Regarding the construction of a new North Dakota governor’s residence, let me provide the facts of the matter.
For more than 10 years, I have had the privilege of serving on the Capitol Grounds Planning Commission. The present residence was built in 1960, and most of the renovations and updates since have been done with private donations. The problems today include mold, water infiltration, poor access for people with disabilities and a new problem that we’ve faced since Sept. 11, security.
We have worked hard to keep up over the years, but the list still seems endless.
As most Herald readers know, when you tear into an existing structure, you create many new problems. So, it was decided during the 2015 legislative session to address the issue in a more efficient and permanent manner. The Legislature authorized an entirely new facility, one that would be built using money from the Capitol Grounds Trust Fund as well as private fundraising.
The trust fund’s assets are the federal land North Dakota received when we became a state, similar to school-trust land. Today, there are 9,994 surface acres of land and 7,689 mineral acres in the trust, along with 16 oil wells and more than $7 million in cash.
For the new residence, the Legislature appropriated a maximum of $5 million—$4 million from the trust and $1 million privately fundraised. The money will be used to demolish the existing residence; design, build and furnish a new residence; and enhance security, parking and disability access.
Given that the cost to simply repair existing problems at the residence was estimated at more than $3 million, it made the most sense to replace the facility altogether and build something that will better serve the state.
A committee, as outlined in legislation, has begun its work to select an architect, who will then be required to present three preliminary designs to a public meeting of the Capitol Grounds Planning Commission. I look forward to seeing this process move forward and to progress on a future “people’s residence.”