Gov. Ernie Fletchers proposed budget contains three important capital construction projects for this community:
$12.7 million to begin renovation of the State Office Building on High Street.
$4.9 million to begin design work on the Capital Plaza Tower.
$4.7 million to complete renovation of Hathaway Hall on the Kentucky State University campus.
Each of these projects while hardly as flashy as the new Transportation Cabinet Building on Mero (or as expensive) is a solid investment of tax dollars in existing state-owned buildings.
The State Office Building has been largely vacant since the new Transportation Building was completed. Its too valuable a building, however, to remain vacant and allowed to deteriorate further.
The $12.7 million Fletcher is asking for General Assembly approval probably will not be enough for a top-to-bottom renovation that in the past has been estimated at $40 million or more but it will begin the process of turning an asbestos-contaminated structure into useable space once more.
Whether renovating the State Office Building actually allows state government to save millions of dollars on currently leased office space is another question. Our observation is that state government rarely reduces its need for leased space in the capital city.
As for the Capital Plaza Tower, its more than three decades old and is showing its age. Again, however, it has a long and useful life ahead of it if an investment is made in upgrading it for a 21st century use. Total renovation wont be inexpensive, but the time to begin planning for it is now.
And the $4.7 million earmarked to finish work on KSUs Hathaway Hall again is a solid investment in an existing structure that could not be replaced at the cost of the renovation. Its a key element in KSU President Mary Sias determination to make attending KSU more attractive to potential students and their parents.
We have no doubt that some parts of the governors construction budget will be controversial and subject to change by the General Assembly. These Frankfort projects, however, deserve full endorsement by our local legislators.