February 11, 2016

Kitchen renovations raise questions

A member of the state Building Commission says he supports a plan to update two kitchens at the Executive Residence, although he also questions the price tag attached to the project.

The Department of Administration is seeking $478,000 to renovate the industrial kitchen and residential kitchenette at the governor’s mansion. Officials say the price tag would cover new energy efficient equipment and bring the facilities into compliance with modern building codes. The main floor commercial kitchen was last upgraded in 1986 and the kitchenette in the governor’s quarters was redone in the 1960s.

State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), who sits on the Building Commission, says he can understand why the upgrades are needed. Thousands of people attend events at the mansion each year, many of which serve food prepared in the main kitchen. Risser says “there’s no question that kitchen needs updating.”

Risser believes the cost estimate does seem high, although he says experts have laid out a detailed accounting of the request.

The Building Commission is expected to vote on the project at a meeting on Wednesday. If approved, the state would borrow money to pay for the project. The governor’s office says First Lady Tonette Walker will work to raise a majority of the funding through private donations, which Risser thinks is the right approach. He says any donations would help to pay back what the state has to borrow.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:10)

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