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Plans moving ahead for WV Capitol dome repairs

PERRY BENNETT | Legislative photographer
A worker stands on the metal steps in the space between the inner and outer domes at the state Capitol. According to engineers, the tensioning system that was replaced in a 1995-96 renovation of the interior dome has failed.
KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail file photo
A portable scaffolding is high up on the wall of the Capitol rotunda.

A major repair project to stop leaks and avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the West Virginia Capitol dome is moving forward.

The state Department of Administration has released a lengthy Request for Quotations for the Capitol dome repairs, with the bid opening set for Oct. 25.

General Services Division workers first noticed the water leaks in the spring of 2016, when they noticed peeling paint on one of the panels of the interior dome, and watched the peeling expand to eventually damage the entire panel.

That summer, the state hired engineers with WDP and Associates, of Charlottesville, Virginia, to assess leakage problems in the dome.

This spring, the firm issued a report outlining water leakage in multiple locations in the exterior dome that is causing damage to the interior dome below, including causing plaster columns to crack and pull loose from the walls of the dome.

“There’s a significant amount of water infiltration into the dome,” engineer Rex Cyphers advised the Capitol Building Commission, outlining a plan of repairs, including installing flashing at points in the exterior dome where water is entering the dome, replacing gutters and drains in the interior dome, and refinishing damaged interior panels.

This summer, WDP engineers discovered an even more critical issue while monitoring water damage to the dome: The tensioning system for the interior dome — a series of metal cables that allow the exterior dome superstructure to hold up the interior dome about 60 feet below — had failed.

Cyphers said engineers monitoring damage to the clay tile walls of the inner Rotunda detected that the walls are pushing out because they are bearing the weight of the inner dome — something they were not designed to do.

Cyphers said in July that the failure does not pose an imminent threat of collapse, but it needs to be corrected “as expeditiously as possible.”

The lengthy RFQ outlines multiple repairs to be made to the dome, including:

n Repairs to limestone units and metal flashing and cladding

n Replacement of the internal drainage system, including an interior gutter system

n Repairs to the inner dome hangers

n Repair and restoration of interior finishes within the inner dome and Rotunda

n Repairs around portal windows on the upper dome

n Repairs to limestone

n Repairs to the clay roof tiles on the north and south porticos.

It also requires that bidders have experience in restoration of historic buildings and have overseen construction projects of $1 million or more.

Once the contract is awarded, the contractor will have a two-year window to complete the project, according to the RFQ.

A mandatory pre-bid conference is set for Sept. 22. It will include a guided walk-through of the project area.

The state government has budgeted $8 million for the repairs, although that amount was set before engineers discovered that the dome tensioning system had failed.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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