Tim Mason, administrator of the state Division of Public Works, told legislative budget writers this morning, "The buildings don't know we're in a recession. A year from now the things that are wrong with the buildings will still be wrong and they'll be worse." The Permanent Building Fund budget request, which is the state's capital budget, has been scaled down significantly as far as any new construction. But Mason said the fund's advisory council still supports doing needed maintenance and repair around the state.
Plans for a new metal maintenance shop building for the Department of Corrections in Orofino have been dropped from the division's request for next year. Also off are plans to expand the state Historical Museum. Still in the request are $2 million to add to University of Idaho efforts to repair the Kibbie Dome, which has severe life safety problems, and $4.3 million to renovate Seiter Hall at North Idaho College, an outdated classroom building. "It's really a disaster - it needs to be fixed," Mason told lawmakers. "It's going to need an extensive renovation, to include the infrastructure. We believe that's a very important and a great use of dollars." With the economic downturn, bids and costs are lower, Mason said, and it's a good deal for the state to address maintenance and repair costs now if it can.
Also still in the Permanent Building Fund request is a $312,000 land purchase for the Department of Lands in St. Maries, where a state-owned $1.1 million building is now on land leased from the city. The lease, Mason said, "has a condition - if they don't buy it by June of 2010 they have to vacate and either take down their facilities and get them off the land, or just leave it." JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, told Mason, "I appreciate you two-stepping with us, because we're in quicksand. We don't jerk new building money lightly, nor do we allow new buildings to start when it may mean people would be laid off from schools or ... (going on) food stamps. ... It's a tough dance we're doing. ... We look forward to better days."