SPRINGFIELD — Repairing buildings at the state fairgrounds, replacing some plumbing in the Capitol and making long-awaited improvements to the Lincoln-Herndon law office are among the public works projects that will be financed under the budget signed into law Monday.
"The things moving to the head of the line in this budget would be (road projects), also several hundred million dollars for improvements and repairs at facilities like colleges, universities, prisons, the Capitol Complex," said Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the House Democrats' point person on the budget. "The deferred maintenance kind of repairs that have built up over the last couple of years so there can be some catch-up."
That includes a $30 million appropriation for upgrading the plumbing in the Capitol.
"This is a proactive measure designed to repair and eliminate old piping and eliminate dead leg piping," said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White. The office is responsible for upkeep of the Capitol.
Haupt said a dead leg pipe, which extends a short distance and then is capped, allows water to stagnate.
"That is a breeding ground for bacteria," he said.
The work "also included cleaning and maintaining of cooling towers (HVAC) systems throughout the complex," he said. "These efforts will help minimize public health risks associated with biological and bacteria issues -- one of which would include legionella."
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In February, White's office reported it found four positive readings for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease after conducting more than 300 water tests in the 14 buildings that make up the Capitol Complex. There were no reported cases of illness from the bacteria.
State officials said they drained and disinfected the areas with positive test results and initiated a water flushing program to keep the bacteria out of the system.
In late May, the office said it tested five cooling towers under its supervision in the Capitol Complex. Four had no indication of legionella, but one for the Willard Ice Building came back with a trace reading. Although the amount was within the normal operating range of a cooling tower, "through an abundance of caution, the Secretary of State Physical Services Department has drained and disinfected the cooling tower."
Another $35 million is going to be spent to upgrade the high voltage system in the Capitol Complex. The current system was installed in the early 1980s.
"Upgrading the system will greatly improve energy efficiency and will improve the quality of electricity to the Capitol Complex," Haupt said. "In addition, this proactive effort will better ensure the electrical system does not fail -- similar to what happened at the Illinois State Fairgrounds."
In 2008, the underground electrical system at the fairgrounds failed, shutting down the fairgrounds for months as miles of cable were replaced.
Haupt said the projects won't get underway until next year.
The budget also appropriates $20 million for design work to complete the renovations and upgrades on the Capitol. The state has been gradually giving the Capitol a major upgrade, replacing antiquated mechanical systems and reconfiguring space inside the building to restore it to its late 19th, early 20th century appearance.
Work has been completed on the south and west wings. Capitol Architect Mark Flowers said the money will allow design work to be done for the north and east wings. Money to actually do the reconstruction work is not in the budget.
The budget also contains $30 million to make badly needed repairs to buildings at the fairgrounds.
Perhaps the highest profile of them is the Coliseum which was shut down last year out of safety concerns. It has been closed ever since. The most recent estimate to repair the building is about $7.7 million, said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Rebecca Clark.
Clark said the department is reviewing the most recent engineering report on the building and that a final design is due to be submitted to the state by Aug. 8.
Repairing the Coliseum should still leave millions available for other repair work on the grounds. However, it still falls far short of the estimated $180 million worth of deferred maintenance for the grounds.
"The Department is working with CDB to prioritize projects while attempting to minimize the impact to currently scheduled events on the fairgrounds," Clark said. "The focus will center on roofs, roads and various infrastructure issues."
CDB is the Capital Development Board, which is in charge of non-road construction projects.
Several historic sites will get money for improvements under the budget. That includes more than $1 million to finish work on the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office and restoration of the Tinsley dry goods store. Work was halted during the state's budget crisis.
Another $575,000 is set aside for repairs to the Dana Thomas House, $90,000 for work to Lincoln's Tomb and $630,000 for work on the Old State Capitol.
The Department of Natural Resources, which now oversees historic sites, did not respond to questions about those projects.