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I am the chairman of the Building Maintenance Committee, which is a Special Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature. The Building Maintenance Committee consists of six Senators who oversee the work of the State’s Task Force for Building Renewal. Together, the Building Maintenance Committee and the Task Force for Building Renewal provide maintenance to many state owned buildings across the state. The list of buildings we service range alphabetically from the Abbott Visitor’s Center at Chimney Rock National Historic Site in Bayard, NE to the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, NE.
Last week the Building Maintenance Committee met and surveyed three different sites in southwestern Nebraska. After getting an update from the Task Force for Building Renewal, we reviewed the projects scheduled for the year, and then we set out to observe these three sites in need of renovation work. These three sites also reflect three of the greatest challenges to maintaining our State’s buildings.
Financing repairs is usually the biggest hurdle. The first site we observed last week was the Work Ethic Camp located in McCook, NE. The Work Ethic Camp is a minimum security prison which now houses twice as many inmates as it was originally designed to hold. This facility needs boilers, an HVAC system, a new fire sprinkler system, and new vinyl siding. Altogether these repairs for the Work Ethic Camp add up to $1,186,500.00. These repairs have been prioritized so that the greatest needs will get taken care of first while the others will have to wait for funding. Speaking of funding, all of the money used to make these repairs come from cigarette taxes.
Finding the right talent for the job can also be a challenge. The second site we visited was the historic home of former U.S. Senator, George Norris, who used to reside in McCook, NE before he passed away in 1944. The historic Norris home stands in need of stucco repair on some of the exterior walls of the house. Because this is a historical building, renovation work must be kept in stucco in order to restore the house to its original form. But, finding a contractor who works in stucco in the greater McCook area will likely be the most challenging part of this historical restoration project.
Sometimes building repairs simply take on a sense of urgency. Our final tour took place at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture located in Curtis, NE. Because the campus is a converted high school, many of the buildings are very old. During the tour we discovered a new problem that we did not know exists. Some of the walls in the library are cracked and are showing signs of water damage. Water and books are never a good mix. Rainwater has been collecting in and around the building. So, the personnel from the Task Force for Building Renewal instructed the college’s own maintenance crew about how to re-direct the rainwater; thus, providing an immediate and inexpensive solution to the problem.
These are just three of the highlights from the Building Maintenance Committee’s meeting and tours from last week. The Building Maintenance Committee and the Task Force for Building Renewal tackled many more problems last week than just these three, but space does not permit me to report about everything we observed. For now, the citizens of Nebraska should take some comfort in knowing that the state’s facilities are actively being cared for.
Pictured below is the historic George Norris House located in McCook, NE.