The restoration of the Oklahoma Capitol building continues to generate interest and attention. we asked Trait Thompson, State Capitol Project Manager for the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services 5 questions about the project, its political impact and legacy. You can read more about the project at the links below.
1. How did this restoration project come about?
It came about due to need. The building has never had a comprehensive repair and restoration in its century-long history. Many critical components of the building are outdated and in need of replacement, and without a comprehensive restoration, the building is at risk of being unable to fulfill its duties.
For that reason, the idea of a comprehensive restoration has been discussed for several years. In 2010, Capitol Architect Duane Mass, in conjunction with the Capitol Preservation Commission, completed a study of the repair and restoration needs of the building. That Historic Conditions Report, while not comprehensive, served as a tool for legislators to understand the breadth of deferred maintenance at the Capitol (the Historic Conditions Report can be viewed on the Capitol Restoration website (see website link below).
After the report was published, the Legislature spent multiple years considering various funding approaches to complete the work. After several attempts over multiple legislative sessions, last year, the Legislature passed and Governor Fallin signed HJR1033, which provided $120 million in bond funding to begin repairs and established an oversight committee for the project.
2. What are we looking at as far as a completion timeline?
At this point, which is early in the process, we are developing a timeline for completion. There are still many details to be established.
Even though we’ve been talking about this project for several years, HJR1033 became effective at the end of August 2014, which was only 5 months ago. In that short time span, an incredible amount of progress has been made. An in-depth investigation of the exterior of the Capitol was conducted, a contractor for the exterior was chosen, and the process for choosing a contractor for the interior is underway.
Exterior work should begin this spring and interior work should begin sometime early in 2016. At this point, I would expect the entire project to last between five and seven years, although that is definitely subject to change once we have all of the facts regarding the condition of the building.
3. You’ve visited the Kansas Statehouse on a fact-finding mission. What did you learn?
We are fortunate that we have a state capitol within driving distance of Oklahoma City that has recently been restored. The Kansas Statehouse underwent a 14-year, $320 million restoration process that was completed last year. Many of the issues they dealt with will be issues we face in our project, so it made good sense for us to take advantage of their expertise.
The Kansas Capitol Architect has been a treasure trove of information to us. Much of the information they have passed on will save us real money as we get further into this process.
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from them involves the value of comprehensive planning up front. Kansas fragmented their project and added to the scope as they progressed. They estimated they could have saved up to $50 million in their project had they constructed a fully-developed scope of work up front. That’s why we’re placing a premium on upfront planning. We know planning the project right today will save us millions tomorrow.
Of course, in any historical restoration project, there will be unexpected costs, but the trick is to minimize them as much as possible with a good planning process. We hope to visit other state capitols that have undergone restoration projects as we move forward to learn lessons from themas well.
4. How closely are you working with the State Legislature?
We are working very closely with the Oklahoma Legislature. One of my jobs as Project Manager is to be the point of contact for the Legislature so I can address questions and concerns as they arise.
We also have the State Capitol Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee, which is a great committee made up of appointments from the Governor, Speaker and President Pro Tempore. The committee’s job is to set the goals and criteria as well as the final scope of work for the interior restoration of the building.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of our OMES project team to ensure the project is carried forth in an efficient, and effective manner. For this project to be successful, it must truly be a partnership between the Legislature, the executive branch and the people of Oklahoma.
5. What would you like the lasting legacy of this project to be?
Directly: The goal is to provide a functional, safe Capitol that meets the state’s needs for decades to come.
Broadly: The Oklahoma State Capitol is one of the few buildings in our state that directly tie back to our founding days. It was not easy for a young, mostly agrarian state to build this grand symbol of representative government at what was once a blank spot on the plains. This building is a physical representation of the 89er Spirit. The Capitol is a reminder that Oklahomans have always done great things and even greater accomplishments await us in the future.
At the end of this project, all of us involved with it want present and future generations of Oklahomans view the Capitol with a sense of pride. We want our children and grandchildren to be able to walk through these halls with their children and grandchildren. We want them to be able to come here and reflect on the magnificent history of our state and then be inspired to make Oklahoma an even better place to live than it is today.
For More Information on the Project: