The State Senate approved legislation Thursday to help prepare the state Capitol for its second century. The building will celebrate the centennial of its official opening in 2017, but Sen. Harry Coates is concerned that years of poor maintenance could keep the structure from being habitable in its second century.
“Millions have been raised in public and private funds to help beautify the interior of the Capitol and I applaud those who helped in that process. Our Capitol has been nationally-recognized for excellence in public building design and construction and some believe it to be one of the more beautiful capitols in the country,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “The problem, though, is that so much focus has been put on making the inside look nice that the outside as well as things on the inside that the public can’t see like the electrical and plumbing have been totally neglected.”
Senate Bill 482, by Sen. Harry Coates, would create the Oklahoma State Capitol Centennial Commemoration and Preservation Act. The bill would create a commission to prepare and implement a master plan to make capital improvements to the state Capitol building and grounds. It would also authorize the creation of a not-for-profit corporation to raise funds and to assist in the implementation of the master plan.
“If we don’t take immediate action and raise some money to address the many problems affecting this historic building, it’s not going to matter how much we spend on the interior it’ll all be for not because we haven’t protected the outside properly,” said Coates, who has worked in the construction industry for 40 years. “In the long run, if we follow through and get this commission created, we’re going to have a building that we can really be proud of and that will last because it is adequately protected from the elements.”
Fellow legislator Debbe Leftwich stood in support of Coates’ bill reminding her fellow legislators of the problems that face workers at the Capitol every day including malfunctioning elevators and inefficient plumbing. Leftwich also pointed out the “sad shape” of the east tunnel where guests enter the building, which has severe water damage from the excessive leaking that occurs every time it rains.
“I think it’s a really good idea to have a specific group dedicated to looking at not just the preservation but the maintenance of this beautiful building. I’ve often said that state government is really good about building things and really lousy at maintaining them; and to have this special fund and this special emphasis on the Capitol building itself is a great thing for the state,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City.
Coates explained that the only cost associated with his bill would be $150,000 to get the commission and nonprofit up and running. The necessary maintenance and repair costs to the building would be raised publicly and privately by the nonprofit.
SB 482 now goes to the House for further consideration.