The Edmond Sun

January 17, 2013

SLIDESHOW: Gov. seeks legislative support for Capitol repairs

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — Cracking blocks, original wiring, the potential for mold, leaking sewage and a crumbling exterior facade were some of the numerous concerns voiced Thursday by state officials.

Gov. Mary Fallin highlighted the ever-worsening conditions as she took reporters on a tour of the 96-year-old state Capitol a couple of weeks before the Legislature convenes. The question is: After the Great Recession and related budget cuts, how will leaders pay for the estimated $160 million worth of repairs and related studies?

“It’s time to get serious about repairing the state Capitol building and the state Capitol complex,” Fallin said after the tour. “The longer we let it go the more expensive it’s going to be, plus the more damage we’re going to have which makes the job even bigger.”

More than that the issue is the safety of employees who work in the building, the safety for persons involved in transactions, the safety of visitors and the safety of others in the building, Fallin said.

A serious issue such as losing electricity or having sewage back up in the basement would force the closure of the building, causing a big chunk of state government to shut down, Fallin said.

Regarding how to pay for the repairs, Fallin said all options are on the table. Potential sources include savings from state revenue accrued during the past couple of years, a bond package and the more than $600 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Fallin said she will be meeting with state legislative leaders this weekend to discuss issues to be addressed during the upcoming session, and she intends to mention Capitol repairs. Fallin said her goal is to develop a plan and present it to the Legislature.

Capitol architect Duane Mass said problems include plumbing lines disintegrating underground and effluent leaching into the ground under the building. Many lines may be more than half filled with silt, Mass said. Another issue with plumbing is the amount of lines encased within the structure, making it difficult to locate leaks.

“So the plumbing system in and of itself represents a daunting challenge,” Mass said. “But then, of course, we have electrical and outside and so many other things.”

Mass said an unanswered question is how to keep state government running while the building is being repaired. Many hidden problems may not be known until the repairs begin, Mass said.

On June 30, 1917, a decade after statehood, the six-story Capitol at Northeast 23rd Street and North Lincoln Boulevard was completed. On March 18, 1918, the Legislature moved in. On Nov. 16, 2002, the dome was dedicated.

The seven-floor building houses all three branches of state government — the Office of the Governor, the Legislature and the judicial branch. It is home to 600-700 employees during the legislative session, 450 during the interim period, an art museum, a renowned art collection, a welcome center and other support services. Emergency and non-routine building maintenance since 2000 have cost taxpayers $8.8 million. | 341-2121, ext. 108