MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

June 20, 2013

Capitol renovations await review panel

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Plans for a $120 million overhaul of the Oklahoma Capitol won’t be developed until a new nine-member panel is appointed to help oversee the project, but Capitol officials said Thursday that renovations of the nearly 100-year-old building are continuing anyway.

The Legislature this session approved spending $120 million over the next two years to provide an overhaul of the building that was built between 1914 and 1917. But the new panel created to help oversee that project — the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission — still has not been appointed.

Meanwhile, construction already has begun on the renovation of legislators’ offices and the construction of larger conference rooms on the second and fifth floors of the Capitol. Those projects are being funded in part by a separate $7 million appropriation the Legislature made for Capitol upgrades.

Paul Meyer, whose firm MA+ Architecture is doing renovations on three separate floors of the Capitol, said the north wing of the fifth floor of the Capitol is being restored to include a large conference room that will have the original 22-foot-high ceiling. Several offices on the fifth floor also are being remodeled.

A suite of small legislators’ offices on the third floor nicknamed the “fishbowl” where freshman members are typically housed also are being restored to their original design and will include new offices for Senate staff.

Offices left vacant on the second floor when the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals moved into the new Judicial Center across the street several years ago will be converted into offices for House members, Meyer said.

A separate commission dedicated to preserving the nearly 100-year-old building and the artwork inside it voted Thursday to move several paintings currently hanging near the area where construction is ongoing.

Making major repairs to the Capitol, including upgrades to the electrical and plumbing systems, has been a priority of Gov. Mary Fallin and several legislative leaders, but the increasingly conservative House has resisted attempts to pass a bond issue to pay for the improvements. A bill approved by lawmakers this session will instead divert $60 million in income tax revenue during each of the next two fiscal years to fund the repairs.

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