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May 18, 2014

Crumbling Capitol a dangerous place — not just politically

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

 

Falling limestone

The Capitol’s maintenance staff wasn’t all that surprised when they learned of the fallen chunk of concrete, though Monday marked the first time a piece had fallen in an office space and could have seriously hurt someone.

The maintenance staff, Estus said, routinely discovers fallen chunks of concrete throughout non-public areas of the building.

Scaffolding and bright yellow barriers have shielded parts of the building’s exterior for years, he said, after football-sized pieces of Bedford limestone have hurtled back to earth.

“If it were to hit you, that would be the end of you,” he said.

The Classical building has mostly held together atop a foundation of pink and grey granite from Johnson County for nearly a century. The capital moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City in 1910. Ground was broken at the intersection of 23rd Street and North Lincoln Boulevard four years later, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. The building was finished in 1917.

In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said members of his party have talked about a $120 million bond — with interest rates more favorable than those of previous proposals — to repair the old building. He called for “legislative oversight to ensure the Capitol renovation is done in a fiscally prudent manner.”

“The Capitol is obviously in dire need of repair,” said Hickman.

But their number is far smaller than previous proposals.

 

‘Safety hazard’

In late April, a frustrated Gov. Mary Fallin took aim at House legislators and complained they weren’t advancing a $160 million package to renovate the Capitol. The Capitol architect, noted Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt, estimated the cost of repairs four years ago.

Low interest rates and state ambitions to retire 41 percent of its bond indebtedness by 2018 will make for ideal conditions to issue a new bond package to pay for updates to the “People’s House,” Fallin has said.

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