The Senate Interim Committee on Capital Improvement will prepare a report by the end of this year for the rest of the senate. The Office of Administration has shown it a list dating to August 6 of last year of 20,782 repair or maintenance projects that would cost the state $662,032,616.

Data provided by the Office of Administration notes that with additional costs in addressing those needs the total would rise to between $700- and $800 million.

Committee Chairman Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) says the numbers don’t surprise him.

“Serving on the appropriations committee I’ve seen the huge need that’s out there, but it’s a great need,” he said. “We really haven’t had a capital improvement bill since 2001 and so some of these projects have just been put off and put off and put off, and so as elected officials it’s up to us to take a look at what these long-term needs are and make some tough decisions.”

The committee was told that for the last decade or more, the amounts appropriated for capital improvements by the legislature have been withheld by governors. This year, that included money for remediation at the State Capitol, the construction of a new Department of Transportation building at the site of the old Missouri State Penitentiary and for planning a new State Mental Hospital at Fulton, among other items in supplemental budget bill HB 19.

Pearce says withholds like that are why the list of needs has grown so long.

“It never gets cheaper to actually build buildings, and so it’s kind of going in not a very organized manner and so if we can do better than that I think that’d be better,” Pearce said. “Probably I would think most of this money that’s being withheld will be released but until then you can’t actually spend it.”

Pearce says the Committee’s goal in meeting is to prepare a report that can be used by legislators in preparing bills and the budget. First, he says, it will meet at least three more times including in September when lawmakers are in Jefferson City for the veto session. It is then that it will visit what he sees as the top capital need in the state, that mental hospital in Fulton.

“That is an antiquated facility. It’s bad for the patients, it’s bad for the employees and Missouri can do better and it serves the entire state, and so I would think that has to be our number one priority. This committee’s is going to take a look at that and so we’re going to tour it and try to come up with some ways to have a new state mental health hospital.”

Additional hearings will take place August 26 in St. Louis and October 9 in the Kansas City area, with one other possible hearing to be set.

The Committee also spent about 30 minutes in the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. The prison closed in September, 2004 and plans to renovate the site have been at a standstill since.

Pearce says he does hope to see the historic buildings on the site saved.

“This [prison and its history] will never happen again, and so it’s very important to save what you can,” he said. “Obviously on this facility there are a lot of old buildings that it’s already been determined are not worth saving but there are some that are of tremendous historical significance that, not only here in Jefferson City but around the state, that we need to take a look at and see if they can be preserved.”

The Committee was told that a state law created the Prison Redevelopment Commission, who then created a redevelopment plan for the prison property. It was shown where, according to the plan, that Transportation Department building would be constructed if the money is released, in an area set aside for state office buildings and away from the structures considered historic.

The Office of Administration says money has been secured for the next phase of demolition on the prison site, and 9 buildings not considered historic are slated to be demolished as early as next spring.

A request to talk to Office of Administration staff about the current status of that redevelopment plan was not answered by the time this story was posted, but earlier versions of the plan are available online.