Repair work on Oklahoma state Capitol could begin by this summer

The yellow fencing and barricades on the south side of the Capitol won't be coming down soon.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: May 4, 2013 at 12:04 am •  Published: May 5, 2013
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Work to repair the state Capitol's crumbling exterior could begin as early as late summer.

Gov. Mary Fallin has yet to sign House Bill 2032, which provides $120 million over the next two years for Capitol repairs, but discussions already are underway about how to get work started, said John Estus, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

The measure directs finance officials to allocate $60 million during the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1, into a newly established revolving account.

Estus said the agency will be able to seek bids to repair the nearly 100-year-old building's crumbling exterior. Pieces of limestone have been falling the past two years from the building's exterior.

Awarding the bids will have to wait until a newly formed commission is appointed and in place, he said.

“We'd like the new commission to have a say in this,” Estus said. “They will have jurisdiction over state buildings.”

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services has enough money to pay the costs of seeking a detailed engineering study of necessary repairs and line-item costs before starting other repairs to problems such as sewage leaking into the basement and outdated electrical wiring throughout the building, Estus said.

It's expected the study, which will determine the scope of repairs, time frame of construction and relocating workers, would be completed in the fall, he said.

“Our desire is to move swiftly but thoughtfully at the same time,” Estus said.

Fallin is expected this week to sign HB 1910, which creates a pay-as-you-go infrastructure plan for state buildings and properties. It also creates the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission, which first would address the repair of the Capitol. It later would develop an eight-year plan to address maintenance issues with other buildings and properties, with the intent to take care of repairs and maintenance without seeking a bond issue.

HB 1910 takes effect July 1, so official action on awarding bids for the exterior work would have to wait until after that, Estus said. It's been estimated the exterior work could cost about $8 million and would take several months.

Estus said the work could start either late summer or early fall.

Covered scaffolding has been in place since September 2011 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.