Some former Nebraska lawmakers are seeking public money to pay for fountains at the state Capitol.
The group has renewed its effort to raise $2.5 million for bronze fountains at the Capitol's four open-air courtyards. The fountains are the last unfinished design feature of the Capitol, which was built in stages between 1922 and 1932.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful building," said former Sen. Bob Wickersham, who lives in Lincoln. "It's worthy of finishing."
The Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators hopes to have the fountains installed over the next three years, in time for the 150th anniversary of the state's founding. The group was formed in 1976, but until now had never taken on anything more ambitious than planning an annual reunion and attending funerals of former colleagues.
Former Sen. Vicki McDonald, who also lives in Lincoln, said former senators all loved and admired the Capitol, which prompted them to take up the cause.
"During the '30s it was difficult to spend the money," she said. "Now is the time."
But there's a catch: They want the state to pick up the multi-million-dollar tab — a move that Gov. Dave Heineman opposes.
A spokeswoman for the governor says Heineman, who is also chairman of the Capitol Commission, believes private donors should pay for the fountains.
The fundraising campaign began about five years ago, but fizzled after bringing in less than $4,000.
Wickersham, who represented northwest Nebraska's 49th District, made some phone calls. He found support from McDonald, who is now directing the former lawmakers group, and former Lincoln Sen. DiAnna Schimek, who had previously sought state funding for the fountains.
The three say state money built the Capitol and it's appropriate for state taxpayers to finance completion of it. And, they say, it would be unseemly and inappropriate to erect plaques thanking private donors in the public building.
Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams of York, who serves on the commission, said he'd like to see the Capitol finished.
"Generally speaking, it is the obligation of the state to do this," he said. "Though we appreciate any help we can get from private people."