Last year I wrote an article about the terrible condition the State Capitol was in, and how the longer repairs were delayed, the worse the problems would become, and the more expensive it would be to fix them. Here we are, a year later. The governor once again made it one of her priorities in the State of the State address last month. During the interim, members of the legislature and members of the press were given tours of some of the more disturbing parts of the building—but nothing has been done.
Ugly yellow barriers and wooden scaffolding are the first things visitors see when they come to our State Capitol. If they are really unlucky, they’ll get a whiff of the noxious odor that often hangs in the air inside as a result of the decaying plumbing..
Frankly, the biggest opponents to passing a bond package to address these serious needs have been on the House side of the building. They’ve come up with a couple of other ideas for addressing the problem. One proposal is “pay as you go.” This would probably enable little more than a band-aid approach to these repairs which include the crumbling exterior, a dangerously old electrical system, and a plumbing system that’s nearly 100 years old and disintegrating as we speak. Another proposal from the House of Representatives is to let the people vote on whether to have a bond issue.
It is incredibly frustrating that this is the best they can come up with when we are facing such a dire situation. According to the Capitol Architect, if we don’t move soon to do something about the plumbing system, within a few years we will be facing a catastrophic situation. So many of the pipes have collapsed, that for years, sewage has been pouring out into the dirt under the building. It is unsanitary, getting worse, and we are running out of time to fix it.
If a major repair project isn’t begun within the next five to 10 years, he says the plumbing system will completely fail. Not a single toilet in the building will flush and the building will have to be closed down. There are too many people who work here and visit the building on a daily basis to simply put up portable toilets outside the building for a multi-year period. The building will be uninhabitable, and the logistical challenges of trying to run state government under those circumstances as well as the expense seem unfathomable.
The architect said a year or two ago, maintenance workers discovered smoldering electrical wiring behind a stained glass window. Forty percent of the electrical wiring in this building dates back to 1917. The odds of an electrical fire will increase unless these outdated systems are replaced.
In 2006, even before chunks of the exterior limestone started falling off, it was estimated it would take about $4 million to make needed repairs. That estimate has now jumped to more than $7 million. The cost of all the repairs that are needed have climbed and will continue to do so.
These problems are not uncommon to historical buildings. Ask anyone who has ever bought a home that dates back to the time of statehood. It requires serious maintenance and from time to time, some expensive repairs. But when you drive through those historical neighborhoods and see the beauty and history of our state that has been preserved, there is no doubt it is an important investment. How can we think anything less of the people’s house?
Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 522, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.