Gov. Pat McCrory plans to spend up to $230,000 in taxpayer funds remodeling bathrooms in his private living quarters at North Carolina's Executive Mansion even as he demands belt-tightening for public schools and social programs.
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Planned upgrades include new marble, tubs and fixtures for six bathrooms on the upper floors of the Victorian-era home in Raleigh. The changes were included in a long list detailing $90 million in repairs and renovations to government buildings sent to legislative leaders last week by state budget director Art Pope. The $90 million was included in the state budget for the current fiscal year.
Department of Administration spokesman Chris Mears said the bathrooms were last spruced up in the 1970s, though he confirmed the facilities are still in working order. A memo justifying the repairs lists problems that include cracked tiles, worn countertops, inadequate electrical outlets and concern there might be mold growing behind the walls.
As an example of the special nature of the job, Mears said one of the vintage bathrooms had been specially modified for wheelchair access ahead of a visit by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"When you are talking about a historic property of that degree, it's not something that you can just go down to Lowe's and buy kind of a standard fit for these areas," he said. "So almost everything will be some sort of custom work or specially designed for this space."
Mears stressed that the $230,000 figure is just an estimate provided by the state construction office. The price is likely to come down after the job is put out to bid, he said.
Kim Genardo, a spokeswoman for McCrory, said late Friday, "The governor and first lady have requested the Department of Administration do only basic maintenance at minimal cost to get the bathrooms up to code, remove dangerous mold and fix broken faucets."
A written estimate provided to The Associated Press shows $100,710 of planned work to the governor's master bathroom, including a new shower, tub, two lavatories and a water closet. The estimate also includes $15,800 for marble, ceramic tile and paint. All told, the project breaks down to about $420 per square foot.
In addition to the bathrooms, there are plans to spend another $113,300 for restoring and refinishing woodwork on the mansion's exterior. Documents show about $160,000 has already been spent on construction work at the mansion since McCrory took office in January, including $3,370 for outdoor fire pits.
The administration also provided an analysis of spending on repairs at the mansion under McCrory's immediate Democratic predecessors, Govs. Beverly Perdue and Mike Easley. Completed in 1891, the massive Queen Anne revival architectural landmark underwent a major $5 million renovation under Easley, but that work did not include the upstairs baths.
"One of the governor's major priorities when he came into office was to not just put a Band-Aid on the fractures of state government, but to actually repair them," Mears said. "That's part of what this repairs-and- renovations list is. This is $90 million of repair to the infrastructure of state government. And there's a back-to-work component to that. These are all construction-related jobs."
The timing of the new work at the mansion comes a little more than a month after McCrory signed a state budget that provided big tax cuts for the wealthy while including no raises for teachers, dropping per-pupil school spending to among the lowest rates in the nation and slashing a program that provides dental work to low-income children.
North Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Ben Ray said the Republican governor's spending priorities are skewed.
"This is an administration and a legislature that rejected health care for 500,000 North Carolinians," Ray said, referring to the state's refusal to expand Medicaid, mostly with federal funds, under the Affordable Care Act. "So to drop $230,000 on a bathroom renovation just shows that Pat McCrory's priority is not North Carolina, but himself," Ray said.