Time takes toll on historical markers at Capitol

The statue of Christopher Columbus on the grounds of the state Capitol. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Monuments to key figures and events in Minnesota history on the grounds of the state Capitol are in rough shape.

So much so that Gov. Mark Dayton wants lawmakers to feed a fix-up fund as part of the construction borrowing plan they'll assemble in this year's legislative session.

The Department of Administration sought more than $3.5 million to spruce up the 16 monuments or memorials that were erected without a dedicated maintenance account.

Dayton recommended fulfilling one-tenth of that in a borrowing proposal he released last week. The $350,000 in his plan would start with repairs to the Roy Wilkins Memorial (a tribute to the prominent civil rights leader raised in Minnesota) and the Peace Officers Memorial (marking the deaths of law enforcement personnel in the line of duty).

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There are roughly two dozen memorials and monuments spread throughout the Capitol mall, ranging in age from a century old to just a few months. Those built after 2006 were required to account for eventual repairs in their initial construction budget.

The deterioration of memorials - a threat to their stability and to visitor safety - was documented in a consultant's 2013 study, which recommended more than $4.4 million be devoted to conservation and maintenance over a 10-year time frame. The study's authors put a Christopher Columbus statue atop their list of priority repairs.

The cost to fix the distressed Roy Wilkins Memorial, a mix of metal sculptures atop granite pavers, was pegged at $245,000 a few years ago. The Peace Officers Memorial, which features a colonnade with an illuminated blue line running through the middle, faces $420,000 in repair costs; lawmakers allocated $55,000 for it in 2012. Both were originally completed in 1995.

Officials estimate that more than 230,000 people visit the Capitol grounds each year, and the memorials to war veterans and state luminaries are part of the visitor experience. The Capitol itself is under a major renovation, expected to be finished in 2017.

2013 Monument Study