CHEYENNE -- An architect and preservation expert told members of a Wyoming Capitol renovation task force last week that his job is to preserve the building's history yet maintain is workplace functionality.

"They are working capitols, and we need to be sure the business of government" can continue to be carried out, said George Skarmeas of Philadelphia-based Preservation Design Partnership (PDP).

Skarmeas and Tom Whetstone of HDR Architecture, Inc. are under contract with the state to help design a plan to restore and rehabilitate the state Capitol.

They met Tuesday with members of a task force including legislators, state agency heads and private citizens assigned to oversee the design and the work.

The task force will take the plan to the state Building Commission, which includes the governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and state superintendent of public instruction.

The commission will consider recommending that the state Legislature pay for the design and construction in next year's budget session, legislators said earlier.

State lawmakers have set aside $103 million for the project, but as of yet have no estimates. Earlier estimates ranged from $50 million to $80 million.

A consulting firm has produced a three-dimensional model of the Capitol's interior and exterior created by laser scanning, architectural photogrammetry and other techniques.

"We are finding what is hidden behind the walls, the kind and level of concealed deterioration," Skarmeas said Tuesday in an interview.

One of the goals of the project is to be sure the building is healthy since the renovation is expected to last for 50 years, he said.

Skarmeas said plans include a cyclical maintenance program like a motorist would for a new car. States usually don't plan for this and end up in “crisis management" when some serious structural, electrical or other problems emerge, he added.

Skarmeas told the task force he prefers a "curatorial" approach that details how to repair and replace everything including "how to paint the building."

"We must be sure we are stewards for this magnificent, marvelous building," he said.

Skarmeas led the team that rehabilitated the Virginia Capitol in Richmond. The team had to figure out how to increase the space to allow for security including X-ray machines.

The solution was to add a new entrance.

"We came to that conclusion because nobody in his right mind would have changed the portico at the front door that was designed by Thomas Jefferson," he said.

Tuesday's meeting included a discussion on how task force members wanted to evaluate every decision that needs to be made about the renovation and to make sure all members have an evaluation system.

In his presentation, Whetstone, of HDR Architecture, Inc., brought in the "Vision Plan 2003” document -- the Wyoming State Capitol District Framework Plan. The capitol district includes the Capitol and surrounding buildings.

The document, compiled by Ostgren and Associates, supports a strong capitol district and says it is critical that the physical growth of the district is "based on a collective vision that reinforces the goals of the city and the state."

"Those goals still resonate," Whetstone said.

The introduction to the 2003 plan mentioned "chaotic development" in the district.

Pete Laybourn, a resident of the district, said earlier that the Cheyenne Historical Preservation Board adopted a resolution calling on the city to communicate with the state and the hospital in developing a master plan for the capitol district.

Laybourn said the resolution has not yet been presented to the Cheyenne City Council.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

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