The Buzz

$2.8 million to fix escalators? SC lawmakers weigh costly repairs to state buildings

The S.C. State House
The S.C. State House

An almost $500 million repair bill – intended to pay for millions of dollars of deferred maintenance at South Carolina’s colleges and state-owned buildings – likely will not pass before the 2018 elections.

S.C. House leaders proposed the borrowing bill last year. The bill includes nearly $251 million for deferred maintenance at the state’s four-year and technical colleges, and $35 million for economic development projects. Officials say that money is necessary to keep up with costly and ongoing repairs that have piled up over the years.

But the idea has foundered.

This year, House budget writers have added some of the maintenance requests to their proposed 2018-’19 budget, which goes into effect July 1.

But the added one-time money in the proposed budget is not nearly enough to cover years of deferred maintenance.

For example, the S.C. Department of Administration said Tuesday the State House’s 43-year-old escalator has been repaired more than 40 times since 2009.

This year alone, the escalator – which take lawmakers, employees and visitors to and from the State House – has had to be fixed 10 times, said Administration Department head Marcia Adams.

The agency asked for $93.5 million in the bond bill to cover the cost of repairs to the State House and surrounding buildings.

With that bill going no where, Adams said the agency will wait on $4.5 million in one-time money added in the state’s proposed budget to cover the costs of replacing the State House escalators.

Removing and building new escalators would cost the state $2.2 million, Adams said, adding $600,000 more is needed to repair water seepage.

“We have so much deferred maintenance,” she said. “We’re so far behind in our deferred maintenance (that), of that $90 million, it’s actually going to take some type of something like a bond bill to catch up on that deferred maintenance.”

The state has not passed a bond bill in almost two decades. But some House members say that needs to change.

“Anybody who does not ... look at this for political or philosophical reasons needs to look at some of these buildings around the state,” state Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort, said in budget-writing negotiations last month.

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter