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State of Mo. & Jefferson City To Split Cleanup Costs At Old Mo. State Prison

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio
East entrance of the old Mo. State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo.

An agreement has been reached between the Nixon Administration and Jefferson City on paying for cleanup and renovations at the old Missouri State Penitentiary.

City officials had been conducting both historic and paranormal tours of the former prison site as part of a major tourism push, but they were canceled in September after high levels of mold were discovered.  Governor Jay Nixon (D) told reporters Wednesday that cleanup costs will be around $2 million, and that the state will foot half the bill.

"This is money that we have available under the state budgeting process of facilities maintenance and repair under our statutory and constitutional scheme," Nixon said.  "From the state side, our money is available as we speak."

The renovations and cleanup will cover three housing units and the building that once housed the state's gas chamber.  Nixon and other officials say tours of the old Missouri State Pen could resume sometime next spring.

The facility was the first state prison in the U.S. to open west of the Mississippi River, and operated continuously from 1836 to 2004.  Notable inmates included boxer Sonny Liston, gangster "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and James Earl Ray.  Ray successfully escaped in 1967 and was still on the lam when he assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.