Calmer weather in store this week

Work on restoration at the Oklahoma Capitol moves indoors

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The first indoor phase of the project to repair the Capitol began Tuesday morning, as workers took steps to fully restore the building for the first time in nearly a century.

"We're beginning this project now to fix this, to fix some of the mistakes of the past and make sure that we treat this building right moving forward from now on," said Capitol Project Manager Trait Thompson. "We have a myriad of issues we need to tackle in this building and we are thankful that we have the opportunity now."

Members of the press toured the halls that once held offices.  Workers knocked out walls and windows and tore out electrical wiring that hung above, to make room for the new.

Workers also found asbestos and lead-based paint, which had to be removed.

The first phase, known as the "Prerequisite Phase" is estimated to come with a $7.2 million price tag.  It's scheduled to be finished by the time lawmakers return in February, an "aggressive" schedule, as it's being called.  Workers say a project that could have taken years is being completed in four months.

The people orchestrating the project say there is no room for failure and if the project is running behind, workers will have to put in longer days to get things done.

The entire project should last about six years and cost the taxpayers $120 million.  After seeing the work that needed to be done Tuesday, State Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) says he expects that figure will be a conservative estimate.  But whatever the end cost is, McBride expects it to be money well spent.

"Everybody's excited to fix this building," he said. "It's the peoples' house, bottom line. I think people are ready to come in the south entrance, come in the main doors to their capitol and see the columns and the doors and walk up the stairway again. I think people are excited about that."

Once work wraps up on the third-floor the project will shift to the basement.