Final work on the dais is being completed inside the 1888 Territorial House Chamber, which was occupied by the Supreme Court from 1890 to 1937. The historic room is now the largest meeting room in the Capitol and will seat approximately 75 members of the public. LSO Director Matt Obrecht/courtesy

CHEYENNE – The committee overseeing the Capitol Square Project has approved the use of just over $2 million worth of a contingency fund set aside by the 2019 Legislature to complete three areas of the project.

The Oversight Group on Capitol Building Rehabilitation and Restoration on Wednesday unanimously approved the use of $2.04 million of a $3 million appropriation for construction of the Capitol’s new auditorium, student learning center and a welcome center.

The $3 million was included in the 2019 budget by the Legislature as a contingency fund for the project, and for completing the unfinished legislative spaces in the Capitol and the Capitol extension, said Michael O’Donnell, special assistant attorney general and one of the leads on the project.

With the approval of the expenditure, construction should begin on those three projects sometime shortly after the July 10 open house and celebration, with the goal of completion by mid- to late November.

The $300 million Capitol project was approved in 2014 by the Legislature and included complete restoration of the Capitol interior and foundation, a new underground extension and power plant, and the renovation of both the east and west wings of the Herschler Building.

During the meeting, members of MOCA Systems, the firm serving as the project manager for the Capitol Square Project, said there would be a cost savings to move forward with those three sections of the project now. Each section has already gone through the design phase.

The project’s construction manager, JE Dunn Construction, is set to be in Cheyenne until near the end of the year finishing the punch list, which is the final pieces of work needed to complete the project to specifications. If construction on the auditorium, learning center and welcome center waited until the company was finished with the punch list, it could result in higher cost, said Paul Brown from MOCA.

“We would realize the cost benefit of having them here while they’re managing the punch list and other kinds of things,” Brown said during the meeting. “We would have another (guaranteed maximum price contract) outside of the contract we currently hold with them for this work.”

While work will continue on the project throughout the year, the Capitol itself will be ready in time for the July 9-10 celebration set to coincide with Wyoming Statehood Day. Wyoming Legislative Service Office staff also are in the process of moving back to the Capitol now.

Rachel Girt, a spokeswoman for the Capitol Square Project, said after July 10, the Capitol will be open, but on a limited basis to allow for completion of work on the site and in the Capitol Extension.

“The limited visiting hours are yet to be determined, but are likely to continue through the summer and early fall,” Girt said.

What’s happening July 9-10

On July 9, the state will host an appreciation barbecue for the crews and staff that helped with this project over the past several years. According to O’Donnell, more than 400 people have already RSVP’d to the event.

“The folks who have devoted their time and energy and skills to designing and building this project have a lot of invested in it, and they’re thrilled to come back,” O’Donnell said.

On the evening of July 9, a special dignitary-only reception will take place in the Capitol rotunda. That will then be followed up by a ceremony the morning of July 10 with lawmakers and members of the Wyoming Supreme Court that will be closed to the public.

But starting in the afternoon of July 10, there will be a large public celebration and open house, which will include live music, food and drink vendors and a fireworks display.

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