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Eye On Boise

Another year in the annex?

What a prospect! Lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, reporters, citizens, state workers and more who’ve tried crowding into the cramped, stuffy, hot hearing rooms of the Capitol Annex for hearings, who’ve jostled in its hallways, who’ve peered around its oddly placed posts to see who’s speaking – all have been counting on next year’s legislative session moving back to its usual quarters, the gracious state Capitol – and this time a renovated, updated Capitol with new, spacious hearing rooms and modern conveniences. But now comes word that the capitol renovation is 28 days behind schedule. Though that may not sound like a lot, the schedule is extremely tight – the project is supposed to be finished by Nov. 13, to allow move-in to begin before the 2010 legislative session starts next January. Click below to read AP reporter John Miller’s full report.

Officials: 'fingers crossed' on ID Capitol revamp
Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — "Keep your fingers crossed" isn't a formal construction schedule, but that's what lawmakers were told Monday by officials overseeing the Idaho Capitol's $122.5 million renovation and expansion, concerning the likelihood of workers meeting a November completion deadline.

Crews remain 28 days behind schedule, Jan Frew, the state architect overseeing the project, told the Idaho Legislature's Advisory Committee on Space Allocation and Design.

That's after delays caused by problematic paint, a concave and cracked basement floor that had to be replaced and Italian artisans who shipped the wrong marble, she said. The correct stone remains on a boat that's days away from docking in port.

Workers will likely have to put in overtime and weekend shifts in order to make up the time and have the building substantially complete by Nov. 13, when Legislative Services officials plan to begin getting lawmakers moved back into the building for the start of the 2010 Legislature next January.

Moving in for the 2010 session "would be virtually impossible if the contractor is unable to make up those 28 days over the next nine months," Frew told The Associated Press, adding "The next four weeks will be critical."

In addition to the renovations, Idaho is adding two underground wings to the building, for a total of 50,000 square feet of new meeting and office space aimed at alleviating what had been increasingly cramped quarters in the original structure.

The state is paying for the project with money from taxes on cigarettes, estimated to bring in $25 million to $30 million annually through 2015.

The decision to move back into the Capitol — or if that fails, remain across the street in the current Capitol Annex, the old Ada County Courthouse building that's been the temporary home to 105 lawmakers, hundreds of lobbyists, reporters and the public for two sessions — will be made before the 2009 session has adjourned, Frew said.

To meet the deadline, time-sapping extracurriculars involving the historic Capitol have been called off.

"Just because of the continuing delays we've been having on the schedule, we've kind of cooled down the public tours," said Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz.

After getting the frank briefing on progress, lawmakers on the space allocation panel appeared resolute about getting back into the Capitol — almost as if work on the building could be completed by sheer will alone.

"We're going to be there," said Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston and an author of the plan to expand the building using underground wings, continues to take general contractor Jacobsen Hunt "at their word" that the building will be fit for lawmakers to start moving back in by Nov. 13.

"I can guarantee there will be some challenges, but it's in everybody's best interest — the contractor's best interest, the administration's best interest, the Legislature's best interest and the public's best interest — to have the project completed on time," Stegner said. "We're all pulling in the same direction."

If the work pace continues to lag, however, one option could be to occupy just the third and fourth floors, which are nearing completion now, while work on the basement, first and second levels is completed by workers.

That, however, would require safety officials to issue a certificate allowing partial occupancy, something Frew told legislators isn't a certainty, especially if life and safety issues haven't been completely addressed to inspectors' satisfaction.

"If you don't have the sprinkler system up and operating, I don't know if they will be prepared to let you occupy the building," she said.

Robyn Lockett, the legislative relocation project specialist, said historical furnishings, as well as new furniture to outfit the renovated building, will be ready in time — whether the building is or not.

"Hopefully, Nov. 13," Lockett said. "Keep your fingers crossed."


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.


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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.