Shumlin Questions Cost Of Replacing State Office Complex

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(Host) The Shumlin administration says the options for replacing the state complex are more expensive than they expected.

But as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, it’s possible the state’s share of the costs might be reduced.

(Kinzel) It appears that lawmakers are seriously focusing on two of the four options that were unveiled last Friday.

The option involving demolition of some buildings in Waterbury and constructing a new one would cost roughly $134 million. Building a new state office building in Montpelier would cost around $119 million.

Jesse Beck is one of the lead authors of the study. He says one goal is to consolidate the operations of state government:

(Beck) "To get all of the state agencies and departments work together collaboratively and in an effective means. To develop some new space standards that would be a little more efficient with buildings and work space."

(Kinzel) Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the initial cost estimates are considerably higher than he expected.

(Spaulding) "I think the total cost of the projects is more than most people would have projected. But ultimately it’s going to depend on the net cost to the taxpayers after we get additional clarity on how much insurance is going to cover and how much FEMA will assist, and perhaps other federal agencies, as well."

(Kinzel) Spaulding says it’s possible that the net cost to taxpayers could be reduced significantly if the state is successful in negotiating payments from its insurance company and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

(Spaulding) "To really make sure we’re getting the maximum benefit and the maximum level of assistance from them. But I think it will work itself through and become pretty clear. And then we’ll have a good understanding from FEMA shortly I think it’s too early to put any exact figure out for the amount of FEMA’s assistance. It will be significant."

(Kinzel) Spaulding says another possibility is to scale back whichever option is chosen.

(Spaulding) "They were for full renovation inside and out. And we could certainly work on those cost centers somewhat. We might have less employees being moved around in the mix."

(Kinzel) Spaulding is hoping that lawmakers will make a preliminary commitment to one of the options in the next few weeks.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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