Guest opinion: Costs add up for repairs, renovations to governor’s mansion

Published 7:55 am Thursday, October 20, 2022

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By Colin Campbell

The conservative North State Journal publication had an eye-popping statistic recently: The state has spent $2,569,459 on repairs and renovations to the governor’s mansion since Gov. Roy Cooper took office at the beginning of 2021.

That’s enough to buy a very nice, brand new house. But it’s not really fair to compare the governor’s mansion to a normal home, the N.C. Department of Administration cautions.

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“The 35,000-square-foot executive residence, known as the ‘people’s house,’ also is used as a meeting space and working historic site which hosts thousands of visitors annually,” spokeswoman Julia Hegele said in an email.

The historic status can also make repairs more expensive. The Department of Administration isn’t releasing detailed costs for each project, arguing that records of individual expenses could pose security risks. But Hegele did provide additional information on what work has occurred during Cooper’s tenure.

The work has included repairs to the foundation, reconstructing porches that had severely deteriorated, replacing and repairing windows, repairing heating and air conditioning units and replacing plumbing.

Hegele stressed that the price tag doesn’t include any upgrades sought by Cooper and his family.

“To be clear, none of the money spent since January 1, 2017, has been for comfort or cosmetic changes for the First Family,” she said. “Rather, the $2.5 million was spent on repairs that were necessary to protect the structural integrity and maintain the historical significance of the building.”

Making upgrades to the governor’s home has always been a political hot potato. Gov. Pat McCrory faced a backlash when he tried to spend $230,000 to remodel bathrooms. His administration said the bathrooms had cracked tiles and hadn’t been updated since the 1970s, but he ultimately canceled the project amid the criticism.

For decades it’s been something of a flawed living space. Gov. Mike Easley had to move out twice during his tenure because of mold in the building.

Colin Campbell is editor of the North Carolina Tribune, a daily newsletter that covers the intersection of business and state politics.