From the state Capitol's “dungeon” — where sunlight seeps in through crevices in the granite stairwell above it and not far from where raw effluent from the building seeps — to the roof, where nearly one-third of its copper covering needs to be replaced, Doug Kellogg pointed out numerous problems Tuesday with the nearly 100-year-old structure.
Kellogg, the building manager for the Capitol, said the building is in good shape structurally, but its plumbing and electrical systems are in desperate need of repair.
Kellogg led an hourlong tour of closets and other areas out of public view, pointing out corroded pipes and outdated electrical wiring, as well as flaking limestone from the building's exterior, mostly on its south side where yellow barricades have been put up for the past year to protect the south plaza from falling pieces of stone.
In the basement area known as the “dungeon,” an area under the granite stairs north of the west entrance, rainwater pours in and causes mold and mildew problems, he said.
How to pay for repairs?
The tour was given after members of the House of Representatives Appropriations and Budget Committee discussed the building's condition and possible ways to pay for repairs and renovation.
Everyone seemed to agree repairs are necessary for the Capitol, which was opened in 1917. But finding a way to pay the bill remains uncertain, although at least one legislator said it may be time to tap into the state's savings account, the Rainy Day Fund, to pay at least some of the repairs.
House Republicans have been squeamish about passing bond issues the past couple years. The House in the last week of this year's session defeated a measure that would have authorized a $200 million bond issue; $160 million was earmarked to repair and renovate the Capitol. The bill failed 77-15.
Republicans controlled the House 67-31 at the time of the May 23 vote, and many were concerned about being looked upon as not being fiscal conservatives if they voted for the bond issue, especially in an election year.
At the same time House members were sinking the bond proposal, Kellogg and his workers were trying feverishly to repair a leaking water pipe on the building's third floor.
Rep. Earl Sears, the committee's chairman, said he is considering a bill that would let voters decide whether the state should issue bonds to pay for Capitol repairs. But if lawmakers would pass the measure next year, the earliest it could get on the ballot would be November 2014.
“It's not a good option, but we're in an environment of ‘don't pass bond proposals,'” said Sears, R-Bartlesville.
Dana Webb, with the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which among other things oversees the Capitol's maintenance and repairs, said another option to pay for improvements would call for lawmakers to appropriate money over a four-year period.
Total costs to repair and renovate the Capitol are estimated at $153 million, Webb said. Lawmakers could appropriate $38.2 million annually for four years. A downside would be making sure the funding is in place for each of the four years.
Mark Tygret, director of the House fiscal division, said lawmakers could fund the Capitol repairs on a pay-as-you go basis by using growth revenue or reducing other expenditures. Or lawmakers could consider tapping the Rainy Day Fund, which has $577.5 million. Legislators may use 25 percent of the fund for emergency purposes, and 25 percent is $144.4 million.
Rep. Harold Wright, who requested Tuesday's study on the Capitol's conditions, said he likes the idea of using some of the Rainy Day Fund money for Capitol repairs, along with other available funds.
“I'd like to see it paid for over a period of time rather than a bond issue,” said Wright, R-Weatherford, who was one of 77 House members who voted down this year's $200 million bond issue.
Tygret said interest rates are low. A $180 million bond issue could be paid off in 25 years, with the annual debt service estimated at $9.9 million.
Duane Mass, the Capitol's architect, said a key advantage of a bond issue is it assures completion of the project. He's worked on restoration projects for churches, schools, cities and counties, and priorities change, he said.
“Things start to fall off the wagon,” Mass said. “The fear would be it would not be carried all the way through.”
Mass said the two main priorities are repairing the building's exterior, which could cost $8 million to $10 million, and installing new plumbing. Sewage leaking from the basement into the ground is a health and safety issue for occupants of the building, he said.
Webb said the general interior — or the areas seen by the public — of the 400,000-square-foot building is in wonderful condition. There are minor cracks in the walls and floor, which some mistakenly have attributed to the addition of the Capitol dome in 2002.
“The building is plenty adequate to hold the dome. That's not what's causing the problems,” she said.
The plumbing system has never had a complete restoration, Webb said. Several different piping types are being used together, and repairs are difficult because of the deterioration of the original pipes. Several plumbing lines have deteriorated to the point they are leaking effluent into walls.
The electrical system has been modified several times, but many of the electrical systems do not meet current safety codes, she said.
Covered scaffolding has been in place for the past year on the southeast entrance of the Capitol to protect those entering and leaving the building from falling pieces of limestone. Cautionary yellow fencing also is in place along the south steps of the Capitol. Those entering the building on the southeast side must use the handicapped entrance and walk under scaffolding.
The precautionary steps were taken after an engineering firm found damage to the building's exterior limestone panels on the southeast and southwest sides. Damage also exists in other parts of the building's exterior.