OKLAHOMA CITY — The man in charge of repairing the Capitol said he is sure a second bond issue will be enough to finish the job.
Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed a measure to sell $125 million in bonds on top of an earlier allocation of $120 million.
“I will say I have no plans for asking for any more money to come back and fix the building,” said Trait Thompson, state Capitol project manager. “We believe this amount of money is adequate to do the job.”
The building, which opened on June 30, 1917, suffers from electrical, structural and plumbing problems, he said.
Contractors spent thousands of hours investigating what needed to be done to fix the facility, Thompson said.
“We are as certain as we can be that these are good numbers based on good investigation,” he said. “But we are dealing with a construction project on an almost 100-year-old building, so there are always unknowns.”
Fallin called the measure “a fiscally responsible, common-sense solution.”
“A bond issue allows us to pay for repairs and renovation without draining large sums of money from other government priorities, like education and public safety,” the governor said.
“We’re making the Capitol, which has been literally crumbling around us for far too long, safe to visit and work in again.”
The project will take six years and is expected to be completed at the end of 2022.
“When you look at other capitol restoration projects, it is actually shorter than most,” Thompson said.
Workers will repair the stone masonry, fix cracked and damaged stone and restore the windows. Work will also be done on the roof. The exterior sidewalks, plazas and railings will be fixed as well, he said.
Inside, improvements will be made to the plumbing system, electrical system and climate control system, he said.
Restorations will move the main entrance from the first floor to the basement, he said.
“It won’t be sort of the dark, dank basement we have now,” he said. “It will be a new hub of all the visitor amenities in the building.”
Those amenities will include food service, restrooms and an exhibit area to tell the story of the building, Thompson said. Some agencies will be housed in the basement as well, he said.
“The rest of the building, from the first floor up, may have some rearranged agencies as to where they are located, but as far as the look and feel of it, it will mainly look the way it does today,” Thompson said.
In her state of the state address to lawmakers on Feb. 1, Fallin called for a bond issue to finish the repair work.
Lawmakers didn’t give the measure final approval until the last week of the legislative session, which ended last month.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous throughout the process, but we were working very hard to try to educate members (of the Legislature) on the bond and what it was going to be used for,” Thompson said. “I felt like it would pass, but I did get more nervous the further we went in session.”
Officials had discussed adding a reflecting pool, archway and parking garage as part of a larger vision, but those items are not contained in the projects financed by the bond issue, Thompson said.
“I think at some point we may want to look at especially some of those functional things, like a parking garage, which would help people in terms of interacting with the building,” he said.
Parking has been the biggest complaint, he said.
“The work we are doing here is part of preserving our state’s heritage,” he said. “Our building next year will celebrate its 100th birthday.”
The repair work financed by the new bond issue can save the life of the facility and ensure it is around for decades to come, he said.