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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho state capitol

Capitol due for $400,000 in accessibility upgrades to meet ADA requirements

Idaho’s state Capitol is due for $400,000 in accessibility upgrades, to bring the renovated historic structure in line with requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act. They range from new wheelchair accessible seating areas in the public galleries of the House and Senate, to improved ramps and handrails, to new signs.

A complaint two years ago led the U.S. Department of Justice to look into accessibility in Idaho’s Statehouse. “There were 110 areas they wanted us to look at,” said Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. “Some were major, and some were minor.” He said, “We hope by the end of the year to have a signed agreement that we’re in compliance, or have a plan in place to be in compliance.” You can read my full report in my Sunday column here.

Some poinsettias, some greenery, and Capitol is decked in its holiday finery…

The interior of the state Capitol is decked in its holiday finery, a tradition that goes back many years. The decorations are simple – $2,500 worth of poinsettias, some greenery and a large wreath – and the total cost comes to about $2,600 each year. The result: The soaring rotunda is transformed with holiday elegance. “We have an amazing facilities services staff that puts up those decorations every year,” said state Department of Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Pike. “They know what works, and they know what looks elegant in the building.”

Idaho’s historic Capitol is open to the public; guided tours are available by arrangement for groups of five or more (332-1012), there's an interactive online tour here, and a self-guided tour brochure is online here or available in the Capitol for anyone. There’s also a gift shop on the bottom-floor garden level for souvenirs.

Statehouse upgrades for next legislative session to include more video streaming

When the Idaho Legislature convenes its next session in 2014, there’ll be two large committee rooms with live video-streaming instead of one (the rest of the committee meeting rooms have only audio streaming, while the chambers of the House and Senate have video streaming). The Legislative Council, the leadership committee that oversees legislative business between sessions, heard this morning that the project to add video streaming to room EW42 of the Capitol, the largest committee meeting room on the House side and the home of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee along with the agriculture and judiciary committees, is on track to be completed by mid-December. “This is one of the things that we really felt was needed in the Capitol … so we’d have two areas that could be used for streaming to the public,” said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who serves as co-chair of the Capitol Services Committee.

There’s already video streaming from the 350-seat Lincoln Auditorium on the Senate side of the lower level of the Capitol; now there’ll be streaming from a room on the House side as well. Jeff Youtz, Idaho legislative services director, said he expects the service to be used a lot; room EW42 seats close to 200 people.

The $55,700 cost of the upgrade will be paid for by the Capitol Commission, with funds from the endowment for operating the capitol.

Other Statehouse upgrades in the works for the upcoming session include some reconfiguring of the seating on the dais in the auditorium for easier access; upgrades to WiFi access for the public, press and lobbyists; better sound in the Senate’s public gallery; and extending the dais in two House committee rooms to accommodate more committee members. Another project that’s in the works won’t be ready for the upcoming session: The new 600-space parking garage that’s under construction north of the capitol won’t be available until the following year’s session.

Capitol tunnel to get an art facelift

Wall paintings done by high school students from past decades, some 30 years old, some fading, long have adorned the underground tunnel that connects the state Capitol with the J.R. Williams Building and the Len B. Jordan building across State Street. When the Capitol was renovated, officials wanted to do something to update the tunnel art, too, but it never happened. Today, a committee of state lawmakers, after some debate, voted to move toward painting over the tunnel art and replacing it with 4-by-4-foot reproductions of Ward Hooper art depicting Idaho's 44 counties. Then, they'd like to see a statewide high school art competition launched for the right to display works in the Statehouse - but they'd like them to be shown in a public area, like the new wings, rather than in the tunnel, which is generally used only by state employees and authorized personnel.

Idaho Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz reported to the Capitol Services Committee that he met with first lady Lori Otter and her staff, and Otter proposed the Hooper art - which she owns, as it's depicted in her children's book, “Ida Tours the 44: A Book of Idaho's Counties.” The cost to the state would be minimal; just the $100 or so to create each of the 44 canvases from the existing digital images and hang them in the tunnel; there's leftover money in the capitol relocation budget to cover the cost. Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, said he thought the plan would “freshen up the tunnel,” and Rep. Max Black, R-Boise, said, “I think that would make a very attractive tunnel, as opposed to a tunnel, what it is right now.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, countered, “I really do like the tunnel the way it is.” He said when he sees the decades-old high school students' paintings, he thinks to himself, “That's neat.  … What a part of history.” Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, likened it to historic graffiti he saw recently at Alcatraz.  But Stegner said, “I don't see down in the tunnel a whole lot, in my mind, to preserve. … If we want to freshen that up right away, this idea is as good as any.” The 44-counties art could be up by the next legislative session, Youtz said; some of the newer wall paintings in the tunnel, including an anti-drug message, likely would be retained.

Said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, “This is the state Capitol, and representing the 44 counties would be a positive.” The first lady's book is the second in the Lori & Butch Otter Education Series, published in 2010 by Boise State University; the first was “Ida Visits the Capitol,” which teaches kids about the state Capitol. In the counties book, Ida flies around the state to each county in alphabetical order, learning about each along the way.

Quilt commemorates fallen soldiers, displayed in Idaho state capitol

A quilt commemorating fallen soldiers from all 50 states and all branches of military service is in the Idaho state capitol today, where it will be displayed through Monday; Idaho is the 31st state to host the quilt so far, which will arrive in Washington, D.C. by Sept. 11, 2011 and be displayed at Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center until Veterans Day 2011, before permanent placement in a museum. Childhood photos of fallen military members represent each state; Idaho is represented by Cpl. Carrie French, who was 19 when she was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2005; according to the Idaho National Guard, she was the first Idaho female to die in military conflict.

French's mom, Paula Hylinski, called the “Lost Heroes Art Quilt” “just beautiful,” and said, “You want people to remember. It's really nice to know that this is going to go into a museum, and be seen for a long time. People are not going to forget my child.”

The quilt, created by artist Julie Feingold, is being displayed in the 2nd floor rotunda of the state Capitol, where officials including Gov. Butch Otter, right, and Idaho National Guard Adjutant General Gary Sayler, left, joined Hylinski, center, to welcome it this morning. The artist's concept was to use childhood photos of each of the lost military members, “evoking the potential of his or her life.” In addition to the 50 squares representing each state, another 32 “lost heroes” are pictured around the quilt's borders, including Curtis Ralph Hall of Twin Falls, who died in combat in 2007. The slogan at the top of the quilt says, “Without a witness, they will disappear.”

Thousands tour newly reopened Capitol

Thousands of Idahoans are streaming through their state capitol today, after a noon rededication ceremony that concluded when Gov. Butch Otter said, “I now declare the Capitol building officially open to conduct the people’s business.”

Crowds poured up the steps and through the second-floor doors, and as they passed inside, legislators greeted them, shaking hands and saying, “Welcome to your house.” The newly renovated Capitol, closed for the past two and a half years for restoration and expansion, drew exclamations and comments like, “Look at this!” Big crowds poured through the governor’s office where the governor and First Lady Lori Otter greeted guests and a guestbook soon filled with signatures; children lined up in the Secretary of State’s office to punch the official state seal onto paper for keepsakes.

Around the Statehouse, people marveled over a rediscovered, birdcage-like historic elevator on the first floor; a large, comfy auditorium in the new underground wings in which a video was showing about the renovation project; and the chance to take each other’s picture in the governor’s office, sitting in the Senate president’s seat, and around the elegant rotunda. A teenage girl hurrying up a staircase and talking on her cell phone said excitedly, “And I met the governor!” A new capitol gift shop on the “garden level” (basement) did brisk business in souvenirs ranging from Idaho State Capitol sweatshirts to keepsake wooden keys to the Capitol; musicians played in the garden level rotunda. The capitol remains open to the public for tours until 5 p.m. today.

Ready to reopen…

Idaho’s state Capitol has been renovated and shined up, but it still looks pretty much like it always has - except better. It’s cleaner and brighter, with more of the natural light it originally was designed to let in. It’s bigger, too, with the addition of spacious new underground wings with large hearing rooms to accommodate the public. Behind the scenes, it’s fully updated, and there are now things like handicap-accessible bathrooms on every floor and free Wi-Fi throughout the building.

The Capitol’s been closed to the public for two and a half years, but it’s almost ready to reopen. That process starts tonight with a reception for all the workers who worked on the renovation project and their families, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Then, tomorrow night, there’s a reception for all legislators, former legislators, state employees, and former state employees, according to state Capitol Commission member Stephen Hartgen. Then comes the grand opening to the public, starting with a 30-minute ceremony at noon Saturday on the Capitol’s south steps.

After the ceremony, the Capitol will be open to the public for tours all afternoon, with historical information, a short video and more. On Monday, the Legislature will convene and the Capitol will be back in full use again.

Capitol starts new era in new year

Jake Putnam took this very cool photo yesterday of the Idaho state capitol in our wintry weather; he titled it “Statehouse winter.” After two and a half years of renovation, the capitol reopens to the public next Saturday, Jan. 9th, after a 30-minute rededication ceremony set for noon on the south steps. All are invited; there’s more info here. Three days before the rededication, on Thursday Jan. 7th, Idaho Public Television will air a documentary, “Capitol of Light,” telling the story of the capitol and its renovation; the program airs at 7 p.m. Mountain time, 8 p.m. Pacific, and re-airs on Saturday at 6/5 p.m.; more info here.

Back to work in Capitol

Legislative budget director Cathy Holland-Smith, right, and budget analyst Paul Headlee, left, work on budget issues amid the boxes on the third floor of the state Capitol today. Legislative Services workers were the first to move back into the newly renovated Capitol and go to work; they started moving in yesterday.

Over the next three weeks, elected officials including the governor will follow, and the newly renovated state Capitol will open to the public on Jan. 9 at noon. For now, construction workers are still around for some finishing touches, and protective covering has been laid across the newly refinished marble floors to allow furniture to be moved back in without damaging or marring the finish.

A day of contrasts…

Yesterday was a day of sharp contrasts for me, when I went from photographing Idaho’s maximum security prison - likely the least accessible of all our public buildings in the state - to the state Capitol, which traditionally has been the most accessible, but has been closed for renovation for the past two years. It reopens in January, and while workers are still working away, it looks very cool. Here’s a view of the dome from inside the rotunda, with the new historically correct two-toned paint job that brings out the architectural details…

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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