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Monday, May 11, 2009

State House damage could reach $1 million

Damage to the Alabama State House due to flooding last week could total $1 million, according to one legislative official.

On Monday, the electricity, air conditioner, elevators, and computer system were back operating.

Crews continued to work to dry out and clean up the basement, where at least three feet of water pushed through an exterior wall and several interior walls.

Also, on Monday, a sinkhole attributed to the flooding appeared in the parking lot between the State House and the Folsom Administration Building. Capitol Police had the area blocked off.

Don Ladner, administrative assistant to the clerk of the House, said with the damage to the structure, furnishings, and electronics and the labor that the cost could reach $1 million, which he said is not official as work continues.

The odor in the basement on Monday was pungent. Men in white suits worked to clean the building and large tubes ran through the first floor and basement trying to dry the floor.

McDowell Lee, secretary of the Senate, and Ladner said soon people would begin pulling the carpet out of the basement. Ladner said state employees or inmates from the Alabama Department of Corrections would perform the work and would also determine which items are salvageable.

Lee said computer staff worked into the weekend to get the system back up.

Lee and Ladner both expressed their appreciation to the staff for working through the extreme conditions on Thursday during and after the flooding, as lawmakers moved across the street to the historic House and Senate chambers for the first time since 1985. They also said the staff performed well to bring the system back into operation after power was restored in the building.

While lawmakers were in the historic chambers on Thursday, staff had to record all of the votes on paper. On Monday, staff had to enter all of those votes into the computer system, a lengthy process, especially in the House where Ladner and other staffers manually entered the votes of 104 members.

Ladner and Lee said Monday afternoon that staff had completed entering the votes manually.

"We're back to normal," Lee said. "I think it shows we’ve got very dedicated staff in the House and Senate."

They expect lawmakers to meet in the State House on Thursday and Friday, the last two days of the current legislative session.

Lee said there is one order of business that has not been completed, cooling down the Senate chamber. The air conditioner was turned back on about 11 a.m. Monday.

Even with the system cooling, the officials expected the system to take about two days to get the temperature back to normal levels.

Lee said people who deal with the legislative process should be very appreciative of the work by the staff in recent days, especially this late in the session.

During the flooding on Thursday, the water poured through one exterior wall, which housed offices for maintenance staff. Staff has since boarded up the wall.

Some storage rooms had wet books, furnishings and prints that were strewn about the entire basement by the floodwaters.

Floodwaters tore through several interior walls, including one in the Legislative Building Authority where watermarks on the wall showed the water was at least three feet high in the room.

Water also leaked into the office of House Speaker Seth Hammett, which is on the fifth floor. Staff placed dryers in the office and had to move furniture. There was visible damage to the wall.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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