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DocumentA Capitol centennial (01/01/2005)
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At 100, Capitol is showing its age
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The Minnesota State Capitol looks pretty good at the age of 100, but it is in need of some basic repairs to fix falling plaster and leaks in the roof. (MPR Photo/Marianne Combs)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - Few centenarians can say they're in perfect health. On the verge of its 100th birthday, Minnesota's Capitol has its share of ailments.

Chunks of plaster are missing from the third-floor ceiling. Bare white plaster is splashed across other formerly painted areas up there. Moisture has increasingly seeped through the dome during recent rainy springs. Systems controlling air flow and humidity are in rough shape.

By Nancy Stark's estimate, it could take as much as $60 million to give the Capitol the care it needs. Stark, the executive secretary of the Capitol Areas Architectural and Planning Board, bases her estimate on a 2001 study by a consultant hired to give the building a thorough exam.

There was no chance of getting the building in tip-top shape ahead of the centennial celebration, which gets underway this month. Plastic signs scattered around the Capitol warn visitors to beware of falling plaster.

Some of the money Stark's board had sought to map out and begin significant repairs was caught up in last year's legislative stalemate.

"We're sort of idling right now," she said.

But even that would have made only a slight dent.

Stark hopes the attention on the Capitol during the centennial celebration will pay off, either through increased legislative backing for the restoration or to provide momentum for a private endowment that could be used for maintenance and repair.

Minnesota has spent $28 million on restoration projects over the past two decades. For example, the state paid $5 million in 1995 to repair the roof, said Paul Mandell, the board's senior planner.

That project alone exceeded the $4.5 million it took a century ago to erect and furnish the entire building.

Other states have been tackling major capitol renovations. In 2001, Wisconsin finished a 12-year, $143 million restoration of its statehouse. Texas planned to spend $192 million to repair and expand its building.

"If we get this completed and completely restored for $60 million they'll be getting a good deal for their money," Mandell said.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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