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Worker hands installing bitumen roof shingles

This week, Sangamon County will begin efforts to raise enough private funds to pay for the estimated $8.8 million needed to renovate the historic 160-year-old Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield.

The Illinois Executive Mansion Association, a nonprofit organization, will host a cocktail party on Wednesday with guests such as Gov. Bruce Raunder and former Govs. Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson.

While an initial analysis of the mansion’s deteriorating condition resulted in an estimated $8.8 million in repair costs, those who organized the private fundraising campaign anticipate the figure to be much higher once restoration experts release a more detail report later this month. In addition, officials only expect the cost of repairs to increase the longer the property remains in limbo.

“The position of the board is, let’s do the whole job right, not just a patch again,” said Springfield businessman Andy Van Meter, who joined the mansion association’s board of trustees to assist with fundraising.

Lawmakers will be asked to highlight the mansion’s fundraising campaign with voters, but Rauner and his wife, Diana, who also serves as chairwoman of the mansion association board, have stood firm in their wish to rely solely on private donations, according to Van Meter. “It’s 100 percent private funding,” he said. “It will be through memberships to the association and donations to the association.”

Just last year, $2.4 million in emergency repairs for the mansion was approved but never actually spent. The mansion’s roof was, however, repaired last summer to prevent leaks that have continued to to cause damage to the walls, the floor to warp, and mold to grow in the basement. For most typical residential homes, the average cost to repair basement water damage hovers between $3,000 and $5,000.

In addition to a leaky roof and water damage, the mansion also has extensive wood decay, faded carpets, peeling paint layers, and severely outdated mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems.

Van Meter, whose mother served as chairwoman of the mansion association board for nearly three decades, is hopeful the renovations will foster a sense of community pride.

“It’s also being a citizen of Springfield,” Van Meter said, “and seeing the governor’s mansion turn into essentially a dilapidated property. As a matter of civic pride, I think a lot of people in the city of Springfield feel that something needs to be done about it.”

The board has already received a number of donations, and members are hopeful renovations will begin as early as this summer.

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