This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Legislators have some key decisions to make before they move into a seismically retrofitted, highly secure and very different Capitol in December.
One thorny issue is whether, in an age of bomb threats and terrorism, lobbyists and citizens will be allowed to have the access to lawmakers that they enjoyed in the past.
David Hart, executive director of the Capitol Preservation Board, told lawmakers Tuesday he hopes to begin moving them back into the Capitol Dec. 4 for a grand opening in early January. But, he warned, "The Capitol is wholly different than it was when you were there before."
The biggest logistical problem facing lawmakers will be having their committee rooms scattered among the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings on the mall. Lawmakers, staff, lobbyists and the public will have to jog between the three buildings during the legislative session. Legislators will have an advantage in being able to use a network of restricted corridors, elevators and tunnels.
Hart suggested, however, the lawmakers rethink an earlier decision to bar legislative staff from two elevators restricted to representatives because it could undercut efficiency. "If you are going to force them to run a different path, you are going to run into scheduling and time problems," Hart said.
The total cost of the ongoing Capitol restoration is projected at $212 million, including a $60 million seismic retrofit begun in 2004 that would allow the 90-year-old symbol of Utah government to slide gently back and forth, rather than collapse in an earthquake.
Committee rooms have been remodeled, air conditioning and technical services updated, walls moved and security enhancements added - the last is something the Capitol's builders never considered when it was built in 1916.
How much of the secure network will be open to lobbyists and the public is solely up to the House and Senate, Hart said. "You need to decide who should and should not be in these secure corridors."
Sen. Lyle Hillyard said he was uncomfortable limiting the public's traditional access to their elected officials. "The only concern I have is where people have pretty much had contact with us any time they wanted - now they won't," the Logan Republican said.
"You can always walk through the public part of the building," Hart suggested. "No one's forcing you to walk through a secure corridor. We are hoping [lawmakers] will still do that."
The committee asked Hart to meet with the legislative staff and the Highway Patrol to answer their questions about security, then report back. Final decisions will likely be made by GOP House and Senate caucuses.
Hart said he is confident the Capitol and its parking facilities will be finished in time for the January 2008 Legislature. But final remodeling of the House and Senate office buildings, which were used for temporary House and Senate chambers during the renovation, won't be completed for another year.