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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Minnesota State Building Falling Apart.


Entries to the state Transportation Building in St. Paul have been covered to protect pedestrians should any 1,200-pound exterior granite panels fall. Repairs could cost $18.2 million. (RICHARD MARSHALL, Pioneer Press)
Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.

11 Comments:

Blogger Bob said...

Capitol bickering holds repairs hostage
BY BILL SALISBURY
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 11/28/2007 12:03:09 AM CST


Entries to the state Transportation Building in St. Paul have been covered to protect pedestrians should any 1,200-pound exterior granite panels fall. Repairs could cost $18.2 million. (RICHARD MARSHALL, Pioneer Press)The Minnesota Transportation Building is falling down.

The steel fasteners holding 1,200-pound granite panels to the building's exterior are rusting, and the state has installed covered entryways to protect Department of Transportation employees and visitors from falling stone.

The deterioration symbolizes a bigger problem in state government.

And you can't blame this one on MnDOT, which has taken a heap of criticism since the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1 in Minneapolis.

Partisan gridlock is paralyzing the Capitol on this and other issues. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Democrats who control the Legislature agree they should fix the nine-story Transportation Building on the southwest side of the Capitol Mall. But the project keeps getting torpedoed in larger political battles between the executive and legislative branches.

Although the Transportation Building is MnDOT's main office, the Department of Administration is responsible for its upkeep. Administration Department officials have been trying to fix it, but the governor and Legislature haven't provided the needed money.

The Administration Department first asked for $5 million in 2002 for partial repairs. After monitoring the movement of the granite panels, which is greatest in winter when water behind the stone freezes, the department renewed its request for funding in each of the past four years.

With the price of steel soaring, a complete fix now is expected to cost $18.2 million, the amount the Department of Administration will request from the 2008 Legislature.
"It's our top priority," said Assistant Commissioner of

Administration Nancy Giancola. "The building's condition is worsening. It's not going to repair itself; it's not going to get any better, and the cost keeps escalating because we're dealing with steel here.

"I know that if we don't do anything, eventually a panel will fall."

The need for repairs became more urgent May 18, when the state Department of Labor and Industry and the city of St. Paul's safety and inspections department cited the 1958 building for "unsafe conditions that in all probability will lead to more hazardous conditions if not addressed."

Steve Hernick, Labor and Industry's assistant director of construction codes and licensing, and Thomas Riddering, St. Paul's chief building official, said they had never seen a state building in worse condition.

In response to their repair order, the Department of Administration spent $698,000 on temporary safety measures, including covered entryways, cushions to protect lower-level roofs from falling panels and more monitoring devices.

"It's a Band-Aid," Riddering said. The repairs made the building safe for now but don't solve the problem.

Pawlenty will ask the 2008 Legislature for $18.2 million for the Transportation Building in his capital budget request in January, said Brian McClung, the governor's spokesman.

But that doesn't mean it will get done. Pawlenty requested funding for the project in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and nothing happened.

Lawmakers recognize the need. In 2006, both the House and Senate included funding for the project in their major transportation bills, but those measures died in a conference committee when members of the House, then controlled by Republicans, and the Democratic Senate majority failed to agree on larger transportation issues.

Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Legislature voted twice to spend $12.7 million for the repairs. They stuck the money in a bonding bill that Pawlenty vetoed as too expensive, and they also put it in a transportation bill that the governor vetoed because it called for gas tax and other tax increases.

After five years of gridlock, will the 2008 Legislature finally pass a Transportation Building appropriation bill that Pawlenty will sign?

"Yes, no question about it," said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the House capital investment committee. Everyone at the Capitol recognizes the need for a $1 billion-plus public works program next year, she said, and the Transportation Building will be a high priority in that package.

But Senate Capital Investment Committee Chair Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, doubts Pawlenty will cut a building deal with lawmakers.

"This is the sixth governor I've dealt with, and none of the others have been as hard to negotiate with," he said.

Pawlenty seems unwilling to compromise and content to do nothing, Langseth said. He suspects the governor hopes to advance his political career by holding down government spending to impress national conservative leaders.

"The Republican (National) Convention is coming closer," he said, "and I don't think it's the 5 million people (in Minnesota) that he's going for. It's about 2,000 delegates."

Pawlenty dismissed the notion that he's unwilling to compromise with lawmakers. Since he has been governor, he said, the total amount of state borrowing for public works projects "far exceeds any other administration I think dating back to (Rudy) Perpich, including Perpich."

"This notion that we've been starved on bonding is factually incorrect," he said.

Pawlenty said he will propose a generous bonding bill next year that will approach the state's debt limit guideline of around $1.1billion.

Only a small portion of that sum would keep the Transportation Building from falling down.

Bill Salisbury can be reached at bsalisbury@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5538.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's time the city board it up and require code compliance. Any guff from the state and they'll get the inspections department backhoes.

Magner can coordinate the city's efforts, and Repke can handle the PR.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tear it down and let Repke build some non profit type center where this tragedy stands.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Sharon Anderson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tear it down just like any other hazard.
Would a landlord be able to address the problem by just building some flimsy walkway covering in lieu of making the expensive repair?

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This building was investigated and on the news over 6 months ago about being the unsafest building in St.Paul.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharon - the State didn't own the building on Plato, they rented it from Rutzig. They moved out Sherm couldn't sell it. The building went back to the bank and the county bought it from the bank.

JMONTOMEPPOF

Chuck Repke

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:19
Hey genius, its the Transportation building, its already a non-profit.

The city or county has no jurisdiction over state property. The people do. We're supposed to contact our representatives and let them know to fix the damn building.

This place has to be the most consistent gathering of idiots who can turn a computer on. I am yet again, dumber for reading.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Nancy Lazaryan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:04 It DOES NOT MATTER! The issue is that this building is far more dangerous then many of these homes that have been torn down.

Citizen safety first, remember?

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granite weighs 180 pounds per cubic foot.

Whoever stated that if one of these slabs of granite fell, that scaffolding would NOT protect them.

I am concerned that the DFL House and Senate did not appropriate money during the last legislative session when they had $2 billion in surplus.

7:50 PM  

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