Minnesota Capitol Considers $37M Project for Security Upgrades

It includes security measures around the state buildings in St. Paul, including those in which the state Supreme Court meets and other, but does not include the state Capitol itself, which recently underwent a $310 million renovation.

by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. / July 11, 2017
Though security measures aren't necessary at the capitol building in St. Paul, state buildings in the city and the underground tunnels that connect them are in need. Shutterstock

(TNS) -- The buildings around the Minnesota Capitol need $37 million worth of security upgrades, and they need it soon, officials said Monday.

“This has gone on too long,” said Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia. “We have to get this finished. We owe it to the people of Minnesota. … It is the center of government for Minnesota, and we’ve got to protect the people who are going to be here.”

Work slated for state office buildings has been on the docket for years but has never been approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor. It includes security measures around the state buildings in St. Paul, including those in which the state Supreme Court meets, state representatives have their offices, and thousands of state employees work, and in the underground tunnels that connect them all. It does not include the state Capitol itself, which recently underwent a $310 million renovation.

When the work was first proposed in 2015, the security improvements were estimated to cost $26 million dollars. But inflation and new threats have increased the tally.

“Back when we started the predesign, our big concern was a moving van full of … explosives. And now it’s that moving van being driven into the side of a building. So the security climate is changing all of the time,” said Chris Guevin, plant management director at the Department of Administration.

The work, if funded, would also include adding more card readers around the Capitol, boosting protections of utility equipment and adding more controls at parking lots. Some details of the work plan are considered confidential, because disclosing them could expose the state to risks.

Over the years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton have backed the funding. But politics and a desire to fund other projects has kept the money from being approved. Officials will try again next year.

“This is a top priority for, I think, all of us,” Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, said at meeting of the Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security on Monday.

©2017 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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