The proposed renovations to the Arizona House of Representatives building were estimated at more than $2 million – double what sources had originally said the project would cost, documents released by the Arizona Department of Administration show.
The records also reveal that the project was much further along than House Speaker David Gowan and top House staff had suggested.
Late this afternoon, the speaker issued a statement saying the majority of the renovation plans will not go forward. The statement said the House would only be replacing the carpet and removing asbestos from the building, not renovating the basement.
The documents obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times through a records request with the ADOA say the project was slated to begin in July and contractors were already lining up to begin work on the overhaul of the basement.
ADOA estimated the project would cost more than $2 million. The proposed basement remodel was estimated at $1,666,900, while replacing the flooring throughout the building was estimated at $341,500.
On March 5, the agency informed prospective contractors about the project, and the department began interviewing prospective architectural firms about the already-drafted plans shortly afterwards. The project was to be finished in October.
The House of Representatives has refused to provide media outlets with any of the several drafts of the plans, stating they are merely drafts and therefore not public record. The House also maintains the release of the plans would pose a security concern.
The ADOA apparently agrees with the House that releasing draft blueprints of planned renovations to the buildings would be a security risk. In response to the records request for the draft plans, ADOA provided the Arizona Capitol Times with a copy of the blueprints that were entirely blacked out.
Shortly after the Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Capitol Times, noted the ADOA estimates today, Gowan released his statement cutting back on the plans.
“With a firm belief in the principal of leaving things better than you found them, I authorized House staff to begin the process of replacing the carpet and asbestos in the basement. While working with the Department of Administration on this project, House staff also began to forward the idea of more functional office space. Many ideas were talked about by staff, but at no time were any firm decisions made,” Gowan said in the statement.
He noted that several members of his caucus had concerns about the potential costs of the project, prompting him to kill any plans for renovating the basement.
House GOP Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said she didn’t know how much it will cost to remove asbestos and replace the 15-year-old carpeting in the House. She cautioned against believing the ADOA estimate of $341,500.
She said the speaker was not aware of the ADOA estimates on the potential costs of the renovations, and only became aware this week, when he received the estimates from ADOA.
“That (estimate) was not anything that we had seen, authorized, okayed or that we knew about,” she said.
Grisham said the speaker had also never seen the drafts of the plans for renovation in the basement – and wouldn’t have authorized a $2 million project. Several Democrats, however, have said they saw the drafts months ago. Grisham said that once solid plans were in place, the speaker would have had the final determination of whether to go forward with the renovations.
“The speaker would have been aware (of the potential costs) once there were solid plans in place. There was never a solid plan in place,” Grisham said.