- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Construction to overhaul the interior of the Oklahoma Capitol would start in about a year and take up to five years to complete based on a phased approach that would focus on one or two floors at a time, construction officials told an oversight panel Thursday.

Xavier Neira with Tulsa-based Manhattan Construction told committee members that work could be completed in as little as two years if the entire building were vacated. Neira said that approach could result in savings of as much as 20 percent on construction costs, but that doesn’t include costs to relocate the roughly 700 state employees who work in the building.

“That’s just not a very practical solution,” Neira said.

Manhattan, which was selected last month to complete interior renovations, plans to conduct an in-depth investigation into the building to get a better idea of what the costs will be.

The Legislature and governor last year approved a $120 million bond issue to repair and restore the nearly 100-year-old building, which has a crumbling exterior and outdated plumbing, electrical and heat-and-air systems. Renovations to the exterior are expected to begin this spring. That contract was awarded to JE Dunn Construction and capped at $25 million.

Costs for interior renovations have been capped at $91 million, but Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said Thursday it’s likely overall costs for the project will grow once a detailed analysis of the project is complete.

“I think we all realize the $120 million was a number to get us started,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.

Overhauling the Capitol has been a priority for Gov. Mary Fallin for years, but a bond issue to pay for the repairs had been a tough sell in the increasingly conservative House. The plan narrowly passed last year after the project was scaled back and the term of the bond was shortened to 10 years.

Oklahoma’s 452,000 square-foot Capitol was constructed of steel-reinforced concrete between 1914 and 1917.

Barricades have cordoned off the south side of the structure since 2011 to prevent visitors from climbing the steps of the south portico because chunks of mortar and limestone are falling.

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Oklahoma Capitol restoration project: www.ok.gov/OSF/Capitol_Restore

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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