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Statehouse completion no reason to celebrate
Wasteful spending
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Kansas Governor Sam Brownback wants to celebrate a colossal waste of taxpayer money.
He wants to commemorate the completion of the 13-year Statehouse renovation on Kansas Day 2014, the anniversary of the state’s admission to the union.
Brownback said recently there could be a week of events leading up to the Jan. 29, 2014 dedication of the building, which has been overhauled from the dome to the basement.
“We’re going to have a big celebration,” Brownback said. “The place looks glorious.”
The Governor should be apologizing to taxpayers for the $332 million cost-overrun disaster for the Kansas Statehouse renovation, coordinated by J.E. Dunn Construction.
Think of the improvements as paving the Statehouse in gold.
The $135 million Statehouse renovation began in 2001 and will be finished four years after the original target date.
It developed into a wasteful game of out-of-control spending. Every year, tens of millions were added to the waste of taxpayer money.
The Kansas Statehouse renovation has been paid with tens of millions in yearly bond financing, $40 million from Build America federal stimulus funds and $7 million Kansas Department of Transportation financing after an original price tag of $135 million.
The State Finance Council approved a $17.4 million financing package in 2012 that included $5.4 million for the basement-level visitor center. That funding paid for a lobby, elevators, security, audio and visual rooms and a dining area.
Lawmakers added a $15 million underground parking garage, new office space and an $11 million visitor center.
The original $135 million plan was boosted by nearly $200 million in additional spending.
• Phase I, $55 million — underground parking garage for 550 vehicles, office vaults, mechanical systems, north wing elevator, visitors’ center shell.
• Phase II, $20 million — east wing interior renovation, east wing mechanical, wing’s roof, exterior renovation.
• Phase III, $22 million — west wing interior renovation, west wing mechanical, wing’s exterior stone, roof renovation, bathrooms.
• Phase IV, $38 million — north, south interior renovation, rotunda, mechanical, exterior stone, roof renovation, visitors’ center.
The renovation began in 2001 and has updated water, electrical, heating, air-conditioning and fire-safety systems. Legislators have roomier offices and meeting rooms that are more accommodating. The state built an underground parking garage and expanded the basement, adding 128,000 square feet of space.
Work continues on a new basement visitor’s center, which will feature a giant map of Kansas set in the stone floor, with all of the 105 counties identified.
The current renovation is scheduled to finish by the end of the year, except for some landscaping that will be finished in the  spring.
On second thought, maybe we should celebrate with the Republican majority, two Democratic governors and two Republican governors for providing the leadership and fiscal sense to build a $332 million Statehouse renovation from an original $135 million plan.
There is no doubt J.E. Dunn Construction and the sub-contractors have $332 million reasons to celebrate.

Jim Misunas