BISMARCK — Up to $250,000 will be spent on making improvements to the two-year-old North Dakota Governor's Residence to address pervading cooking smells and loud indoor sounds.
Facility Management Director John Boyle told lawmakers on the Legislative Procedure and Arrangements Committee last week about the enhancements that will involve installing a commercial ventilation system and sound-absorbing acoustic panels.
Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum moved into the new 13,700-square-foot home in March 2018. The state Legislature approved in 2015 the use of $4 million from special funds generated through oil and gas royalties and nearly $900,000 in private donations to build the home.
The Capitol Grounds Planning Commission has a recurring $250,000 appropriation that it can choose to spend on any project tied to the grounds. The commission, which is chaired by Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and includes four legislators and four Burgum appointees, unanimously approved using the funding for the improvements to the Governor's Residence. The funds for improvements also come from oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars.
The acoustic panels to be installed on the walls and ceiling of a room used for entertaining guests will cost about $70,000 if contracted out or about $40,000 if the state's Facility Management takes on the project. Boyle said his staff will likely take on the project.
The panels are needed because noise reflects off the hard surfaces in the room, making it hard to hear, Boyle told the committee. He added that lawmakers brought up the issue with him after attending a gathering at the residence.
"If there are 100 people in that room and everyone's speaking, you can't comprehend anything that anyone's saying," Boyle said.
A wireless sounds system was installed in the same room earlier this year at a cost of about $7,000, he said.
Some funds were also used to buy and install a commercial dishwasher, a food-warming oven, commercial sinks and stainless steel tables in the house's downstairs kitchen, which is occasionally used to prepare large amounts of food for guests. The first family has a separate private kitchen upstairs, Boyle said.
The cost of the ventilation system and accompanying outdoor mechanical units is yet to be determined, but only about $110,000 of the commission-approved funding remains, Boyle said. An initial cost estimate came in higher than the available funding, so an architect is working to bring forward a lower estimate, he added.
The ventilation system and mechanical units would remedy the issue of food smells from the downstairs kitchen permeating through the public area of residence. Boyle said the current range hood is inadequate in dispelling odors and smoke from the home.
If the remaining funding proves insufficient, Boyle said his staff would try to find enough money to complete the ventilation project next year.