SANTA FE (KRQE) - After decades of neglect, the state spent more than $100,000 last summer to renovate the public kitchen at the governor's mansion in Santa Fe, according to officials and purchase orders.
And while the upgrades included new countertops, floors and appliances, the project also included a $2,700 built-in, state-of-the-art coffeemaker the governor's office later decided will be paid for with private donations rather than with taxpayer funds.
"Hope it makes damn good coffee," said Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, when told of the expenditure, which was initially paid for with public money.
The governor's residence was built in the 1950s and features a public wing and private wing. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her husband live in the smaller, cozier private wing that has its own kitchen, living room and bedrooms.
The public side of the mansion plays host to state dinners honoring visiting leaders and dignitaries, as well as private events put on by non-profit organizations. Caterers mainly use the kitchen. No serious work had been done to the public kitchen since the 1960s or 70s, and it was showing its age, according to pictures and Mike Unthank, deputy secretary of the General Services Department.
"You can imagine having 200-300 people here at an event and we have caterers that are cleaning out pots and pans outside" because the sinks were too small, Unthank said. "(Caterers) would take food trays and put them on the floor" because there wasn't enough counter space.
More than 7,000 people attended events at the mansion last year, Unthank said.
Besides the sinks and counters, the floor was uneven and hard to keep clean, the lighting was poor, the stove leaked gas and water had leaked behind the backsplash tile behind the counters, he said. In short, it was deteriorating and shabby.
"We found issues with water leaks, which would lead to mold, which would lead to bacteria," Unthank said.
One of the worst deficiencies was the gas stove. At one point, Martinez said she was walking through the home during winter with a member of her security detail and noticed open doors.
"I said, ‘Why are these doors open?' " she told News 13. "And he said, ‘Because of the gas leak.' He said, ‘The stove is leaking,' and I said, ‘We're going to blow up. What are we doing here?' "
So officials at GSD, which is charged with maintaining public buildings, began looking at possible sources of funding to pay for the renovation. That was when officials discovered that the New Mexico Board of Finance had allocated close to $137,000 during former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration specifically for repairs to the governor's mansion. That money had never been spent, Unthank said.
Work began on the kitchen project last summer, said Unthank, who oversaw the construction project.
"We want to be sensitive in expending the taxpayer's money, to be prudent and to get maximum mileage (out) of our expenditure of funds," he said.
According to invoices requested by News 13, the total cost of the project was $102,079, while upgrades included:
- $16,994 for new granite countertops.
- $10,617 for a granite slab, new flooring and glass tiles.
- $9,996 to restore kitchen cabinets.
- $9,479 for a new kitchen stove.
And last but not least: $2,698 for the built-in, Miele coffee maker.
Unthank said the pricey coffee maker was purchased to save counter space.
Martinez said she provided input into the project after GSD officials asked her opinions about things like granite and tile colors.
"It was OK with me whatever they did as long as it could last a very long time," she said.
However, Martinez said she didn't know about the coffeemaker.
"I don't know how to work that thing," she said.
After KRQE News 13 began asking questions about the coffeemaker, a governor's office spokesperson said private donors would now be asked to pay for the appliance, rather than taxpayers.
Lawmakers didn't have much of a problem with the renovations.
"If the upgrades were needed, then it had to be done," said Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.
Said Ingle, "It gets a tremendous amount of traffic in there, so they want things to look good."
Another big change instituted by GSD officials in December was to start charging non-profit organizations that use the mansion to pay a user's fee and put up a deposit for any cleanup or damage costs. The fee is to make sure taxpayers are not subsidizing parties held by the organizations, Unthank said.
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