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Dispute over office space could delay Capitol renovations

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A squabble over who gets how much office space in the State Capitol building once its three-year renovation is complete is threatening to delay progress on the $273 million project.

The main tenants in the Capitol – the governor, attorney general, House, Senate and Supreme Court – haven't been able to agree yet on how the building's space will be allocated among them, according to MPR News.

The Capitol Preservation Commission, which is overseeing the renovation work, was supposed to vote Wednesday to approve contracts for the final phase of construction. But the dispute over office space delayed that vote by at least a week, WCCO reports.

Those contracts must be approved and signed by the end of January or they will have to be rebid, MPR News notes. And state officials say it'll cost an extra $680,000 per month if work on the project is delayed.

The major players in the dispute played down the controversy, with Gov. Mark Dayton telling MPR that he's confident an agreement will be reached before the commission's meeting next Thursday.

The disagreement between Senate and House, and DFLers and Republicans, goes back to the debate over the new Senate Office Building, which is being constructed across the street from the Capitol.

Senate DFL Leader Tom Bakk says top Senate leaders will still need space inside the Capitol even after the new office building is complete. But Republicans, who called the new building wasteful, say the double offices aren't necessary.

Cramped quarters in the Capitol

It's already crowded in the Capitol, with two-thirds of the building off limits to the public, and lawmakers relocated to other buildings for the current session.

But the renovation work will be at its peak, and its most disruptive, next year. So lawmakers have begun talking about meeting at another location for the 2016 session (an earlier suggestion, to just skip the 2016 session altogether, doesn't seem realistic).

One Capitol reporter joked the idea to relocate might have come up because of the portable toilets that staff and visitors need to use.

The renovation work is scheduled to be done in 2017.

More information about the renovation project, including weekly construction updates, is available here.

Photos of the renovation work are available here.

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