-allocation spat.

Dayton said state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea had signed off on the plans, but the govenor said he, Bakk, Daudt and Attorney General Lori Swanson also are required to approve them - and they’re not satisfied yet.

Dayton said he had met with Bakk and Daudt for four hours in recent days and that most of the issues have been agreed to. But he said a couple remain.

“The crux of where we are right now,” Dayton said, is the question of whether the restored Capitol - a renovation scheduled to be complete in 2017 - will belong to the people or to elected officials.

“My view is the public space is what’s most important, and the rest of us should fit in accordingly,” he said.

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Daudt, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, sounded a similar theme in a statement released later in the day.

“My priority through this process is making sure the public has more space in their renovated state Capitol,” said Daudt, R-Crown. “I think we are very close to a final agreement.”

Daudt put the hang-up on the Senate’s doorstep, saying that chamber’s negotiators were trying to claim too much turf.

Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the process was complicated when Republicans took over the House in November, putting Daudt in the position of having to approve a plan he hadn’t taken the lead in negotiating.

Another complication, Bakk said, is that the state is building an office building for the Senate near the Capitol that won’t have room for all the hearing rooms the Senate needs.

He also said some senators would likely have offices in both the new office building and the Capitol. Currently, senators in the majority party are housed in the Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said double offices were unnecessary and that all senators should be housed in the new building.

Swanson did not respond to a request for comment about her objections to the space plan.

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Dayton said Wednesday that he, Bakk and Daudt have not scheduled additional meetings but would need to meet soon to resolve remaining issues.

“I always thought this would be the most difficult moment in the entire process, when we’re trying to allocate the space,” Dayton said. “It’s a work in process.”

 

Capitol renovation

What’s included in the final phase? Repair and cleaning of interior stone, restoring wood finishes, decorative painting, distribution of duct shafts along with fire and life safety systems, restoration and placement of historic lighting, installation of new data and fiber optic cable, new electrical power system; completion expected in 2017.

What’s the holdup? The governor and state leaders can’t agree on space for conference rooms, offices, public purposes and other uses.

What’s the cost of delay? Could be $680,000 per month or more. But if the OK is given next Thursday, as expected, minimal impact is expected. The $273 million project is currently within budget.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service

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