Efforts underway to raise $8.8M for governor’s mansion

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner

SPRINGFIELD — Sangamon County officials are launching efforts this week to raise private money to pay for a needed $8.8 million in renovations and repairs to the 160-year-old Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield.

The nonprofit Illinois Executive Mansion Association is hosting a cocktail party Wednesday at the mansion that’s expected to be attended by Gov. Bruce Rauner and former governors Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson.

Although an initial analysis of deteriorating conditions at the mansion estimated minimal repairs will cost $8.8 million, organizers of the private fundraising campaign expect the figure to be higher when historic restoration experts release a more detailed report later this month. And officials expect the cost of repairs will continue to increase the longer the wait for repairs.

“The position of the board is, let’s do the whole job right, not just a patch again,” said Springfield businessman Andy Van Meter, who joined the mansion association’s board of trustees to help with the fundraising campaign.

Lawmakers will be asked to highlight the fundraising campaign with constituents, but Gov. Rauner and his wife, who’s chairwoman of the mansion association board, have been clear that they want it to rely on private donations, according to Van Meter.

“It’s 100 percent private funding,” he said. “It will be through memberships to the association and donations to the association.”

The statewide campaign will seek both large and small donations, Van Meter told The State Journal-Register. It even could include a “pennies for the mansion” effort in the schools, he said.

Last year, $2.4 million in emergency repairs for the mansion was approved but never spent. The mansion’s roof was patched last summer to prevent leaks that had continued to damage walls, buckle floors and cause mold to grow in the basement.

Problems with the mansion include roof leaks, water damage, wood decay, faded carpets, peeling paint, and outdated mechanical, electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems.

Part of Van Meter’s decision to help lead the fundraising campaign was personal, because his mother was chairwoman of the mansion association board for almost 30 years.

“It’s also being a citizen of Springfield,” Van Meter said, “and seeing the governor’s mansion turn into essentially a dilapidated property. As a matter of civic pride, I think a lot of people in the city of Springfield feel that something needs to be done about it.”

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