Not all capitol fix-up contractors are from Illinois

September 23, 2011 4:43:52 AM PDT
A $150 million renovation project underway at the Illinois Capitol building is facing criticism because of the state's dire financial situation.

Questions remain about why some of the contracts have gone to out-of-state suppliers.

The multi-million dollar overhaul of the state capitol building, funded through the Illinois Capital Improvement Plan, is designed to create jobs right here in Illinois.

But the I-Team has found that some of the sole-source suppliers working on the Illinois Capitol are not even from Illinois.

The project a major spruce up - a $150-million renovation of the Capitol building in Springfield, including extensive decorative painting and gilding and new electronic window shades.

However, according to the plans, new lights set to be installed in the Illinois Capitol are from across the border in Missouri.

A historic lighting company in St. Louis was one of the contractors used in the House chamber during the first phase of the renovation.

Now, they're back for more. According to the lighting plans, drawn up by a company based in Michigan, existing chandeliers in the west wing will be taken down and refurbished. Some will be replaced with brand new copies.

"I think for the most part we are using Illinois companies, we bid this out to Illinois contractors and the GCs hold the majority of the work," said Architect of the Capitol Richard Alsop.

Alsop says light fixtures from St. Louis - antique lighting already in the building - have outperformed similar fixtures.

"The fact that they're not located in Illinois is a disadvantage to us, but it doesn't stop us from using the correct company to do the work," said Alsop.

It's not just the lights. Decorative metal work, like handrails and grates, is being imported from places like New Jersey, Utah, California and Wisconsin.

The limestone for any repairs to exterior walls is from Kansas.

"I'm not sure that under the law... [having it come] from Illinois necessarily counts for extra points," said Steve Brown, spokesman for powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Brown says that in many cases, the sole-source companies are either the low bidder or the only qualified contractor.

"It's companies with that expertise who couldn't be found in Illinois, who have done work here before, [who] have a great track record," said Brown.

As the project continues, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is urging the renovation to only include what is absolutely necessary.

"The last thing that we need in this state is for a project at the Capitol to make people more question the government than to feel good about the government," said Brian Gladstein with the Illinois Project for Political Reform.

The overall contract for this phase of the Capitol renovation went to a construction company from Peoria. The state bid does not require their subcontractors to be from Illinois.

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