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James MacPherson, Associated Press, Published February 13 2013

ND governor sees no need for new mansion despite problems

BISMARCK – The prairie-style home for North Dakota’s first family isn’t a mansion, nor is it called one.

Unpretentious and sturdy, the Governor’s Residence has stood since 1960 as a metaphor for the state, said North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Yet some lawmakers have been pushing – so far unsuccessfully – to build a new home for the state’s governor, hoping to showcase North Dakota’s newfound oil wealth and replace a place unlikely to dazzle visiting dignitaries.

Not only that, said Rep. Blair Thoreson, the roof leaks.

“I was at a function there and buckets were collecting water that was leaking from the ceiling,” the Fargo Republican said. “The house has served its purpose. It’s time to say farewell.”

Attempts to replace the dwelling have failed in years past. On Wednesday, the House again defeated a measure that would have authorized the construction of a new governor’s residence on the state Capitol grounds, along with a so-called executive conference center. The measure authorized $3 million for the new dwelling and allowed another $3 million from “private donations or other sources.”

Matt Klein, R-Minot, one of the bill’s sponsors and a retired engineer, said the Governor’s Residence is not handicap-accessible, contains lead paint and asbestos and needs some $2.8 million in renovation and repairs, or roughly the cost of the state’s share of a new building.

“This is a 1950s bungalow that has problems,” he said.

Dalrymple is the state’s eighth chief executive to reside in the dwelling.

“It’s not a Georgian Colonial or English Tudor mansion, and it was not meant to be,” Dalrymple said.

Klein said no governor would endorse building a new residence out of fear of criticism for being self-serving

“This is not the governor’s house; it’s the people’s house,” he said. “Why not build something we can be proud of, and if not now, then when?”

The state’s share of the money would come from a fund reserved solely for improvements to the Capitol, Klein said.

“It’s not taking away from any social programs,” he said.

Tracy Boe, D-Mylo, said he had problems allowing private funds to be used to help build a new home for the state’s top elected official.

“It gives the illusion the governor’s mansion is for sale,” he said. “If we’re going to build it, build it with our own funds.”

The home is the second official residence that has been built for North Dakota’s governors. The original Governor’s Mansion, built in 1884, is a few blocks south of the Capitol.

David Rust, R-Tioga, said his wife was appalled when she visited the Governor’s Residence, saying it was outdated and ugly.

“You would think the state of North Dakota would want to have a place for the governor – something to be proud of instead of something that needs to be torn down,” Rust said.

Dalrymple said the 10,000 square-foot home is structurally fine and maintains an understated style and grace.

“I have told everybody that I think what we have in the residence is perfectly adequate and there is really no need to build a new house,” the governor said. “There is always going to be maintenance on a house that is 53 years old. Everybody understands that. I would consider it all within the realms of normal maintenance.”