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Capital projects at the Capitol PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 15:00

Letter Back Home

By Sen. Mark Christensen

 

In the last letter I had mentioned I would try and write a few more times wrapping up the session, and my time representing District 44 over my last two terms. This week I wanted to discuss some of the capital projects for which the Legislature appropriated money over the last few sessions.

First, you may or may not have heard of the project to renovate the mall north of the Capitol. The Centennial Mall, as it is called, has been in bad shape as of late, with plans to renovate the space. The mall goes from the State Capitol to the University of Nebraska on R Street.

Money has been raised through appropriations by both the City of Lincoln and the State through the Department of Administrative Services, and donations.

This renovation project has now entered into another phase. With the demolition of the remaining old sidewalks and fountains and the removal of the old trees and vegetation the project we begin to move ahead quickly. You can see the plans for the renovation at http://necentennialmall.org/news.htm.

This session the Legislature appropriated a $14.5 million transfer from the Cash Reserve Fund to the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund for two State Capitol Building projects.

The largest chunk, $11.7 million of the transfer, is to be spent to cover the first three years of a 10-year, seven phase project to replace the State Capitol’s HVAC system and accompanying projects.

The project will proceed with one quadrant of the Capitol to be worked on at a time, and temporarily moving offices to another location.

This will be due to the amount of old registers and piping needing to be removed, including all the pipes above the false ceiling on the first floor. This will also include other projects to finish renovating the windows on the lower floors and other weatherization needs.

I believe this is a necessary project to maintain the building. The current HVAC system is failing.

Several years I have come into my office in the morning to wet carpets three to four feet from the wall registers where leaks had formed in old piping. In some offices the leaks have been larger and have flooded large portions of the offices.

It is the current intention of the Legislature to pay for the remaining years of the 10-year project with General fund appropriations. The total cost of the HVAC replacement and accompanying projects is estimated to total $77,767,100 through FY2023-24.

There is also a $2.5 million chunk of the $14.5 million that is set aside to complete the original design for the four court yards in Capitol to have fountains in the center of them. There was an honest debate regarding whether we should spend this money from our cash reserve fund or give it back in the form of more tax relief.

Unfortunately, in my personal opinion I found it hard to support this spending especially after I saw the original designs for the fountains. To me they were a little uninspiring.

Nevertheless, a large majority wanted to maintain the spending for the fountains after the Governor’s veto in hopes to have them to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the State of Nebraska in 2017.