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Taxpayers could foot huge bill to repair water damage at Science Museum

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A design flaw in the $100 million Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul has caused water damage that will require $26 million worth of repairs, according to reports.

MPR reports that museum leaders have approached state lawmakers with a request to fund half of the cost of repairing and replacing parts of the building – $13 million – after water from the roof seeped through its walls.

"You stand here on the roof of the Science Museum looking up at this giant wall with metal panels that surround the Omnitheater and you don't see anything," museum senior vice president Mike Day told the news station. "But as soon as you take those metal panels off and then take the tar paper off, you see that the sheathing has started to crumble."

One of the top tourist attractions in the state, it opened to much fanfare in 1999 at a cost of $99 million – with $30 million coming from the state, MinnPost notes.

The website adds that the building in its current state is safe for visitors, but officials say there is "an urgency" to fix the problem, to prevent it deteriorating further.

The problem for museum heads is getting the funding, with the Star Tribune noting that any repair works will face competition from numerous other projects clamoring to be part of next year's public works bill.

The newspaper says that the St. Paul City Council listed four projects as priorities in the next round of state funding requests – including $52 million for a bridge construction and $14.5 million for Como Zoo exhibits; the Science Museum improvements works only made the secondary list.

The Pioneer Press notes the museum has been fighting water problems since the 370,000 square foot museum opened, but the full extent of the damage wasn't discovered until an independent engineering review in 2012.

"There is no structural integrity loss. The building is safe," Day said Wednesday, according to the newspaper. "However, we want to be in front of this so the building preservation doesn't become some kind of an emergency."

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