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West End, Park-Like Setting, Needs Work

Aug 1, 2011

As tempers flare over the contentious vote and revote on a labor concession deal, one of the questions that occasionally pops up on comment boards is this: Is the Malloy Administration really spending money to redecorate the governor's mansion as it is demanding labor givebacks?

Technically, the state isn't redecorating the Executive Residence (the term long preferred to "mansion"), but a portion of the 102-year-old home occupied by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his wife, Cathy, is getting a makeover courtesy of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens magazine. No taxpayer money is to be used.

The Executive Residence

However, the state has spent about $57,000 on repairs to the home since Malloy became governor in January, including $44,000 on an air-handling unit, $2,000 on a hot-water heater and $11,351 to refinish hardwood floors.

It is delicate issue for every elected chief executive whose office comes with a publicly owned residence: To renovate or not to renovate, especially in tough economic times.

"Every governor, at least as long as I've been around, is very sensitive to spending money on the residence," said Wilson H. Faude, a member of the Governor's Residence Conservancy, the non-profit group that helps maintain the home.

The 19-room Georgian Colonial, which sits on a five-acre estate in Hartford's West End, is set to get fresh wallpaper and paint in the first-floor rooms as part of a project overseen and paid for by the magazine.

"My understanding is they approached the residence about doing it, then they can have a big splash in their magazine," Faude said.

No budget was available for the project by the magazine, which also has editions for Westchester and the Hamptons.

Timothy Bannon, the governor's chief of staff, said the magazine's decorating project will be confined to the first-floor rooms, which are considered public spaces. They are used by Malloy for meetings and are available to non-profit groups on a limited basis.

Care and upkeep of the residence has been a sensitive issue for many governors since it was acquired by the state in 1943 and occupied by Gov. Raymond Baldwin and his family Sept. 14, 1945.

"That house became some kind of political third rail," Bannon said. "Nobody wanted to spend any money to protect it."