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Tom Miller: New master plan calls for 6 more buildings at Capitol complex

Oct. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Four years ago the state of West Virginia signed a contract at a cost of nearly $888,000 with Michael Baker, Inc. -- a Pennsylvania-based consulting firm -- to come up with a new version of a master plan to expand the current state Capitol complex. Unveiled earlier this month by the state Department of Administration, it recommends six new office buildings, three new parking garages and a daycare facility.

This ambitious proposal does not require state officials to build or finance the recommended projects. It simply provides a workable framework for expanding the current State Capitol campus in keeping with the vision of Capitol architect Cass Gilbert's original plan.

It becomes the sixth version of a master plan for the State Capitol campus. The most recent earlier master plan was developed in 1994 by Tag Studios and Sasaki Associates, Inc. and has been largely ignored. This latest plan calls for a judicial building that could be used to accommodate a potential new Intermediate Appellate Court system and a two-story building along Michigan Avenue that would be used as a daycare center to serve more than 200 children.

Another key feature of the plan would move the House of Delegates offices to one of these new buildings, allowing all 100 delegates and the legislative staff to have their own offices. Most delegates, excluding those that chair committees, currently share office space with at least one other delegate in rooms in the Capitol's East Wing.

Spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown of the state Department of Administration said the "purpose of this comprehensive plan is to serve as a guide that state officials may utilize... when proposing renovations or expansions to the state Capitol complex." So as always implementation is optional.

Cass Gilbert originally began work on the first master plan in early 1934 but died later that year before completing it. His son, Cass Gilbert Jr., prepared a second master plan six years later that added what is now Building No. 3 -- used to house the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The Charleston-based firm Zando, Martin and Milstead provided another plan in 1966 that recommended construction of current buildings 5, 6 and 7. C.E. Silling Associates came up with another master plan 22 years later but the only recommendation from that plan that was implemented was the closure of Washington Street East in the campus area. Tag Studios and Sasaki Associates, Inc., drew up another master plan in 1994, but most of its recommendations have been ignored.

Perhaps the biggest move envisioned in the latest plan is a substantial increase in parking spaces. Currently there are 2,800 parking slots in 10 separate locations, which is 1,300 spaces short of current needs. The new proposal envisions a six-story 1,745-space parking lot next to Laidley Field; a three-story, 1,990-space garage along Washington Street East and a seven-story 1,605-space garage east of the present campus.

The proposal also calls for 667,000 square feet of additional office space spread across six new five-story office buildings. Three of them would be constructed in the area of the existing parking garage and the remaining three along Washington Street east of the Capitol. All of these would include below-ground parking for employees working in those building.

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The upcoming primary and general election campaigns in 2014 for a seat in the U.S. Senate being vacated by retiring Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., are already demonstrating the degree of financial support that potential candidates are seeking. Candidates for both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives had to report their fundraising totals for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30 by last Tuesday.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a candidate for Rockefeller's seat in the U.S. Senate, raised more than $150,000 in the first 13 days of her campaign. But that paled in comparison to the $777,500 raised during the same period by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the leading GOP candidate to succeed Sen. Rockefeller. Capito first announced her intentions to run for the U. S. Senate in 2012 and now has collected more than $4.1 million in total fundraising.

Current state Sen. Evan Jenkins, who recently switched his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican and is one of three candidates for the GOP nomination for Rep. Capito's seat in the House of Representatives, reported his campaign raised $207,000 during the July-September quarter -- the largest third quarter total of any of the potential House candidates who provided the information to the Charleston Daily Mail.

Longtime Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., raised about $153,000 during the third quarter in his campaign for another two-year term in the House of Representatives from the 3rd Congressional District. Ron Walters Jr., one of three GOP candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District seat that Rep. Capito will be giving up, reported raising "more than" $106,000 for the quarter. But former Maryland state senator Alex Mooney -- now chairman of the GOP in this state -- has a slight edge over Walters in total campaign funds raised.

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The difficult issue of how to pay for much-needed highway construction and maintenance in West Virginia prompted three Republican members of the House of Delegates to travel to neighboring Virginia last week to learn how that state pays for its road construction projects. Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, said the three are dissatisfied with recommendations made by the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways.

Delegates Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, and Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, two other Republicans from the Eastern Panhandle, joined Howell in the trip to Richmond to meet with William Howell, who is speaker of Virginia's House of Delegates. Delegate Howell also wants to find out if he and the Virginia legislator with the same last name may be distantly related. All three of them plan to foot the cost of their one-day trip.

Tom Miller is a retired state government reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He is a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch opinion page.

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