CHEYENNE — A team of specialized workers has been rappelling down the gold-plated dome at the Wyoming Capitol this week to take photographs and measurements for a planned renovation of the building.
The three workers are from a consulting firm called Vertical Access of Ithaca, N.Y. They're collecting data to determine the extent of repairs the dome needs. The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported that the workers had been on the job Monday and Tuesday and were set to finish on Wednesday.
Suzanne Norton, project coordinator with the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, said the work is the most detailed assessment of the dome in the Capitol's history. The assessment is in advance of renovations planned in coming years to the Capitol's outdated electrical, wiring, heating, cooling and fire-suppression systems.
"(The consultants) have done this type of work with the U.S. Capitol, the Chrysler Building and all sorts of different monuments and capitols," Norton said. "But this is the first time we've done something like this to our Capitol."
Wyoming officials approved $400,000 last August to start the initial design work for the proposed renovation. Lawmakers then signed off on $726,000 more this past legislative session. This year's money covers initial design work, including the dome inspection and payment for a separate consulting firm that digitally scanned and photographed the building.
Jim Chaput, interim construction manager for the state, said the work will allow creation of sophisticated 3-D computerized models to help the design teams propose infrastructure fixes. "We now have exact measurements of the building as opposed to hand measuring everything and leaving ourselves open to mistakes," he said.
Initial design work will continue this fall. Lawmakers are set to consider a funding request of about $4.4 million during the 2014 session to pay for final design work.
Norton said the design studies will provide lawmakers with options for how they can move forward and at what cost. "Right now we are just gathering the information," she said.
State officials have estimated that the entire renovation could cost anywhere between $40 million and $150 million. The actual cost will depend on what the studies show.
Some legislators say they hope these early studies will help rally public support for the work.
Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Bighorn, is a member of the Select Committee on Legislative Facilities. She said lawmakers want to involve the public in the process, including asking residents to submit old photos of the Capitol's interior and exterior.
Berger also suggested that the state work with Wyoming Public Broadcasting to help document the renovation's progress.
"What is important is we need the investment and engagement from the citizens," she said. "Because so many are distant from their Capitol, this is a critical time for them to see the beginning stages as we look at (the proposed renovation)."
If the Legislature approves funding for the final design work, it could consider funding for the full renovation project as early as 2015. If the state follows this timeline, lawmakers have said construction could start in 2016 and be done in 2017.