- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The next serious phase of Minnesota’s state Capitol renovation got the go-ahead Monday, and more state leaders began to vacate their offices for temporary quarters as the massive spruce-up drives forward.

The Capitol Preservation Commission, led by Gov. Mark Dayton, approved the latest work package in the multi-year renovation project. When that part is complete, about 60 percent of the project will be done.

As work stretches into more public spaces, the Capitol is becoming more construction zone than functioning government building. Dayton himself was preparing to move this week with his staff to a temporary office suite in the state Veterans Affairs building down the hill.

“Reality has set in,” Dayton said, adding later that any disruptions will be worth it in the end. “We’re trying to merge the past with the next 100 years.”

Among other changes, the Rotunda will be unavailable indefinitely. It has been a site for boisterous rallies during legislative sessions.

Many state senators and their staffs have been crammed into the building’s west wing already, and the attorney general’s office has moved downtown St. Paul for the duration of construction. Work on the century-old building is due to be largely completed by 2017 at a cost of $272 million. In May, lawmakers approved what is expected to be the final financial installment.

Dayton asked project coordinator David Hart if the work was on time and on budget.

“Yes, we’re in good shape,” Hart said.

Elements in the latest package include the remaining demolition and some structural work. Scaffolding should go up inside the building this year and entire wings could be shuttered. A new elevator shaft and staircases are also in progress.

But there are possible additions that could lead to extra costs. Commission members said they wanted attention to fine art that could need refinishing as long as crews have scaffolding up.

Hart said it could mean an additional $1 million to $1.5 million that hasn’t previously been allocated. Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said it doesn’t make sense to take care of structural issues without addressing peeling gold leaf in ornate meeting spaces.

“I want to make sure the old stuff is in good repair,” she said.

Decisions on ornamental features and add-on amenities will be made at a future meeting.

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