By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — There won’t be two sets of $700,000 doors at the Illinois Capitol, not now that Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered a freeze in renovation spending.
But Quinn’s order comes too late to stop the first set of nearly $700,000 doors that were installed in the statehouse’s newly rehabilitated west wing.
The copper-clad doors are the most viable change of the $50 million rehab that also saw workers add $300,000 chandeliers and $80,000 statues to the state capitol.
The comments were the governor’s second remarks since news of the opulent statehouse doors broke earlier this month.
“This type of scrutiny should have happened way earlier,”said state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton. “(The governor) is late coming to the table.”
Ives has been a vocal critic of the doors and the wild spending included in the renovation, but she said fears she is among a small minority.
“I think the majority of the taxpayers still don’t understand. I don’t think they read the headlines about the overspending,” Ives said. “Until taxpayers and voters wake up and elect new people we’re not going to have change in the state Illinois.”
Crews have been working to update and restore the Illinois Capitol in fits and starts since 2001. The legislative chambers were first to be reworked (at a cost of $28 million) in 2007. The west wing, home to state lawmakers and their staffers, is almost ready to open. That work has cost $50 million.
There is more work for the statehouse’s north wing, home to more legislative offices. Quinn’s renovation freeze would only apply to that project, which could cost as much as $140 million.
The state capitol’s architect, J. Richard Alsop III, has defended the expensive doors as historically accurate.
Quinn’s office is quick to note that Alsop is not under the supervision of Illinois’ capital development board, which is a watchdog on all other state building projects.
By law, only representatives of the four legislative leaders have a say in how the capitol architect spends money.
State Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlineville, represents half of Springfield and has an office in the statehouse. He now admits to having second thoughts about how it looks to go to work behind $700,000 doors.
“I would never be hesitant to go do the people’s work, but I am at least perplexed, if not disgusted, by the choices of finishes,” McCann added.
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.