- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Renovations at the Maryland State House, which started in April, are running almost $1.6 million over the original budget, due in part to the discovery of old wiring during demolition.

The additional costs come at a time when Maryland faces a potential budget shortfall of up to $1 billion in the next fiscal year.

The renovations, administered by the Maryland Department of General Services, are now expected to cost the state almost $10 million and are meant to upgrade the interior piping that control the heating and cooling systems in the State House. The original contract was for just under $8.4 million.

Work is scheduled to be completed by January, when the state legislature meets for the 2009 session.

“A project of this magnitude comes with unexpected problems,” said Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat.

In addition to paying for removal of unforeseen wiring, a recent $1.2 million change in the contract covers the construction of a women’s restroom and other work.

“There may not be a lot of ‘wow’ factor,” said Timothy Case, the Department of General Services chief of construction. “A total renovation is not what we undertook here. It’s an air strike for heating and air conditioning.” The renovations are currently “65 to 70 percent complete,” Mr. Case said. One of the few major changes from the renovations is the removal of the wall between the Calvert and Silver rooms to recreate the Old House of Delegates Chamber.

“The only really visible improvement will be the removal of the wall,” Mr. O’Malley said in an interview in Silver Spring last week. “Most of it is just wiring and pipes.” The renovations to the 18th century building have also allowed for work to be done on returning the State House interior to its original design.

“What we are doing, while we have the opportunity, is restore some of the historical integrity to the space, which we’ve wanted to do for years,” said Elaine Bachmann, a curator for the Maryland State Archives.

Shutters from an 1876 renovation, for example, that had been painted over or nailed shut in the Governor’s Reception Room, will be “completely restored,” Ms. Bachmann said during a media tour of the building Wednesday.

The demolition phase of the renovations is now finished, and that the bulk of extra funding went toward solving unforeseen problems, Mr. Adamec said. With demolition complete, there should not be any further issues that would require an addition to the project’s budget.

“There were a number of renovation projects [in the State House], dating back to the 1800s,” said Mr. Adamec, explaining how wiring from past renovations had accumulated over the years. “[Construction workers] were literally pulling out wads of dead wires from the wall.”

Comptroller Peter Franchot’s spokesman, Joseph Shapiro, said that any additional request for money for the project would be “reviewed on its merits.”

Spokesmen for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s and Calvert Democrat, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said they had not received any information regarding a possible completion date. Both are supposed to be moved back into their offices in the building before the 2009 legislative session begins.

The builders are “on schedule in terms of the expected move-in date,” Mr. Adamec said.

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