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RSA head says they’re working on an agreement with architects to build new State House

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RSA head says they’re working on an agreement with architects to build new State House

Sep 12, 2023 | 3:09 pm ET
By Jemma Stephenson
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RSA head says they’re working on an agreement with architects to build new State House
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Concept rendering of a proposed new State House building in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Stew Milne for the Alabama Reflector)

The head of the state’s public employees retirement system said Tuesday that the system is trying to get the cost of a new state house down to a reasonable price. 

“As all of us that are in state government know, it’s long overdue,” said David Bronner, the CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, during a meeting of the Alabama Employees Retirement System on Tuesday.

In the most recent legislative session, lawmakers voted to authorize the construction of a new State House to replace the current one, the former Highway Department building, which faces flooding, mold and asbestos issues.  

“The highway department would not have moved out of the building to begin with if it was a good building,” Bronner said.

The Legislature moved from the State Capitol to the building in 1986 in what was expected at first to be a temporary stay to allow renovations in the Capitol to proceed. But delays in renovations and legislators’ preferences for the larger space offered led the Legislature to stay. 

RSA will pay for the new building. Bronner, who has led RSA since 1973, said he first broached the topic of a new State House in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“I told the governor at that time, you’re spending a lot of money on something that was never designed for this purpose,” he said.

Bronner said that they are working on an agreement with Legislature, where they would pay them 8% return on what the RSA lends. 

Bronner said the architects they have spoken with had never worked on such a building before, and he said they had offered “ridiculous” numbers. He said he believed the cost would be closer to the price of federal buildings built in recent years in Tuscaloosa, Mobile and Florida.

Bronner did not share the current price ranges at the Tuesday meeting. The Tuscaloosa Federal Courthouse, opened in 2011, cost $47.8 million to build. The federal government in 2015 awarded an $89 million contract to build a federal courthouse in Mobile.

Bronner said a new State House would need a number of different types of spaces, such as offices and ceremonial areas. After the meeting, Bronner said that these ceremonial spaces, such as the chambers for the House and Senate, are currently what they are discussing with the architects.

“So, we don’t have those numbers yet,” he said.

He said during the meeting it’s up to the Legislature whether or not they would like to do it.