A $1.6 million remodeling project at the state Capitol is causing headaches in more than a few offices and concern that some of the building's grandeur may be lost.
But a legislative leader said Tuesday the project is necessary and that lawmakers should have priority over all other offices in the 75-year-old building.Preliminary plans call for workers to block off the north section of the main floor - a marble-pillared area that is an extension of the rotunda - to make room for the state treasurer's office. The treasurer needs the space because legislators want to squeeze three committee rooms onto that floor.
Ultimately, the House wants to build or expand nine committee rooms in the Capitol and to renovate the offices used by House leaders. Legislative leaders say current committee rooms are too small and inaccessible to the public.
Although the governor's office has refused to remodel its offices, saying the $2 million cost to taxpayers would be too high, aides to Gov. Norm Bangerter are angered that the House wants to infringe upon some of the space the governor already has.
Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff, said he thinks plans for an extra committee room on the first floor are unnecessary. The room would take space away from the governor's committee on criminal and juvenile justice.
"They (legislators) are here, what, 50 days a year? I'm not sure they need to have their ideal situation," Scruggs said. "I can understand their need to make changes in the House leadership offices. But for them to get what they think is ideal makes it hard for our office to function."
The renovation near the rotunda would at least partially block a large window overlooking the rear Capitol grounds and the six-story state office building. State Treasurer Ed Alter, even though he will benefit from the extra space, does not favor the change.
But House Speaker Nolan Karras, R-Roy, said he is not concerned. "It will be better than having the copper artwork that used to be in that spot," he said.
Karras, however, is open to suggestions. He said he was unaware that the remodeling plans were causing problems.
Neal Stowe, state facilities and maintenance director, said he is looking for ways to save the open space on the main floor. The problem is, every time he rearranges the plans, some other state agency gets squeezed.
Stowe promises the changes will be aesthetically pleasing.
"I have to admit to being startled by what's proposed for the main floor," Scruggs said. "Neal Stowe is a good architect, and I don't think he'll do anything cheesy. But the rotunda is part of the majesty of this building."
The Legislature, by law, controls the Capitol. All sides agree that the day may come when the governor and other elected officials are forced to build offices elsewhere.
"This is a step in that direction," Karras said. "The legislative process needs to take precedence in that Capitol building. If someone has to move, it should be the executive branch."