SPRINGFIELD — — Critics are befuddled by Illinois' decision to pay nearly $670,000 for three sets of copper-plated wooden doors at the Capitol building, saying it is too "elegant" a purchase for a state whose pension fund is underfunded by $100 billion.
The ornate doors, which are part of a $50 million renovation, were custom-made to resemble the original oak and black walnut doors that had bronze ornamentation. The building is a National Historic Landmark.
The doors that were replaced were made of glass and metal.
"Every other bit of our infrastructure is crumbling, too," State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican told the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/19lsffQ ). "At some point, you say we'll just do this amount (on life-safety and disability upgrades) now, and we'll upgrade later to an old stately look when we can afford to. That's what a responsible homeowner does, right?"
She added: "I'd have slapped on ordinary doors and called it a day."
Laurence Msall, president of the financial watchdog group Civic Federation, said the doors are an example of the state's poor judgment.
"In order to accomplish such an elegant rehabilitation of the Capitol building, the state Legislature skipped the requirement of justifying why that investment was a higher priority than the needed improvements to our water, roads, public transit and education systems that are not being fully funded," he said.
The renovation is being paid for by construction bonds that were part of a $31 billion capital construction program approved by the General Assembly.
Questions about the project have been referred to Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Brown said Thursday the project went through the state's normal bidding and procurement process, and the doors were part of a master plan approved by the Office of the Capitol Architect Board. The board includes representatives from the offices of all four legislative leaders, Brown said.