Missouri lawmakers could seek repairs for Capitol

Stalactites are hanging from the ceiling, concrete on the wall is spalling and some rebar is exposed in part of the basement. Several floors above in the same building, Missouri lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon are working and school groups are visiting.

Years of water infiltration have taken a toll on the roughly century-old Missouri Capitol. State officials estimate that tackling the building's infrastructure such as waterproofing, substructure repairs and fixing exterior stone would cost $40 million to $45 million.

“It's our flagship building in the state, and we absolutely need to make sure that it's well maintained,” said Cathy Brown, the director of facilities and maintenance.

Several lawmakers viewed some of the most troublesome spots during a tour earlier this month. Without advocating for a particular funding strategy, Brown said something will need to be done.

The possible funding stream being eyed by some Missouri lawmakers is a $1.2 billion bonding package that has been proposed to pay for construction needs on college campuses, state facilities such as the Fulton State Hospital and state parks. A revised version of the bonding proposal was endorsed this week by the House Budget Committee and specifically carves out up to $100 million for the state Capitol.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, who has worked to include funding for the state Capitol, said there are various projects that could be completed. He said Capitol artwork is in need of preservation, and he also wants to address the mezzanine-styled offices assigned to some House members that require visitors to walk up an internal staircase.

“It is the most recognizable structure of the state of Missouri. There are so many people that come and walk through and get a favorable impression of our state,” said Flanigan, a Carthage Republican.

Proposals to issue bonds to pay for various Missouri construction needs are pending in both the House and Senate. Neither measure has been debated on the floor of either chamber, and time is beginning to run short. Lawmakers have until May 17 to pass legislation this year before their mandatory adjournment. Ultimately, voter approval would be required before bonds are issued.

House Speaker Tim Jones said he expects the House to debate and vote on the bonding proposal next week. But its prospects appear poor in the Senate, and Jones said lawmakers may have to continue work on the bonding plan during the 2014 session.

“These are buildings that are owned by the taxpayers, and I think it's worse off for the taxpayers to neglect them rather than doing proper maintenance and rehabilitation now,” said Jones,a Eureka Republican.