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New Details On State Capitol Renovation Expenses Draw New Criticism From Lawmakers

By aaroncynic in News on Sep 10, 2013 3:45PM

Photo Credit: Rotating Frame

A $670,000 tab for new doors isn’t the only expenditure that has critics of Illinois Capitol building's renovation project shaking their fists. The Sun-Times reports architect J. Richard Alsop III confirmed more details on the cost of other items that are part of the nearly completed $50 million renovation. In addition to fancy new doors, the building also now sports four new chandeliers which cost a total of $323,000 and two new sculptures with a $160,000 price tag. Those huge numbers add up in a state that is broke.

The latest details of the project, part of a $31 billion capital construction program, drew plenty of ire from state lawmakers. State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, whose office space shares the same floor as the chandeliers told the Sun-Times she was “embarrassed,” adding:

“We’re not in a position to be spending that kind of money. Maybe [Alsop] had it wrong on the price. I’m just shocked anybody would spend that much on a chandelier.”

According to the State Journal-Register, Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, said the doors were approved by the Office of the Capitol Architect Board and the project went through the state’s bidding and procurement process. Alsop also weighed in on the statues and chandeliers, telling the Sun-Times in a statement they only represent a “small portion” of the renovation costs. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno echoed Brown's statement:

“At this point in time, any spending on anything can be made to look extravagant. But this is part of a long-term, long-range maintenance and restoration plan for a historical building that has 200,000 people in it every year.”

Staring down the barrel of a $7 billion budget deficit, other lawmakers aren’t so quick to defend even the smallest of expenses. Rep. Jim Durkin said:

“The press corps and the Legislature have a right to know why these fixtures were purchased and whether or not there was a bidding process. I'm embarrassed to say this went on without anyone's knowledge that I'm aware of.”