OKLAHOMA CITY — For the first time since it opened nearly a century ago, Oklahoma leaders don’t want the public to visit the state Capitol.
Starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13 through 7 a.m., Monday, Oct. 23, Capitol visitors will find the building locked to everyone except the construction crews tasked with upgrading the entire electrical infrastructure.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’re going to have any type of closure of this length of time in the Capitol’s 100-year history,” said Trait Thompson, who is overseeing the building’s $245 million restoration.
“We’re essentially moving a small bank.”
During the closure, power will be shut off as crews spend approximately 1,100 hours upgrading about 400 electrical connections to bring the building’s electrical infrastructure up to 21st century standards, he said.
Some parts of the building are still using original wiring, he said.
“Obviously, it’s an inconvenience and it’s a hassle, but most people have expressed gratitude that we’ve started the process early,” Thompson said. “Everyone has been pretty understanding. This is going to be a major milestone for the project being able to switch over to a modern power system.”
But the closure means the Capitol’s usual occupants have to be temporarily relocated. Most will be scattered throughout state buildings along Lincoln Boulevard during the closure. Others plan to work from home.
The Capitol visitor’s center will obviously be closed for the week.
Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff will relocate to a pavilion on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion that’s typically rented out or used for cabinet meetings, said her spokesman Michael McNutt.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb’s staff plans to work from home, Thompson said.
House and Senate members, who are expected to still be in the midst of a special session, currently plan to work from home that week, though they’ll still be checking their voicemails, Thompson said.
The state Election Board will relocate to the Jim Thorpe Building. The Ethics Commission will be in the Judicial Center.
Relocating the Treasurer’s Office has been the biggest challenge, though, as officials must also juggle federal regulations, Thompson said.
“The state can’t operate without us,” said Tim Allen, spokesman for state Treasurer Ken Miller. “We take all the deposits, and we pay all the bills every day.”
Allen said the state’s Unclaimed Property division will be in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
Though those employees will not be available to meet with the public during the closure, they can still be reached by phone and email, he said.
Thompson said he expects the October Capitol closure to be the only lengthy one during the project.
“For the rest of the project, we’ll still have some electrical outages and some IT outages, but the vast majority of the work can be done at night or during the weekend,” he said.
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.