Capitol improvements measure waiting on Governor's signature

The $120 million Capitol improvements bond issue is now one step away from reality. The measure passed the Senate last week and now sits on the Governor's desk waiting to be signed."We've just approached this building on a piece by piece basis for 100 years now," said John Estus, spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. "So this will be the most significant repair and restoration the building's ever received."For years the Oklahoma State Capitol has been an embarrassment. Leaky, splitting pipes, cracking floors and outdated electrical systems have made visiting and working there hazardous. Earlier this month a five pound piece of concrete fell on a staffer's desk."For three years now we've had the south entrance guarded by scaffolding because pieces of the building are falling off," said Estus.FOX25 spoke to Capitol Architect Duane Mass by phone about what he sees as the most pressing issue."The biggest problem our Capitol has right now is water, and water is a very destructive force in buildings," Mass said.After the rain we've had the past couple days it's easy to see the damage water causes in the basement of the Capitol. Buckets full of water line the tunnel on the south side, and machines had to be brought in to suck standing water out.As soon as Governor Fallin puts pen to paper, bids for contractors can begin. One will be hired for the exterior work and another for interior work. The interior project will also be subject to a nine person committee who will make critical planning decisions."A large portion of the planning process will be trying to determine when we'll do the work, and who we'll have to relocate when we do that work and where we put them," Estus said.The project will no doubt cause more of a mess and hassle than what's already there, but without it, Mass says the historical integrity of the building will fall to pieces. "Our goal is to wrap this building up and hand it back to the people and say for the next 50-100 years you have a good and functioning space," said Mass.Exterior work is expected to begin late summer or early fall of 2014. Interior work won't start until 2015. The planning commission's meeting will be open to the public, so we can follow decisions made every step of the way.