- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The date for the start of construction on the planned restoration of the Wyoming Capitol continues to move back as a new project manager takes stock of the work ahead.

Gov. Matt Mead and Wyoming legislative leaders met Tuesday in Cheyenne as the Capitol Building Restoration Oversight Group. They approved a set of architectural guidelines that call for respecting the historic nature of the building.

The oversight group in July retained Salt Lake City architect David H. Hart and MOCA Systems, the firm where he works, to manage the project after concerns arose that the $300-million project was on track to change nature of the building too much.

With Hart on board for the past month, group members now say they’re much more confident the final project will reflect their desire that the Capitol will offer visitors a sense of what the building was like in 1917, even as it incorporates necessary mechanical, fire and safety improvements.

Speaking during a break in the meeting, Hart said he expects construction will start by next April at the latest. “But we’ve got to sit down and go through the various opportunities and issues,” he said.

Hart said he expects that final drawings for the project will be finished early next year. The contractor, J.E. Dunn Construction, a company based in Missouri, should be able to provide the state with a guaranteed maximum price for the work by early March, he said.

Before the state hired Hart, the schedule for work on the restoration called for renovations to start this fall. Some state workers already have moved out of the Capitol, and the state has acquired temporary office space around Cheyenne.

Sen. President Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said during the meeting that Hart’s group is looking into the possibility of restoring a grand room that originally held the Wyoming Supreme Court. The space, now divided into two levels, until recently held the staff of the Legislative Service Office.

Marguerite Herman of the League of Women Voters told the group that the prospect of restoring the court space is exciting, but she noted that doing so would result in losing one floor’s worth of meeting room space. The lack of meeting space has been a chronic problem for the Legislature, Herman said.

Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, co-chairman of the oversight group, said during a break in the meeting that he and other members feel much more confident that their concerns about preserving the character of the building will be respected now that Hart’s firm is overseeing the project. The Denver firm HDR Architecture has been working on the project for years and now reports to Hart.

“There’s no doubt there’s been frustration along the way,” Ross said. “But we’re seeing that subside.”

The group approved spending $89,000 to retain a Fairfax, Virginia, firm called Designminds to develop a cultural interpretation plan for the Capitol.

Milward Simpson, director of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, said the Virginia firm will develop a plan in coming months identifying what aspects of the Capitol should be interpreted for visitors and how that interpretation will be accomplished. There could be a student learning center in the Capitol basement where visiting students can meet with tour guides and learn more about the history of the building, Simpson said.

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