Capitol climate in crisis

By Sally Allen Published: May 16, 2005
If you're planning on visiting the state Capitol, dress accordingly, which means bring your own ceiling fan and/or thermal underwear, depending upon the weather.

Public areas in the Capitol have been declared environmentally challenged. "Why?" you might ask. These areas are NOT heated or cooled because our elected officials generally prefer that taxpayers spend as little time as possible down there.

With just two weeks left in this legislative session, Governor Brad Henry and Senate leaders -- who spend their workdays basking in climate-controlled quarters -- suddenly have become concerned about the seasonal suffering of Capitol visitors and/or the expensive artwork.

So, they have proposed spending $27 million taxpayer dollars restoring our inalienable right to avoid heat stroke and/or frostbite while visiting the historic public building for which we paid nearly a centennial ago.

More Outside the Box columns

A report recently submitted to lawmakers by a Wisconsin company, says the Capitol's current hybrid geothermal heat pump system is aging, obsolete and increasingly costly to maintain. The company has recommended installing a more traditional heating and air-conditioning system, which coincidentally, they also happen to sell.

When the state Capitol was built in 1917, air conditioning consisted of Oklahoma's wind blowing through its many windows. In 1992, the Capitol became the largest single building in the United States to operate on a geothermal heat pump system, which was paid for with a $3.1 million oil overcharge allowance.

In 1990, Governor Henry Bellmon lauded the many benefits of the cutting-edge heat pump system and praised the worldwide leader in its development -- Oklahoma State University.

The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association's headquarters and state-of-the-art facilities for installation training and geothermal research is currently located on the OSU campus.

Consequently, our Capitol has become the poster child for geothermal causes.

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