I have to admit to originally being rather agnostic on the whole Tennessee Governor’s mansion remodel. As long as the work was being accomplished with private funds, I wasn’t even particularly worried about the cost. Besides, it wasn’t even like Governor Bredesen was being “paid off” by contributors to a “housewarming gift” fund since it looks like the project won’t even be complete until near the end of his second term.
But now we learn that the remodel is more than double the original estimate with the taxpayers picking up more than half the cost. Now you have my attention, so let’s look at some of the items:
Roof remodel. A slate roof is expensive to fix and usually needs a major repair between every 50 and 100 years. So repair of the 1929 roof does make sense.
Overruns for increased materials costs. The cost of some of my own projects were hit hard by Katrina a couple years ago. Plus it’s hard to project costs beyond a year out. There should have been some inflation factor built in to the project since this is a mult-year schedule, but no reasonable inflation factor would have accounted for the 20% rise in construction costs that we saw in 2005. So I’m not alarmed here.
Three elevators. Why do you need three elevators? Are there that many different levels within the home to which the public needs handicapped access? Three seems excessive.
The underground banquet facility. This is the big problem. I’m not alarmed by the fact that there is blasting required–blasting is a normal construction procedure and can be controlled. And I’m not alarmed by the parking; that’s already a problem whenever there is an event in a tent. This doesn’t change that.
What does alarm me is the size:
13,000 15,800 square feet for 75 guests? Let’s compare that with another big facility: The Lowenbrau Beer Hall in Munich, Germany. That room is a little larger, about 17,000 square feet, but it seats nearly ten times as many dinner guests. The Governor’s facility is also supposed to accommodate a meeting of the Legislature. That means that there is room for every member of the 132 person legislature to sit 10 feet away from their nearest neighbor! Clearly the underground facility is enormous beyond its advertised intentions.
At a cost of nearly 20 million dollars, it is time to either scale back the remodel or move the Governor’s Mansion to a new location. Even at a hyper-expensive cost of $500 per square foot, $20 million will buy you at least 40,000 square feet of new construction. Something about this project just doesn’t add up.
There is a press conference scheduled for noon today. The PR team opposing the constructionof the bunker has rented out both 6,000 square foot ballrooms at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaze. The combined space is to demonstrate how large an area the proposed gubernatorial hall really is. Also, the Nashville Post indicates that the actual size of the proposed hall is 15,800 square feet–meaning that it really is about the same size as the beer hall at the Lowenbrau brewery in Munich.