- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The State Capitol administrator and other officials are defending the cost of restoring 46 antique statehouse chairs at nearly $2,000 each, while Nebraska’s governor questioned if the work could have been done for less.

The wood-and-leather chairs are the original furniture used when the State Capitol opened in 1932, and state Capitol administrator Bob Ripley said it cost $87,000 to restore them. He said using funds to refurbish the chairs saves money in the long run because they don’t have to be replaced frequently by cheaper substitutes.

The chairs are still historically accurate and museum quality, Ripley said. Purchasing new chairs would have cost twice as much as restoring the old chairs.

“The governor’s office suite was designed to be a very special space,” he said. “The items put in there were very exotic. It was designed to be a showplace. If we had brought just something close, it would have degraded the value of the building.”

Two Capitol Commission members also defended the refurbished chairs. State Sen. Greg Adams said the furniture will last a long time, and former state Sen. Jim Cudaback said the chairs should be preserved in their original state as much as possible.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Dave Heineman said he wasn’t aware of the chair renovation’s exact cost until the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/YLSJXZ) contacted him. Heineman, who heads the Commission, said in a statement that Ripley “should have been more sensitive to the cost.”

But Ripley cited another flap that occurred over high-priced furniture, which he said proves investing in quality furniture creates savings in the long run. State lawmakers were criticized in 1990 by some members of the public when they approved buying 56 office chairs for legislative committee hearing rooms at $1,400 each.

Ripley said that before 1990, those chairs had been replaced about every three to four years at a cost of around $400 each. The purchase ultimately saved money because over 24 years, that would have meant a cost of between $2,400 and $3,200 per chair.

The chairs bought in 1990 haven’t been replaced and have needed only minor touch-ups, he said.

“Those chairs are as good today as they were then,” he said.

Ripley said the 46 antique chairs should last at least 20 years.

“It’s far smarter to take care of what we have,” he said.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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