Skubick: Capitol Welcome Center future is murky

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – A major expansion project at the State Capitol is apparently dead tonight as the proposed new underground visitor education center is not getting the votes required to build it.

Up until now there were hopes that one day school kids would have a new underground visitor education center to use during their day at the Capitol.

But the hopes are gone because the votes aren’t there.

“The Welcome Center and the parking lot is probably not on the planning list,” insists Rep. Larry Inman.

Rep. Inman says the costs are exorbitant.

It would have cost $85 million to build the center just west of the Capitol building in an existing parking lot.

The Lansing and State Chambers of Commerce urged a “yes”, citing the economic benefit to the city.

State Rep. Tom Cochran is not pleased. “We have thousands of visitors coming every year and we’re trying to enhance the building to make it more friendly for the people of Michigan. It’s just short sighted.”

There weren’t enough votes because the $85 million price tag was too high.

“When you are telling the public we’ve got a short fall next year,” adds Rep. Inman. “I don’t see us going forward.”

The governor never signed off on the project but reportedly never gave a reason for his “no” vote.

A proposal to modernize the inner working of the Capitol and build a new geothermal heating system is likely to move forward.

But could the visitor center be resurrected at a later date?

Capitol Commission chair Gary Randall doesn’t think so. “It’s not likely. Once we put in the wells, the center can’t be built after that. So it’s now or never.”

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