Last updated: August 23. 2014 3:29PM - 162 Views
By Tim Talley Associated Press

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A century after ground was broken for Oklahoma’s Capitol building, state officials are beginning the process of securing the funds for repairs to the structure’s crumbling exterior and outdated interior.

Legislation that authorized a 10-year, $120 million bond issue for Capitol repairs and improvements went into effect on Friday, 90 days after it was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. And authorities plan to move quickly to launch the most critically needed fixes.

“They want to get started with the architecture and engineering work,” said state bond advisor Jim Joseph. “They want to get the process started as quickly as possible.”

The Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority will meet on Monday to begin the process of authorizing the bonds that will pay for repairing and renovating the Capitol.

But before the bond money becomes available, authorities will launch an investigation of the building’s exterior to determine what repairs are needed immediately in areas where chunks of limestone and mortar have fallen from the building’s facade, spokesman John Estus of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said.

“We’ve already spent money to hire various consultants and experts,” Estus said. “It’s very specialized masonry work that needs to be done. Not just anybody could do this.”

A Capitol repair oversight committee made up of state lawmakers and others is scheduled to conduct its first meeting on Sept. 4 to tour the building and begin the process of planning the renovation project.

The 452,000-square-foot Capitol was constructed between 1914 and 1917 for $1.5 million. But since 2011, barricades have cordoned off the south side of the Capitol to prevent pedestrians from approaching areas where chunks of limestone have fallen. Visitors are required to walk beneath scaffolding topped with plywood to reach an entranceway on the building’s southeast corner.

The building’s interior also has major problems, including a plumbing system with corroded pipes that has never been completely restored and a hodgepodge of electrical systems.

Work on the building’s exterior is expected to begin at the end of the year, with interior work expected at the end of 2015.

Joseph said interest rates have improved in recent weeks and the state’s annual bond repayment obligation should be less than the $14 million that was estimated when the bond issue legislation was signed into law in May.

“It’s a great time to be in the market,” Joseph said. He said he anticipates completing the bond issue transaction in October or November.

Officials have said the Capitol renovation project is expected to last between four and six years. Initial plans call for the building to remain open during the renovation project.

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