- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The floor of the Maryland Senate chamber is getting a makeover to improve its electrical system.

The project will help with the installation and maintenance of various cabling and wiring systems for Senate members” desks. In addition, the Senate president’s rostrum — which dates to 1905 — and senators” desks will be refinished.

These upgrades, plus new carpet, are going to run roughly $400,000, according to estimates from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s office.

The cabling will support several senatorial gizmos, including microphones used during debate, devices for casting votes, telephones and electrical outlets so they can add on more.

The project began in April, about a week after the General Assembly adjourned, and is scheduled to be finished by September, said Vicki Gruber, Mr. Miller”s chief of staff.

The renovation has been scheduled for about three years. Plans to get it done last year were postponed because of a special session. The House of Delegates chamber had a similar renovation years ago.

The Maryland Department of General Services is assisting with the floor modification, called “a metallic electrical raceway system.” The new system is needed because when the chamber was built in the early 1900s, no space was kept underneath the floors for wiring. As a result, wiring needs have required drilling through concrete.

“Some of the wiring ends up not working properly as a result, and so this project — first in the House and then in the Senate — have been in the works for that reason,” Miss Gruber said.

The technological shortcomings have sometimes left lawmakers with buttons that don”t work, causing disruptions during votes and debates.

Because of the project, the Senate president”s rostrum, which is original to the chamber, is in the hands of a Baltimore furniture refinisher who specializes in historical furniture. Senators’ desks will be refinished by the Maryland Correctional Enterprises, the prison industry arm of the Maryland Division of Correction.

Portraits, including those of Maryland”s four signers of the Declaration of Independence, are being stored in the state archives.

The new carpet will be red, patterned with the state seal.

Mimi Calver, director of exhibits and artistic property for the Maryland State Archives, said she has been keeping an eye on the project “to make sure things are done appropriate for an historic structure.”

“So far, it looks fine,” she said. “It’s interesting to see the original flooring that”s in there and the woodwork underneath the rostrum, and we”ve urged them to keep as much of that as possible.”

Another renovation project at the State House is on the drawing board.

Dave Humphrey, director of external affairs for the Maryland Department of General Services, said work on the pipes and heating and air-conditioning systems is tentatively scheduled to begin in April, after the legislature adjourns its next session.

The piping system is more than 42 years old, while the HVAC fan coil units in the individual offices are more than 38 years old, Mr. Humphrey said.

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