By Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday defended the renovations and restorations to his executive suite, which cost an estimated $11.3 million, up from the original $9 million estimate.
The governor, hosting one of several public events scheduled in his office suite, pointed to the floor in his Corner Office, where workers discovered holes in the subflooring that required structural reinforcements, according to officials overseeing the project.
In response to a reporter's question after Patrick signed a bill on public housing authorities, the governor said "having a floor not collapse underneath us is not a luxury, it turns out to be pretty important."
Patrick opened the bill-signing ceremony, which was held in the back of the revamped reception area that is part of the third floor office suite, by noting the smell of fresh paint still lingering in the air.
"It's great to have a security system that's secure, a heating system that heats, and a cooling system that's cool, and it turns out, a floor that isn't going to collapse out from under us," said Patrick, who moved back into the office on Tuesday after months in a temporary office on the second floor.
A new governor is scheduled to take over the suite in January, as Patrick is finishing out his term.
According to the administration, the new HVAC system includes "state-of-the-art" energy saving features that could save $5,000 a year.
Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Brighton), who attended the bill-signing, told the governor he knows it's "difficult" to invest money into the State House "without public criticism."
Honan joked that the lobby area looked like it was "more suitable" to sign treaties. "Which we all someday hope you do," Honan added, in an apparent reference to a potential run for president in Patrick's future.
After a roar of laughter from the small crowd subsided, Patrick, who has repeatedly said he isn't running in 2016, stated, "That part was off-the-record."
Asked about the renovations, Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus), who also attended the bill-signing, told the News Service he hadn't seen the other rooms, but added that the executive suite, and the House, which is asking for its own $20 million chamber renovation, are "historic" areas.
The Senate is also proposing to renovate its chamber, with a potential $20 million price tag.
State officials on Tuesday afternoon offered the media a tour of the renovated offices, which include a new "command center" on the fourth floor, the potential for a facial recognition system for entrance to the offices, and temperature control in the rooms.
The project, which started in January, spanned 19,000 square feet.
"It was a complete historical renovation," Richard Petersen, senior construction manager for the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, said Tuesday. "It wasn't just a restoration. We actually went in, and we did a lot of research to find out what the colors were, what the textures were, what the floor was, and whatnot, and working in conjunction with Mass. Historical Society and the Commission, we got exactly how it looked back in 1798."
Workers are still putting the finishing touches on the project, going through a punch-list and wrapping up work on the second floor offices directly below the governor's office, that will again house constituent services staffers.
All the work should be finished by Wednesday, Aug. 13, according to Petersen.
"We should be set here for another 100 years," he said.