NC gov. mansion gets ballistic windows, gas logs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 5, 2013

RALEIGH (AP) — The administration of Gov. Pat McCrory has spent $167,000 on renovations and repairs at the North Carolina Executive Mansion, including the additions of bullet-resistant windows, gas fireplace logs and outdoor fire pits.
The Associated Press reviewed public records of 2013 spending at the historic Raleigh manor after the Republican governor was forced to scuttle plans last month for $230,000 in bathroom remodeling following public outcry.
Department of Administration spokesman Chris Mears said he could not discuss whether a specific threat prompted the March addition of laminated ballistic glass to windows on the mansion’s lower floors, citing concern about disclosing precautions taken to ensure the governor’s safety.
“Terrorism is a real and active threat,” Mears said.
A notation in documents obtained through a public records request indicate that the old windows were “not operable” and presented “a safety hazard to (the) first family, employees and guests.” The windows and repairs to woodwork on the mansion’s balconies cost at least $72,000, according to records.
Mears said a few windows in the mansion were previously armored during the administration of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley, who had been the subject of death threats years earlier while serving as a state prosecutor.
No U.S. governor has been assassinated while in office.
When the Executive Mansion opened in downtown Raleigh in 1891, visitors could walk right up to the front door. That changed in the 1960s, when a tall brick wall and imposing steel gates were added following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The mansion walls are now ringed with security cameras and the nine acres of lushly landscaped grounds they enclose are defended by armed state troopers.
In addition to the windows, public records show about $43,000 in taxpayer money was spent this year to convert the mansion’s fireplaces to use gas logs and add an outdoor fire pit.
A second fire pit valued at $500 was provided by a private donor, Mears said. The administration has refused repeated requests to disclose the donor’s identity.
“In addition to being a home, the governor’s residence is also a place where the governor conducts the people’s business, and holds business meetings there,” Mears said. “The fire pits are fixtures that make the residence grounds usable during cold months.”
Mears pointed out that in McCrory’s 10 months in office, his GOP administration has spent less on repairs and renovations than under the terms of his two immediate Democratic predecessors, Gov. Beverly Perdue and Easley. The mansion underwent a major $5 million renovation under Easley, but that work did not include six private bathrooms upstairs.
The AP reported last month that McCrory planned to spend $230,000 to tear out and redo the bathrooms, including more than $100,000 for new marble and fixtures in the governor’s master bath. The renovations were approved little more than a month after McCrory signed a state budget that provided tax cuts for the wealthy but no raises for teachers. It also cut per-pupil spending for public schools and slashed a program that provides dental work to low-income children.
After the plans became public, McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo said on Oct. 11 that the work would be scaled back “to do only basic maintenance at minimal cost to get the bathrooms up to code, remove dangerous mold and fix broken faucets.”
Documents released last week show the same private bathrooms underwent more than $5,300 of work in April to repair cracked tiles, replace inoperable fixtures and apply new caulk around sinks and toilets. Mears said the cracked tiles and faucets replaced six months ago are different from those referenced in statements last month as justifying the need for the pricey renovations.
“We’re talking about different fixtures and tiles,” he said. “If they were repaired, they wouldn’t need to be repaired a second time.”