There’s nothing like rocks poised to fall on your head to get your attention.
As if more proof were required that Wyoming’s State Capitol needs renovation, the iconic main entrance to the Capitol is closed because consultants uncovered four cracked stone blocks lurking right above where people enter the building.
This is the ornamental entrance that governors pass through after inauguration, that coffins of people being brought to lie in state are carried under and thousands of school children enter wide-eyed every year.
All those visitors who like to take their pictures in front of the Capitol now have blocked-off stairs right in the middle of the entrance. The two narrower side front doors to the building remain open.
As alarming as it is to think of a stone block crashing on somebody, the good news is that the consultants found the cracks before anybody was hurt. Good for the legislators who approved hiring experts to decide what the historic building needs to continue on as the symbol of Wyoming history that it is.
But in some ways, the timing is bad.
Tourism season is underway in Cheyenne, Frontier Days is coming up next month, and state engineers are desperately trying to get repairs done, yesterday if possible. They expect that a contractor will suggest strapping a safety net to support the blocks until the renovation of the whole building can begin.
However, when they got permission to speed up the process by simply asking contractors approved as state vendors, they could only get one to apply.
It’s a busy construction season, and now instead of choosing the best bid out of three to contain the cracked rocks, the state construction office is working with its lone applicant. The hope is to make the Capitol entrance safe by Frontier Days.
Engineers say the building is showing its age. They have known that renovation was needed for a long time, that this is a much-needed project.
So here’s what we propose: Let’s step on the gas.
It is great that the Legislature set aside $103 million to get this renovation started and it led to the discovery of what many engineers already suspected — the old building ain’t what she used
This incident with the cracked stones over the entrance is a good wake-up call—not only that the repairs are needed for safety reasons, but because state officials discovered that getting repairs done isn’t as easy as they may have thought.
Contractors are very busy in Wyoming’s current economy, and it will take an aggressive plan that is followed tenaciously to push this project along as fast as is needed.
We’ve been warned that the building is so deteriorated it could be dangerous – we have no excuse to delay action. If something happens to either the building or people, it will be a tragedy because this could have been prevented.
What has been disclosed so far is likely a fraction of what is needed. And the cost to preserve the Capitol will not get cheaper, so let’s start the renovation and the repairs now.
Wyoming’s natural landmarks are our claim to fame; this beautiful Capitol building is just about the only man-made wonder that we have representing the whole state. Let’s step up and take care of it.