OKLAHOMA CITY – A Pittsburg County legislator was appointed recently to a panel that will monitor expenditures incurred during the multi-year restoration of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Rep. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester, was appointed by House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, to the State Capitol Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee.
The Legislature has authorized two bond issues totaling $245 million for “repairs, refurbishments and improvements” to the 452,000 square-foot Capitol, which is almost a century old.
Construction started in 1914 and was completed in 1917, two months after the United States entered World War I. However, because of a lack of money and a shortage of steel during the war, the dome was not added until 85 years later, in 2002. But after a century of heavy use, harsh Oklahoma weather and inconsistent maintenance and preservation efforts, the building’s mechanical systems were failing and the exterior façade was crumbling.
The first bond issue, for $120 million, was authorized in 2014. The second bond issue, for $125 million, was authorized in House Bill 3168 which the Legislature approved earlier this year.
Trait Thompson, the State Capitol Project Manager, said $50 million in bonds from the first issue have been sold and the other $70 million probably will be sold next February or March. HB 3168 stipulates that the bonds authorized in the second issue cannot be sold before July 1, 2018.
Proceeds from the bonds “shall be subject to the approval of the State Capitol Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee,” HB 3168 mandates.
“I am honored that the Speaker appointed me to this committee,” Condit said Friday (September 30). “I look forward to watching these projects develop over time, as our Capitol receives a well-deserved facelift. This is a magnificent building, and the renovations that are planned are certainly needed.”
The Capitol restoration project began this year and is expected to last for about six years.
An elaborate scaffolding system has been erected to begin extensive work on the building’s exterior. The scaffolds are anchored to the building and were used during renovations to the Kansas and Minnesota state capitols, Thompson said.
The scaffolding will enable workers to remove and repair the building’s 477 windows; to dig out and replace 21 miles of mortar joints that have hairline fractures or, in many cases, are missing entirely; and to effect repairs on the 200,000 square-foot exterior which includes a one-story-tall granite base and a five-story limestone façade. At least 240 instances of spalling, where the limestone has chipped or peeled off, have been identified around the Capitol, Thompson said. The white limestone came from a quarry in Bedford, Ind.; the pink granite, from Ten Acre Rock in Tishomingo.
The window frames will remain in place, but the sashes and levers will be sent to a fabrication facility in Kansas City, Mo., to be sandblasted, repaired and painted and for new panes of glass to be installed; later, the cast-iron window frames will be stripped down and repainted.
Virtually all of the windows in the Capitol are different sizes, Thompson said. “These windows are not standard sizes,” he said. “They were made specifically for this building, a hundred years ago.”
Approximately 40% of the copper roof and all of the guttering will to be replaced.
The original doors on the north side of the building are warped and rusted and will have to be replaced with fabricated replicas. The huge, century-old doors on the south side are still in good condition, Thompson said; those doors will be rehabbed and repainted.
The granite stairs on the north and east sides of the Capitol will be repaired and the hand rails replaced with something more aesthetically appealing, Thompson said.
An exterior battlement on the east side of the building, which was designed for a gun emplacement during World War I, will be dismantled, repaired to correct foundation slippage, and reassembled.
All four aged elevators in the building will be replaced, and three of the four elevator shafts will be enlarged to accommodate bigger cars. The tunnel leading to the Capitol from the parking lot on the east side of Lincoln Boulevard will be repaired and waterproofed.
The entire basement will be renovated and renamed the ground floor. The state seal on the first floor will be carved out, thereby extending the rotunda to the ground floor, and a new state seal will be installed on the ground floor. A 7,445-square-foot full-service cafeteria will be established on the ground floor, with seating for 60 customers.
Other renovations will include replacing century old water and sewer lines throughout the Capitol; installing a new electrical system throughout the building; erecting stairwells at dead-end corridors to comply with fire codes; and installing air conditioning vents throughout the building so that all open spaces as well as the offices are climate-controlled.
“There’s much, much more that will be done in the weeks, months and years ahead,” Condit said. “I’m confident the public will be pleased with the results of this extensive restoration project.”