- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to use oil revenue to build a new home for North Dakota’s first family.

Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, is the primary sponsor of the bill that would appropriate $5 million to build a new governor’s residence on the state Capitol grounds.

The current 10,000-square foot prairie-style home would be razed and the new dwelling would be built at the same site.

The current home North Dakota’s first family isn’t a mansion, nor is it called one. Unpretentious and sturdy, the governor’s residence has stood since 1960 as a metaphor for the state.

Lawmakers have been attempting to replace the current dwelling for years, saying it is has security issues, is not handicap-accessible, likely contains lead paint and asbestos. And the roof leaks, despite a major renovation that was completed in 2000.

“There are so many issues that need to be addressed,” Unruh told the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday. “Starting over new is the best way to go at this point.”

The committee took no action on the measure Friday. The full Senate will debate it later.

Revenue from four oil wells where the state owns mineral rights would be used to build the new residence. The state money would come from a fund reserved solely for improvements to the Capitol Grounds.

State facilities management director John Boyle said revenues from the fund have more than doubled in the past four years, to more than $5 million.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not publicly endorsed the idea of a new residence. He is the state’s eighth chief executive to reside in the dwelling.

The home is the second official residence that has been built for North Dakota’s governors. The original Governor’s Mansion, built in 1884, is a few blocks south of the Capitol.

Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, is an architect and serves on a committee to build a new governor’s residence. He said about $2.8 million would be needed to repair all the issues at the current home “and we would still have what we have now.”

Several former governors and their families have been asked about the home, Laffen said.

“They all love the site but not the home,” he said. “They love the neighborhood.”


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