Renovations at Pa. Senate offices cost taxpayers $1 Million

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Records obtained by FOX43 through a Right To Know Request show recent renovations in the State Capitol's North Office Building cost more than $1 Million.

The renovations at the State Senate Chief Clerk's office started in April 2017 after more than a decade of delays due to the state's financial constraints. Most of the taxpayer-funded project focused on asbestos abatement and the installation of a new heating and air conditioning unit.

Records also show, however, tens of thousands of dollars were spent on new window drapes, a chandelier, desks, and kitchen cabinets.

All told, the renovations cost taxpayers $1,050,060.16.

"Based on what we needed, and specifically, this historic space with ornate rooms, we determined all of our expenditures were appropriate," said Senate Chief Clerk Donetta D'Innocenzo.

D'Innocenzo gave FOX43 a tour of the new offices in the North Office Building, as well as construction still ongoing down the 1st floor hallway. Some offices which haven't been renovated have water damage on the ceiling, with hoses running into oversized trash cans filling up with run-off water.

D'Innocenzo says these offices have experienced "years of drainage problems", and this section of the Capitol hasn't seen major renovations to its infrastructure since 1968.

The damage caused by leaks leading to asbestos, and the subsequent updates to the internal HVAC system, ultimately carried the heaviest price tag, costing $740,671.

The Senate also bought new desks and chairs for the Chief Clerk's 10-office wing. An expense report obtained in the Right To Know Request also show the Senate spent money on the following:

  • $30,325 for window drapes in four offices.
  • $5,875 to repair two doors.
  • $2,450 for a 12-arm chandelier
  • $7,997 for kitchen cabinets as part of a newly installed kitchen and dining room area.

The kitchen area was necessary, D'Innocenzo said, for two main reasons: to avoid eating on the newly purchased desks, and so that her staff could have private, work-related conversations when necessary. She said her office often times deals with confidential material.

"They couldn’t have confidential discussions with employees or providers without someone hearing what they were talking about," D'Innocenzo said of her staff, saying their old East Wing offices were too cramped for confidential conversations and the cafeteria was too crowded.

Ultimately, the expense report indicates the Senate spent $12,381.71 on items listed as "furniture" and $39,596.50 on "office supplies."

David Craig, the Executive Director of the Capitol Preservation Committee, said all the expenses were necessary to maintain the character and look of the Capitol Building, which is 112 years old.

"Those things are important to keep to tell the tale of the building and the history that's involved in the building," Craig said. "It's not about preserving what looks good. It's about preserving history."

D'Innocenzo says the companies contracted out by the Senate are pre-approved through an internal application process done by the Department of General Services. She says DGS gets discounts on bigger projects, and maintains none of the spending was wasteful.

You can view the entire expense report here:

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.