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Construction on new governor's residence may start early

BISMARCK -- If bids come in at the right price later this week, dirt will be turned on a new governor's residence project at least two weeks earlier than planned.

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Fargo architect Chris Hawley, left, answers a question from Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, sitting right, on the plans for the new governor’s residence during a public comment meeting of the Capitol Grounds Planning Commission held Dec. 1 at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Bismarck Tribune file photo by Mike McCleary

BISMARCK -- If bids come in at the right price later this week, dirt will be turned on a new governor’s residence project at least two weeks earlier than planned.

John Boyle, director of North Dakota Facility Management, said a Friday meeting in Fargo is planned with JE Dunn, the construction manager at-risk for the project. Final design work was completed early so the project went out for bid.

If the meeting goes according to plan, construction site fencing and equipment is expected to be set up at the Capitol grounds on or before Aug. 1 for work to begin; the original start date was Aug. 15.

“That’s kind of a big day,” Boyle said of Friday’s meeting. “We hope we can do it all for the funding we have.”

If the bids come in high, some adjustments will need to be made, according to Boyle.

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The project is still on track to be completed by Thanksgiving 2017.

Last fall, the Capitol Grounds Planning Commission approved a layout that puts the new home just north of the existing residence, with a public entrance on the east side facing the Capitol and the private entrance on the west side. The commission also agreed on a one-story home.

In 2015, the Legislature authorized $4 million from the state’s Capitol Building Fund and $1 million from private donations to construct the new residence during the 2015-2017 biennium. The current 10,000-square-foot residence was completed in 1960.

“We’re pretty excited,” Boyle said.

The home is estimated to cost from $3.8 million to $4 million with the remaining dollars to go for architect costs, fees, the demolition of the old residence and furnishings.

The $500,000 threshold needed to allow construction to occur was hit just before Christmas.

Boyle said he has no doubt the fundraising group will be able to raise the full $1 million.

Fundraising group task force co-chair Rep. Pamela Anderson said fundraising efforts will pick up in the fall.

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The existing residence was in need of more than $2.8 million in repairs, according to a study conducted a few years ago. Handicap access, concerns over security and a need for more bedrooms are among the list of needs in a study that drew support from lawmakers.

Anderson said the fundraising efforts have gone well.

“People recognize the need for a new governor’s residence,” said Anderson, adding that it’s taken some education of potential donors to get them on board.

Among the 124 donors listed on the fundraising group’s website, 20 have come from businesses across the state. In addition, 29 North Dakota lawmakers have donated to the project, as have more than a dozen current and past elected and appointed state officials.

The list of contributors to the governor’s residence, as well as more information on the project, can be found at www.friendsoftheresidence.com .

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