Plan would fund Kansas Capitol center

Kansas would issue additional bonds and use transportation funds to help finance a new visitor center at the Statehouse and work on its grounds under a proposal from Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration.

The proposal would set aside $7 million in funds from the state Department of Transportation to work on the grounds around the Statehouse and require the state to issue $5.4 million in bonds for the visitor center. The state also would dedicate another $5 million it has saved during its 12-year renovation.

Budget Director Steve Anderson, a Brownback appointee, outlined the plan in a Thursday memo to the governor and legislative leaders. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the memo Friday from a legislative source.

The plan is notable because legislative leaders had said they expected the state to use private funds to finance the visitor center, the last major piece of interior work. The total cost of the renovation has already reached $320 million, more than triple the early estimates.

Brownback and legislative leaders are scheduled to meet Monday to consider authorizing the bonds. The request for permission to issue the bonds comes formally from Brownback’s secretary of administration.

“Working with the legislative leaders and the governor’s office, a three-part proposal has been brought forward to facilitate a way to complete the project,” Anderson said in his memo.

The visitor center would be in the Statehouse basement, which has been greatly expanded during the renovation. The state expects to complete work on the rest of the building’s interior, from the first floor to its top, fifth floor, by the end of September.

The plan from Anderson involves restoring parts of the Statehouse grounds torn up during construction, including a driveway that used to go around the building, as well as finishing the entry into the building and visitor center.

Anderson’s memo noted that the work on the visitor center and the grounds had been projected to cost $20.5 million. But, he said, architects and the project manager, J.E. Dunn Construction, think the $17.4 million in the proposal is “close enough.”

“As Project Manager, J.E. Dunn is willing to bear that risk and cost,” Anderson wrote.

Also, Anderson noted, the state budget approved by legislators this year used revenues from state-owned casinos to pay off some bonds early, freeing up tax dollars for a new round of bonds for the Statehouse. The work would be finished by the end of 2013, if the state requests bids by early September, Anderson wrote.

Early estimates put the cost of the entire Statehouse renovation at between $90 million and $120 million, though that was before legislative leaders added an underground parking garage and approved an expansion of the basement for new offices. The state also discovered unexpected needs for repairing the exterior stone and replacing copper on the building’s roof and dome.