Costs run high to repair Capitol
SACRAMENTO (AP) – The Assembly on Monday approved $16.5 million in state funding to repair damage to the Capitol caused when a truck driver rammed it with his 18-wheeler in January.
The state hopes to eventually recover the money from the driver’s employer, Salt Lake City-based Dick Simon Trucking, or its insurance company.
Investigators say Mike Bowers deliberately drove his big rig into the south side of the Capitol on Jan. 17. The truck burst in flames, killing Bowers, 37, of Hemet, and leaving the building with extensive fire, smoke and water damage.
Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza said he was ”appalled” that the company hired Bower over the objections of a trainer who quit in protest.
”There’s clear and convincing evidence of negligence in my mind,” said Cardoza, D-Atwater, chairman of the Joint Rules Committee that oversees the Capitol.
Company President Kelle Simon did not immediately respond to messages left at his office Monday afternoon by The Associated Press seeking comment. Company officials have previously declined to comment on the state’s pending insurance claim.
The Assembly approved the repair bill 78-0, sending it to the Senate.
Damage was initially estimated at a few million dollars, but the price tag rose as repairs became more complicated, said Cardoza, the bill’s sponsor.
Special methods had to be used to safeguard against mold because of the water from automatic sprinklers and fire hoses that seeped into the building’s basement and walls, according to the Department of General Services.
Special care also had to be given to historic artifacts exposed to chemicals in the smoke from the fire.
Nearly half the repair cost, $7.5 million, is to fix the Capitol’s exterior. The granite walls and steps were heavily damaged.
Final repair of the granite exterior is not expected to be completed until May 2002.
Another $6.5 million in water and smoke damage was done to the building’s interior, the department said.
It will take another $2 million to repair the Senate hearing room most seriously damaged by the crash, though it should be ready for use by June, the agency said.
A legislative subcommittee is spending two months considering ways to improve Capitol security, most likely by installing barriers such as large cement planters to prevent vehicles from driving up to the Capitol.
Cardoza said the subcommittee will meet with experts from other states and the nation’s capitol to find a way to safeguard the building.
Assemblyman Lou Papan, D-Millbrae, warned that the state not ”go overboard” in securing the Capitol, which he said would discourage visitors.
On the Net:
Read the bill, AB115, at http://www.assembly.ca.gov
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