HELENA — The Governor’s Mansion in Helena has been sitting empty since 2021 pending renovations. MTN got a tour of the home to see the current state it’s in, and what’s gong on with it.
The 12,000-square-foot home was built in 1959, and it was occupied by governors and their families until September 2021 when a major renovation project was put out to bid.
“This home needs electrical—it needs to be completely redone; plumbing systems, sewer systems. ADA compliance is very important since it is a public residence,” State of Montana general services administrator Steve Baiamonte said. “There are some issues even with the insulation in the attic, the roof needs to be replaced, rain gutters, soffits.”
Aside from paint colors and some minor updates, much of the house is as it was when it was first built. Most of the bathrooms still have the original plumbing and fixtures from 1959, outlets throughout the house are outdated, and air conditioning does not work effectively for the entire residence. There are broken appliances in the kitchen, and asbestos abatement that needs to be done.
“It’s almost a matter of where do you stop because there are so many issues that need to be addressed,” State of Montana architecture and engineering division administrator Russ Katherman said.
The legislature appropriated $1.9 million for renovations in 2019, and then another $440,500 during the 2021 session. When the project was put out to bid, that more than $2.3 million in funding doesn’t cover the cost.
“I would say we are probably roughly just shy of double where we expected to be,” Katherman said. “Costs when up for steel over 100 percent, lumber went up almost 90 percent in that time frame.”
Given the discrepancy in approved funding and bids, the renovation project is on hold and the house is sitting empty.
Although no one lives in the house, and there are no events held in it, it has not been forgotten.
“We still have to take care of it because we have to be good neighbors and we need to protect the state’s assets,” Baiamonte said. “We are still in here every day.”