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Other Views: Let governor’s residence construction proceed

GRAND FORKS -- The money's in the bank, the building plans have been finalized, and construction could begin in less than two weeksWhich means the plans to build a new governor's residence in Bismarck are too far along to stop now. So, lawmakers ...

GRAND FORKS - The money’s in the bank, the building plans have been finalized, and construction could begin in less than two weeks
Which means the plans to build a new governor’s residence in Bismarck are too far along to stop now. So, lawmakers who’re thinking about delaying the project should reconsider, and construction should be allowed to proceed.
“A Democratic state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill during next month’s special session that could delay construction of a new multimillion-dollar governor’s residence, saying it ‘doesn’t look too smart’ to start the project when the state is struggling financially,” Forum News Service reported last week.
“I think it’s absolutely the wrong message” to let construction begin, given the state’s budget woes, said Rep. Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton, in the story.
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, agrees. After all, state agencies are being asked to tighten their belts. So, “by continuing on with the building of the residence, we not only send the wrong message to the people of North Dakota, but we also send the wrong message to the great state employees that we are fortunate to have working for the citizens of North Dakota,” Kasper wrote in an op-ed.
The trouble is, the new message that delaying construction would send would itself be expensive, because the action would bring about a big jump in price.
There are sunk costs that have gone into the planning over the past several years. Architects have been hired, contracts have been signed.
There also are hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank from donors - money that might have to be returned.
Couple that with the inevitable rise in the price of building materials, not to mention the time, effort and expense of shutting everything down and starting it back up in a year or two, and you’ll see that a better and cheaper message to send would be this one, which we could do by building the house: that North Dakota finishes what it starts.
Besides, the new residence is sure to be built sooner or later. The old residence is decaying and ever-more inadequate. Building the new one was authorized by bipartisan votes in the Legislature.
Why send a message that’s not going to make any meaningful difference at all, other than delaying a justifiable project that’s already underway?
Here’s another reason why the show should go on: “Stopping the project now would have no effect on the state’s budget/revenue situation,” as The Forum newspaper in Fargo editorialized.
That’s because “nearly all the money for the house is either from the Capitol Building Trust Fund (and can be used for no other purpose than projects on the Capitol grounds), or private donations, which still are coming in.”
Then there’s the fact that Gov. Jack Dalrymple is not running for re-election.
So, if construction is delayed, then the multimillion-dollar restart decision in 2017 or beyond would have to be approved by a governor who would benefit from that choice, because he’d eventually be able to live in the new digs. And that complicates the politics of these things immensely.
North Dakota’s new medical-school building is almost complete, the state’s law school has been renovated, the highways out West have been rebuilt. Let’s build the new residence for the governor, and take it, too, off the state’s list of overdue work.
The Grand Forks Herald’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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