Archive for Sunday, November 17, 2013

Crowning glory

Growing costs took some of the shine off the Statehouse renovation project, but Kansas taxpayers at least can enjoy the dazzling results.

November 17, 2013


Maybe the shiny new copper atop the Kansas Capitol dome will make taxpayers feel better about the renovation project that mushroomed both in cost and scope over the last 12 years.

State officials announced this week that restoration on the dome is almost complete. Most of the scaffolding has been removed, and only a few sheets of copper remain to be installed on the north side of the dome.

With any luck — keep your fingers crossed — the renovation of the Kansas Statehouse will soon be finished.

When the project was started in 2001, its estimated cost was between $90 million and $120 million. Then, like any good remodeling project, the price tag began to grow. Legislators decided that an underground parking facility to serve capitol visitors, state officials and staff should be added to the project. And unforeseen problems began to crop up. Exterior stone work needed repair, and leaks in the iconic copper dome threatened to damage the carefully restored Statehouse interior.

Local residents can be proud of the excellent work contributed to this project by the Lawrence-based Treanor Architects, which oversaw the project from the beginning.

This week, Barry Greis, the Statehouse architect, said the entire project would come in several million dollars below the final budgeted amount of $332 million.

The good news is that the project apparently is almost finished, with, by all accounts, dazzling results. The House and Senate chambers have been carefully restored to their original grandeur. Plumbing and electrical systems have gotten a much-needed update to support modern technology, and the exterior hasn’t looked better in decades. It’s a building that should be a source of pride for generations to come.

The crowning glory is the copper-plated dome. No one has seen that shine since about 1918, 15 years after the Capitol was completed. That’s how long it took the copper to age to a green patina, thanks to the sulfur-laden air that resulted from burning coal as fuel.

With today’s cleaner air, Greis said, he expects it to take 40 to 50 years for the dome to return to its familiar green appearance. Let’s hope it takes at least that long for state officials to start talking about the next round of Statehouse renovations.


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