- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The new Alabama Senate elected in November will serve in a redesigned chamber in Montgomery.

Senate Secretary Pat Harris said Wednesday his staff is gutting the Senate chamber, including removing the gray laminate desks and podiums that have been there since the Legislature moved into the old state Highway Department building in 1985.

Harris has lined up the state’s two-year college system to build hickory desks and podiums that will be stained dark. Acoustical tile is being removed from the walls, along with stone trim, and they will be painted. The sound system is being reconfigured to provide more evenly distributed sound.

Harris said the project should be finished by Nov. 15 and cost less than $200,000.

“If I had hired an architect, this would have cost $1 million,” Harris said.

Republican Sen. Phil Williams of Rainbow City toured the work Wednesday and said he’s glad to see the sound system changed because he often requested to have the volume turned down. His desk is beside one cluster of speakers that is being moved to a higher location.

The Legislature moved from the Capitol to the old Highway Department building behind the Capitol in 1985 to allow for renovation of the historic structure. The Legislature was supposed to move back after the renovation, but it decided to stay in what is now called the Statehouse.

The original 1985 desks had ash trays and landline phones. Harris said the new desks won’t have ash trays because smoking is no longer allowed and there will be no traditional phones because senators use cellphones.

Harris said the only other renovations to the Senate chamber since 1985 were the replacement of the carpet and the removal of two roof support columns to provide a clearer view for spectators.

“It was built to last two years, but it’s lasted 30 years,” he said.

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