Blunt seeks $3.1 million for Governor's Mansion

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | 3:38 p.m. CDT; updated 1:56 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt wants lawmakers to spend $3.1 million to repair the 137-year-old home for the state’s chief executive.

The governor’s wife, Melanie Blunt, called for the money during a Tuesday news conference that also touched on water damage, peeling lead paint and damaged roofs and ceilings. It’s one of the few times she has gotten publicly involved in policy debates.

The Governor’s Mansion, situated on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, cost $75,000 to build in 1871.

“We are stewards of this house, and we should leave the Mansion in better condition than when we arrived,” she said.

The governor wants the funding added to a supplemental budget that is designed to cover extra costs not included in the budget approved by the General Assembly during the previous session. Lawmakers can accept or reject the governor’s requests; they can’t change them or add their own ideas.

The money for the project would come from a special fund for state buildings and not from the general revenue dollars that can be spent on state programs.

The governor’s plan calls for:

— $1.2 million to replace part of the heating and cooling system for the second and third floors, renovate the kitchen and repair flooring and plaster.

— $1.1 million to fix windows, trims, outside masonry, cornices and columns.

— $780,000 to fix the roof.

Rich AuBuchon, the governor’s deputy commissioner of administration, said the plan is for the Blunt family to live in their Springfield home while repairs are completed over the summer. AuBuchon said that way the next governor can move into the residence in January.

Those plans could change, however, if construction or weather delays slow the project.

Besides state funds, Missouri Mansion Preservation, Inc. is preparing to start a private fundraiser to raise $2 million for noncapital improvement projects like repairing worn carpets and sun-damaged window curtains.

Mary Pat Abele, the group’s executive director, said it would help if the state set up a fund dedicated to capital improvements at the Governor’s Mansion. The state budget already includes around $140,000 for staff and repairs, but she said that’s typically eaten up by maintenance.

And in the meantime, the list of needed capital improvements is growing, she said.

“This has been accumulating for years and years and years of projects that have not been done — not just maintenance but capital improvement,” Abele said. “So it’s going to be a big giant step to get the ball rolling.”

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