by Max Brantley
Gov. Mike Beebe had his meeting this morning with House Speaker Robbie Wills, Building Authority Director Anne Laidlaw and others on some legislative leaders' desire to build a $2.8 million tunnel to connect the Capitol with the Big MAC building 100 feet away, where legislative staff soon are to be moved.
Said Matt DeCample, the governor's spokesman:"The governor listened and and the governor's position has not changed. He will not release any money for tunnel." This might be a little more complicated than that, though. The governor presumably plans to release the $6 million authorized in construction spending with the renovation of Big MAC in mind. What steps will he take to insure that money only goes to that, and not tunnel spending? There's still some confusion about how much the Big MAC offices, the tunnel and the Capitol remodeling for new legislative offices will cost.
Since remodeling and purchase of the old Dillard's building for the State Library and other agencies is going to cost $18.5 million, plus interest over 15 years or so -- and since that project was undertaken to create space in the Capitol for new legislative offices -- you could say this is a $25 million-plus House offices project.
UPDATE: The governor says he'll release whatever amount is necessary to renovate Big MAC, withOUT any sort of tunnel work. If the work costs less than $6 million, then that amount will be saved. Laidlaw says the Big MAC work alone will cost $4.5 million in construction and another $500,000 in furnishing and electronic equipment. How much will the Capitol redo cost to outfit House members in private offices? No bids yet. Wills insists the basement space is move-in condition. But I'm betting they're not planning on putting House members in a bullpen. Renovation and new furniture WILL be required. Plus wiring, etc.