Some of the state's more important public structures qualify as architectural treasures. The state capitol is one. A fitting facsimile of this grand building could never be constructed, so the state has a responsibility to preserve it.
The price tag for bringing the capitol to peak condition is about $150 million, according to the new Capitol Preservation Commission chaired by Gov. Mike Leavitt. That figure is far more than spare change, but it won't break the bank. And, because the capitol is a treasure belonging to the people, the state ought to consider soliciting as much private support as possible to augment tax dollars needed for restoration.Businesses, individuals and families could take great pride in contributing toward the preservation of a lovely and functional structure cherished statewide. A key to successful fundraising would be outlining a specific capital plan and ensuring that contributions went directly for essential materials and labor.
On the public side, the Legislature must provide a good start by providing sufficient funding to begin and sustain a 20-year master plan for refurbishing the 82-year-old building and its grounds. Private funds would be a nice addition that would take the fiscal sting out of funding the project in lean state budget years.
Most of the planned $150 million is necessary to bring the Capitol up to current seismic standards. One possibility is floating its foundation on huge shock absorbers, similar to the technology used beneath the Salt Lake City-County Building.
State officials have talked for years about upgrading and enhancing the structure, but little has been done besides routine and essential maintenance. Now, after a two-year battle over which branch of government actually controls the building, a balanced Capitol commission has been formed to move work forward.
It is not any too soon to get going. If the "big one" were to hit the Wasatch Front before new seismic systems were in place, the Capitol is likely to collapse. There also are serious security issues to consider as work progresses. This all reinforces the need for hustle work along with strong public and private support.