Architect Duane Mass and other state officials took members of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee on a tour of areas of the building outside the public's view that revealed rotting pipes, crumbling walls and a patchwork of disorganized repairs.
Mass estimated the necessary repairs at about $153 million, a price tag that will be difficult to foot with an increasingly conservative Legislature that has shown its distaste for issuing state bonds to pay for projects. A last-minute proposal for a $200 million bond package at the end of last session received just 15 votes in the 101-member House.
“I'm really concerned about the future of this building,” said state Rep. Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, who requested Tuesday's interim study. “It's a disgrace, quite frankly, for people to come to this building and see that scaffolding out there.”
The 400,000-square-foot building was built between 1914 and 1917. A dome added to the Capitol was completed in 2002.
Mass said his most pressing concern is repairing the building's exterior facade, where he said a faulty repair job in the 1970s resulted in cracked limestone panels and falling pieces of rock and mortar. The faulty repair involved sandblasting the limestone, which made it more porous, and the use of the wrong mortar, which didn't allow the limestone to naturally expand, Mass said.
“We'll probably only have to replace about 5 percent of the stone,” Mass said. “We will be able to make this look like a brand-new penny on the outside.”
Falling debris, including some pieces as large as a baseball, prompted state officials to block access to the front of the building and erect scaffolding under which visitors must walk to enter the Capitol from the south.