Adam Putnam no fan of $75 million Capitol upgrade
From Jim Turner at The News Service of Florida:
Emergency repairs to two underground parking decks at the Capitol and planned upgrades to a main entry plaza could reach $75 million.
Department of Management Services Secretary Chad Poppell, whose agency oversees the complex, said officials should have a better grasp on some of the costs in about a month when updated figures are available on the already-closed Senate garage.
"These projects are very complex, about half of the cost is just getting the building ready to work on," Poppell said.
Poppell said the goal is a finished product that Floridians can be proud of visually and in terms of cost. The makeover of the complex is expected to be complete in four to six years.
But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018, described the minimalistic renderings that Poppell's office is using to showcase the project as "not particularly attractive."
More important, he would like Poppell's agency to consider less-expensive options as it repairs 1970s-era design flaws that led to the deterioration of the parking decks and as it makes the multi-deck western entrance plaza, called Waller Park, more accessible for people with disabilities.
"Seventy-five million (dollars), and to only have to show for it two parking garages that are not collapsing on each other and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility, is extraordinary to me," Putnam said during a Cabinet meeting Tuesday.
Putnam, who acknowledged he was upset to first read about the work in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, said he expects cost overruns and he would like to see options, such as new off-site, above-ground parking decks, that were rejected.
Asked after the meeting what he would like to see for the complex, Putnam responded, "Hopefully something less ugly than what they've picked."
Poppell said the renderings now being used were intended to remain true to the architectural style of the Capitol. Also, he said the Senate is looking at a new garage rather than just repairing the existing structure.
"With the amount of money being estimated it's important we get a good return on investment for taxpayers in terms of the life-cycle of the building and how long it's expected to be in use," Poppell said.
The Senate garage is already closed, with basic repair work underway after cracks were found in the multi-deck structure.
The damages were primarily the result of the initial design of the complex, which includes trees and about 7,300 tons of soil atop the parking decks.
The Legislature set aside $36 million over the past three years for the repairs to the parking decks and the plaza work.
Part of the upgrade includes work with the Florida Historical Commission to have space for new memorials on the Capitol grounds. Also, to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, the state is looking at elevators for the entry plaza rather than the need for 400 feet of winding ramps.
First projected to top $20 million, the Senate repair work is now estimated at $25 million, the same price tag now affixed for repairs to the House underground garage and changes to Waller Park, Poppell said.
Employees who had used the 210-space Senate deck are now parking in nearby state facilities. Senators and some of their staff will have spaces moved to a third parking deck under the Capitol for the 2017 legislative session.
The House parking structure will remain in use during that time, as it isn't considered in as dire shape as the Senate deck.
Workers have already removed more than 100 holly and oak trees that were atop the decks, which sit on opposite wings of the Capitol property that opened in 1977.
To comply with a Tallahassee tree ordinance, the live oaks will eventually be replaced with "mature" live oaks, but they will not be planted above the garages, Poppell said.