JEFFERSON CITY — The cost to upgrade the official residence of Missouri’s governor has jumped by nearly 17% after workers found alarming structural deficiencies in a beam that holds up the mansion’s second floor.
During a tour of the historic facility Thursday, first lady Teresa Parson said she had noticed a dip in the floor when she and Gov. Mike Parson moved into the three-story brick structure after he took over as chief executive in June 2018.
The bowing floor and the rotten wooden support beam had not been on the original to-do list when the two moved out in May to make way for a $3.3 million renovation project.
But, the first lady said there are always unforeseen expenses that arise during a remodeling project, especially on a structure that was built in the age of horse and buggy.
“When you clean a house, it gets worse before it gets better,” Parson said.
In the case of the structural beam, the price tag to fix it will add more than $500,000 to the overall construction budget, which is being financed with bonds sold in 2015 and 2016.
For now, the Parsons remain on track to move back into the mansion in late October, just in time to invite children over for a Halloween trick-or-treat.
The mansion, which gets more than 30,000 visitors annually, was shuttered in May to make way for a revamp of its heating and air conditioning systems, as well as its plumbing system. Workers also are replacing columns that hold up a sun porch, abating asbestos and lead, and rewiring the electrical system.
“We’re bringing this building back into the modern ages,” said project manager Sherry Kempf. “It’s something that needs to be done. This is the history of our state.”
With the work come challenges. The heating and air conditioning system consisted of five separate systems that had been installed at different times over the years.
Some of the pipes that fed the system collected condensation, which then leaked into the plaster, damaging the walls.
Most of the fixes must be custom fit for a house built in 1871 with 17-foot-high ceilings, 13 bedrooms, a library and two parlors.
“Nothing is available off the shelf,” Kempf said.
Other work includes upgrades to electrical service and fire alarm systems. An exterior fountain also will be repaired.
Workers are not fixing more cosmetic problems, such as cracked plaster and faded paint. That work will be scheduled for another time.
The first lady said one of the bright spots is a plan to move the washer and dryer from the third floor to the second floor, where the Parsons reside.
“That’s the most exciting thing for me,” she said.
During the work, the Parsons have been staying at a residence at the Missouri National Guard headquarters on the eastern edge of the capital city.
The move to a temporary home is similar to what former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner did in 2015 when the mansion in Springfield was shuttered for $15 million in renovations and upgrades.
Rauner and his wife, Diana, lived in a house on the Illinois State Fairgrounds when they were in the capital city.
The group that operates tours of the Jefferson City mansion said the closure came at a time when the number of visitors typically declines. The mansion gets its most use from January to May when school groups visit the Capitol during the Legislature’s annual session.
She said visitors who have been turned away have not been upset.
“People understand we’re taking care of the home,” said Rebecca Gordon, executive director of the Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion.
Tours are set to begin again in December.