The compromise plan between the governor and the Legislature over adding underground “wings” to the state capitol is being presented to the state Capitol Commission now, but not without some concerns being raised. Sen. Chuck Coiner, R-Twin Falls, told the commission, “I stand very reluctantly.” The deal, he noted, was worked out between legislative leaders and the governor, but as a senator, he wasn’t privy to details and didn’t know what the deal really would cost taxpayers. “I think it’s imperative that we know before we continue on what the costs of redoing this are – what are we getting?” Coiner asked. “There’s talk of savings.” But in talking with contractors, Coiner said he’s gathered that “basically we’re going to get two single-floor (wings) for the same cost” as the original plan for two two-story underground wings. He questioned whether the state is headed toward a compromise that works politically, “but doesn’t work in reality for getting what the people of the state of Idaho really need in this process.”
Keith Johnson, head of the state Department of Administration, said, “I think Sen. Coiner’s exactly right – those are very legitimate questions that need to be addressed.”
Commission members said if they vote today to endorse the compromise, that’ll just be the first step to give designers the go-ahead to find out what the changes will cost and how they can be done. A formal change in the capitol master plan still would have to be approved by the commission.
The compromise as presented includes eight points:
1 – Single-story underground wings to add space at the east and west ends of the capitol building, rather than two-story underground wings.
2 – The first floor of the state capitol building would be “allocated to the Legislature for additional space,” rather than being occupied by the executive branch of state government.
3 – Costs per square foot for the wings would be locked in, rather than using any savings to “enhance the original interior design.”
4 – Any savings from the reduced scope of the wings would be “held as surety to complete the renovation of the capitol building proper.”
5 – On completion of the capitol renovation, any remaining savings would go to the capitol annex, the former Ada County Courthouse across the street from the capitol.
6 – Remodeling and renovating the old Borah Post Office, also across from the capitol, “should be placed on the Permanent Building Fund list as a priority.”
7 – All requests for change orders would go through the state Department of Administration.
8 – Additional details would be developed by the Department of Administration, the Capitol Commission and the contractors.
Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes told the commission that the Legislature wants the capitol to remain a working building, not become a museum. That means adding larger hearing rooms so the public can attend legislative hearings. “Our primary goal was to have additional large rooms to allow the public to participate in this process,” he said. “I think we’re fine with the agreement if the Capitol Commission chooses to agree with it as well.”