Official: Capital improvements list ‘depressing’
September 8, 2004
If taking care of life-safety issues, critically needed repairs and funding to get newly completed buildings open wasn’t enough to deplete the proposed capital improvement projects budget, last-minute demands for the prison system may finish the job.
That’s the grim picture presented to the state Public Works Board on Wednesday.
“I’ve been on this board 11 years through thick and thin and this is about the most depressing thing I’ve seen,” said Director of Administration Perry Comeaux.
Board Chairman John Breternitz said the problem isn’t that the budget is dramatically less than two or four years ago.
“It’s the difference between what we have and what we need,” he said.
The board has an estimated $200 million in state funds to spend for the coming biennium but, according to Breternitz, received $460 million in requests from state agencies and the university system.
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“There really are a lot of needy projects out there,” he said.
Already on the list were millions of dollars for the university system, new state buildings and remodeling and expansions for different state agencies to handle the demands of growth.
But the board didn’t anticipate requests from the department of corrections in response to recent increases in the prison population.
Deputy Director of Corrections Glen Whorton told the Public Works Board the prison has 363 more male inmates than projected in just the first two months of this fiscal year. He said those numbers are being re-evaluated to see if that is a temporary bubble or a trend.
If it’s not just a temporary bump in the population, prison officials say they’ll need to add $55 million in construction to the 2005-07 capital program.
That would bring the prison system’s total CIP spending to $91.5 million.
The board agreed with Comeaux’s suggestion to have staff re-evaluate all the projects on the list and put them in groups according to priority. Top priority, they agreed, are life-safety issues that must be addressed immediately followed by critical repairs and maintenance that can’t wait two years until the next budget cycle.
Public Works Manager Dan O’Brien said it will take some time for staff to review those projects and put them into a priority list but that those categories will require millions in state funding.
Comeaux suggested and the board agreed the next group should be the “FF&E” expenses – Furnishings Fixtures and Equipment – needed to open and make operational new buildings completed over the past two years. That will require about $50 million of the remaining state money.
At that point, Comeaux said, they will know what is left to put into new construction.
The board voted to give staff until its Sept. 21 meeting to develop the new priority lists for them to consider. By law, they must present their recommendations to the governor’s office by Oct. 1.
The governor then decides what to include in his recommendations to the 2005 Legislature.
Prison population increase
Furniture, fixtures & equipment
Contact Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.