by Dave Bakke | State Journal-Register
A gripe I heard at a restaurant in Carlinville led to spending a week chasing my tail.
The complaint was that part of the $50 million renovation project at the Illinois Statehouse involves the replacement of exterior doors on the west side of the Capitol building. Each door, I was told, cost $240,000. Other people have heard the same rumor, so it’s getting around.
I decided to find out if this is just coffee-shop talk or whether the state of Illinois spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars on three doors.
I was directed to several offices that might know the answer: the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office or the Illinois comptroller’s office. I eventually checked with all three.
This being Illinois, I decided from the start not to take anyone’s word for the cost of the doors but to see the cost myself on a budget breakdown. I chose, for no particular reason, to begin with the comptroller’s office. But, I was told, that office might not get a bill for the doors for some months down the road. Fair enough.
I went on to the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the office in charge of the renovation. I was told I would need to ask Richard Alsop III, the Capitol architect, about the cost of the doors. I left a message for him to that effect. That message was not returned, so I called and left another. That message was not returned, either.
In the meantime, my colleague, Doug Finke, wrote a story about the renovation project that was in Monday’s newspaper. He asked Alsop about those doors and was told, as was included in his story, that Alsop could not provide a price for the doors.
Since my phone messages were not being returned, I emailed Alsop on Monday asking if he could explain why he could not provide a price for the doors.
While waiting for a reply, I went on to Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Madigan. He answered my question by saying it couldn’t be answered, not just yet.
“I’m not sure those numbers actually exist,” he said, “because the itemization isn’t available. Suppliers haven’t turned in those numbers yet. When they do, they will be available.”
I was skeptical that the state had commissioned a company to supply ornate, copper-coated doors for this renovation project but did not get an estimate and wouldn’t have any idea of the cost until the bill is submitted. Didn’t sound right.
By Wednesday, I had worked myself into a swivet, ready to write that the rumor probably is true since nobody was eager to shoot it down. Just then, things changed. I received an email from Alsop with the numbers.
The total for the doors is $669,608. But, technically, it’s six doors, two for each of three doorways on the west end of the Capitol. So it’s more like $223,000 each for three doorways, not three doors. Just the cost of installation is $78,000, which is included in the total.