House and Senate renovations underway as costs hit $1.6M

06/30/2015 07:03 PM

FRANKFORT – The sounds of legislating and lobbying on the third floor of the Capitol have been replaced with whirring blades and thudding hammers as crews work to renovate the House and Senate chambers.

State Curator David Buchta said the project, a joint effort of the Legislative Research Commission and Finance and Administration Cabinet that has cost about $1.6 million thus far according to records online and obtained through open records requests, is expected to conclude by mid-November, well ahead of the 60-day budget session that begins in January.

Lawmakers will find refurbished roll-top desks that date back to 1910, a new voting system in the House of Representatives and vinyl executive chairs embroidered with the state seal that cost about $850 each, among other items.

Refurbishing the 105-year-old desks will cost more than anything in the project, with Midwest Maintenance of Piqua, Ohio, winning the contract with a $722,000 bid, according to the Finance and Administration Cabinet’s eMARS system. That’s more than twice the amount awarded construction contractor BCD Construction of Bardstown, which submitted a $359,080 bid.

Buchta says the roll-top desks have been in need of refurbishment for years given the amount of abuse they’ve received from lawmakers and visitors alike.

“You have to have something that is functional and can be used for today’s technology, so the 105-year-old desk don’t have the proper outlets for today’s electronics,” he said. “They don’t have the proper wiring channels, and they had been beaten up with 105 years of abuse.

“They have not been refinished ever, so scratches, dents, names, all sorts of things are on the desk and it was time to have them completely refurbished. We could have bought new desks, but it was important to keep the originals.”

While they will be updated for technological compatibility, Buchta says numerous names etched inside the desks will be restored as well. Some inscriptions date back to the 1920s, he said.

Lawmakers and visitors apparently weren’t alone in damaging legislative desks. Senate President Robert Stivers said legislative leaders and other officials opted for the $850 vinyl executive chairs with 6-inch embroidered state seals through Hurst Office Suppliers of Lexington to ensure longevity of the new furniture.

Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who was not available for an interview before publication, approved a prototype of the chair in late May, according to emails obtained through an open records request, but it had not arrived when Pure Politics spoke to Stivers last week.

The overall cost will rise if the LRC has an optional brass kick plate, which was not priced in a quote sent from Hurst Office Suppliers indicating that 150 executive chairs for the General Assembly will cost $127,387.

Stivers, who said the legislative branch’s portion of the project had been funded through reserve LRC accounts, said while the LRC did not formally pursue competitive sealed bidding for the expenditure, the agency and officials from the House, Senate and Division of Historic Properties personally sought prices from some businesses capable of fitting chairs with 105-year-old desks.

Laura Hendrix, the LRC’s general counsel, said in an email to Pure Politics that the desk chairs were purchased through a price contract, which does not require sealed bidding, and Hurst Office Suppliers is the same vendor who built the chambers’ chairs more than 20 years ago.

“They got together and went to people who had the expertise in this area of putting these types of desks together and matching chairs and things of that nature to try to come up with a quality product that was best suited at the lowest price they could get,” said Stivers, R-Manchester.

“There were multiple prices obtained, and then we made a choice and a decision between the speaker and myself as to what to purchase.”

The House’s new voting program represents the largest technological upgrade in the project. Virginia-based International Roll-Call won the contract with a $298,250 bid.

Buchta and Stivers said the House has had some issues with the current voting system in the recent past.

“The voting boards, the way I understand it from the Legislative Research Commission, have basically been kind of difficult to keep working for the past seven or eight years, and the components that make up these voting boards aren’t made anymore, so to replace them is almost impossible,” Buchta said.

Our look at the House and Senate renovations can been seen here:

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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