By Peggy Fikac - San Antonio Express Austin Bureau - Sept. 26, 2007
AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry's new home in a gated community west of the capital city's downtown comes with a pool, a guesthouse and a monthly rent of $9,900 that Texans will pay for at least a year while the official Governor's Mansion undergoes repairs.
In disclosing lease details, the Republican governor's staff cited the need for Perry and his wife, Anita, to find a home in Austin's high-priced housing market that allows proper security and lets them host official functions without unduly inconveniencing neighbors with on-street parking.
The 1,178-square-foot guesthouse, for example, can serve as headquarters for staff and security, Perry spokesman Robert Black said.
But the state tab for the four-bedroom, 4,602-square-foot main home on more than three acres in the Estates Above Lost Creek — "just minutes from the Barton Creek Country Club," touted one real estate online ad — was deemed by some to be excessive.
"This is an extraordinary amount of money to house the governor and his wife," Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen said of the home, which is valued at just over $1 million on Travis County tax rolls but has been listed for sale at more than twice that.
"We have lots of fancy reception rooms at the Capitol where the governor could entertain dignitaries," Smith said, "and it would sure make a lot more sense to rent a more modest apartment in keeping with the average Texan's budget than one that costs three times in rent what the Texas family makes in a year — and more than the governor earns in a year."
Perry's salary is some $115,000 annually, and the annual rent is nearly $119,000.
The home at 8113 Hickory Creek Drive is owned by Murrell Campbell, a Perry political donor, but the transaction was handled by Campbell's daughter and son-in-law, Melinda and Guy Grace. Guy Grace donated $1,000 to Perry in 2005 and $2,500 in 2006, Black said.
"It's clear that the Perrys are using state money just to pay back a political donor," said Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto. "I'm sure there were several houses available in Austin that weren't associated with a donor."
Black scoffed, "Payback to a contribution (over two years) of $3,500?"
He added, "The governor doesn't know Mr. Grace, and the house is being leased at fair market value."
Nieto noted that besides the rent, the state will pay for any modifications needed to accommodate special requirements of the governor and that those will have to be removed under the lease terms when the Perrys leave.
In addition to rent and such modifications, the state is paying a $1,800 pet deposit for the Perrys' dachshund, Lucy.
The cost of renting the 21/2-story white rock house is factored into the cost of the Governor's Mansion repair project, priced at up to $10 million. The repairs could take about a year and a half. The mansion has problems with plumbing, rotting wood, lead paint and asbestos. It has no fire sprinklers and isn't energy efficient.
The lease is for one year, with a month-to-month option after that.
The Perrys hope to move into the house early next month, Black said.
But there's a question remaining, Public Citizen's Smith said. "When are we going to get invited to the governor's pool party?"
Read more in the San Antonio Express News
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