MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Lawmakers are coming back to Montgomery next week for the organizational session. But they’ll be working out of a building in much need of repairs.
From the outside, you might not think anything’s wrong with Alabama’s State House but for those who’ve worked in it for decades, it’s another story.
“The best way to describe this building– it’s just an old, sad building,” Secretary of the Senate Patrick Harris said.
Harris says the 60-year-old building is showing its age, to put it mildly. From electrical fires to aging infrastructure to broken pipes and flooding to disability access to everything in between, Harris says the building is in serious need of repair.
However, he says that the laundry list of needed improvements isn’t even the biggest issue.
“The main problem that we have here is that this building is just not accommodating to accommodate to the public coming in and watching how government works,” Harris said.
The current State House was never intended for legislative use. It used to be an office building for the Highway Department, until 1985 when lawmakers moved in from the Capitol on what was supposed to be a temporary basis.
Harris says the committee spaces are small and the overall layout doesn’t encourage participation in government.
“Kind of a nightmare when it comes to access for the public,” Harris said.
Harris isn’t alone in thinking it’s time for a new State House. In a March 2020 assessment, the ISES Corporation engineering firm determined it would cost more than $50 million to address the building’s many needs and more than $120 million to replace it entirely.
“There’s just so long you can patch stuff up. It’s just not patchable anymore,” Harris said.
The Retirement Systems of Alabama, which owns many buildings in Montgomery, would be involved in the construction if a new State House were to be built. Legislative Counsel for RSA Neah Scott says conversations have happened, but no plans are in place.