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Kansas Statehouse renovation nears completion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- With a basement-to-dome renovation of the Kansas Statehouse nearing its end, a huge construction crane towering beside the building is supposed to come down next month, and the cost is likely to be a little less gargantuan than state officials had anticipated.

Statehouse Architect Barry Greis said Monday that almost all of the work will be done by the end of the year, with expenses likely to be several million dollars below the last projected total of $332 million. Even on Veterans Day, work continued on landscaping and a new basement visitors' center.

The renovation began in 2001 and has updated water, electrical, heating, air-conditioning and fire-safety systems. Legislators have better, roomier offices and meeting rooms that are more accommodating to spectators. The state built an underground parking garage and expanded the basement, adding 128,000 square feet of space.

"I can't imagine another major renovation-remodeling," Greis said. "We've provided the private offices, the expanded committee rooms, visitor's seating, things like that."

The new visitors' center will have displays, a gift shop, a classroom and an auditorium. The floor will contain a map of Kansas set in stone, with each of the 105 counties identified.

Greis said colder weather will prevent workers from finishing the last of the landscaping on the grounds until early spring and from completing a brick driveway around the building. The last bricks can't go down now because they'll go where the base of the crane is now.

The crane has been used for work on the dome. The scaffolding around the dome has come down, and Greis said large beams that supported the scaffolding will start to come down this week. Once they're gone, the crane won't be needed.

And the number of workers involved in the renovation has declined to between 60 and 70 from between 150 and 160 this summer, said Jim Rinner, project manager for JE Dunn Construction Co., the general contractor.

In the past, escalating costs have been a sore point for some state officials, though legislative leaders added the parking garage and basement expansion to the project. The state also discovered unexpected needs for repairing the exterior stone and replacing copper on the building's roof and dome.