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Oklahoma governor leaning toward seeking funds for Capitol

Money to repair the crumbling facade of the nearly 100-year-old building is being considered by the governor. She will present her budget request to lawmakers Monday.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: February 2, 2013 at 11:57 pm •  Published: February 3, 2013

Gov. Mary Fallin is considering asking lawmakers to appropriate $10 million to start making repairs to the nearly 100-year-old state Capitol, which has had yellow fencing to keep passers-by off the south steps for nearly 18 months.

Fallin said she is open to all options, including a bond issue, but that she has heard the message from many legislators that they prefer using available cash to repair the building's crumbling facade.

“I just want to get the Capitol fixed and get a plan in hand so that we can address the deteriorating conditions of the state Capitol and remove the barricades from out front and make it a place that we're proud of,” she told The Oklahoman.

Fallin will present her budget request Monday to lawmakers as they return for the start of the first session of the 54th Legislature.

The governor has been using the bully pulpit of her office to highlight problems with the crumbling building, which has serious plumbing and electrical wiring problems. She led reporters on a tour last month to show some of the problem areas.

A year ago, Fallin asked lawmakers to appropriate $5 million to pay for debt service associated with a bond issue to repair the Capitol; that would have supported a bond issue of about $50 million.

The House of Representatives last year crushed a $200 million proposal that included repairing other buildings in the Capitol complex. It failed 77-15.

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said last week that he didn't believe there was any will in the House to approve a bond issue of any kind. Conservative Republicans oppose increasing the state's debt, and Democrats oppose most bond issues if Republicans move ahead with another proposal to cut the state's personal income tax rate.

Fallin didn't want to give specifics on her budget, but a source close to her office said the governor will ask lawmakers to appropriate $8 million to repair the exterior of the Capitol and another $2 million to develop a plan to repair and renovate the rest of the building.

Preliminary estimates show it would cost $160 million to repair and renovate the structure. Many lawmakers said they would like to see a plan developed that would outline specific problems, a timetable and how to make the repairs without disrupting the work of legislators and other elected officials as well as agencies that are housed there. Renovation and repairs are expected to take four years or more.

It's been estimated it will cost $5 million to $8 million and take about 10 months to repair the exterior masonry.

Covered scaffolding has been in place since September on the southeast entrance of the Capitol to protect people from falling pieces of limestone. Those entering the building on the southeast side must use the handicapped entrance and walk under the 20-foot-long wood-covered scaffolding. Cautionary fencing also is in place along the south steps of the Capitol.

The precautionary steps were taken after an engineering firm found damage to the building's exterior limestone panels on the southeast and southwest sides of the building. It's expected that the damage exists throughout the building.

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