- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A $1.1 million makeover of the cafe at the North Dakota State Capitol is running weeks behind schedule but is still on budget, a state official said.

Work began in February at the cafe to smooth customer flow and to increase seating by 10 percent, to about 225 spots.

State facilities management director John Boyle said work was supposed to be completed in August but a problem with an uneven floor has delayed the project by about two months.

“We’re shooting for Oct. 3 now,” Boyle said.

He said the cafe’s existing concrete floor is “way out of level,” so the large tiles that project managers selected couldn’t be put in place. Smaller tiles may have worked on the uneven floor but the managers insisted on the bigger ones, which must be placed level to keep from breaking, Boyle said.

A temporary lunchroom has been established on the 18th floor of the Capitol while construction is underway.

The cafe is operated by Roseville, Minnesota-based A’viands Food and Services Management. The cafe, which has nine employees, serves about 400 meals daily and at least twice that amount while the Legislature is in session, the company has said.

The eatery last had a makeover in 1981, Boyle said. That’s when it moved from what is now the Roughrider Room, a meeting room named for Theodore Roosevelt, who ranched for a short time in North Dakota before becoming president.

The Roughrider Room and the adjoining Harvest Room are located on the main floor of the Capitol, which was completed in 1934, about four years after the original Statehouse burned. Both rooms are where North Dakota’s two-year state government budget is largely crafted. And after years of complaints that the rooms have an unpleasant smell, building managers are working to bring more fresh air into those areas.

Maintenance officials are in the process of improving ventilation for the rooms and others with an estimated $75,000 project. The work is slated to be completed before the Legislature reconvenes in 2015, Boyle said.

North Dakota’s Capitol - one of the state’s tallest buildings at 242 feet - was constructed 80 years ago for $2 million, or about $34 million in today’s dollars.

Boyle said a recent insurance estimate found that it would cost $187.4 million to replicate it today.

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