Published December 3, 2015 by Barbara Hoberock (Tulsa World)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – A legislative committee learned Thursday that it will take more than twice as much money as allotted to repair the crumbling state Capitol, but a proposal to build a four-column arch as part of the renovation and enhancement project is excessive, the Senate minority leader said.
Lawmakers passed a measure in 2014 calling for the sale of $120 million worth of bonds to fix the Capitol. Many at the time said the $120 million would not cover the entire cost.
On Thursday, the State Capitol Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee was told it will take an additional $122 million to make the needed repairs. Another $65 million would provide for a three-story parking garage, a reflecting pool and an archway for a to-be-built park on the Capitol grounds.
The figures come at a time when the state is expected to have significantly less money to spend in crafting the fiscal year 2017 budget.
“The excess is inexcusable,” Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, the Senate minority leader, said of the proposed arch.
The panel took no action but is expected to do so later.
Gov. Mary Fallin said “a bond issue to pay for additional costs is a good option because interest rates are low and about 40 percent of the state’s bond indebtedness comes off the books in 2018.”
“I’m interested in talking with legislators about the proposal and discuss with them the appropriate funding level to make repairs and improvements to the Capitol,” she said.
The proposed reflecting pool and arch would cost an estimated $28.5 million. The arch could be built with private funds, said John Estus, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
The proposed parking garage would cost an estimated $20.5 million. The remaining $16 million of the $65 million in costs would be for fees and insurance, Estus said.
Sparks acknowledged that the state needs to address the crumbling infrastructure at the Capitol, which is plagued by electrical, plumbing and engineering problems. But he noted that the state is 1,000 certified teachers short — largely because of insufficient funding for education — and said, “I don’t think now is the time to be building arches.”
Sparks said a parking garage is needed but could pay for itself through user fees.
A reflecting pool is unnecessary, he said.
“We don’t need a pool to reflect on how bad the Republicans are governing this state,” Sparks said.Follow @FortySixNews