While Alan Hantman’s term as Architect of the Capitol has ended, his influence was still felt on Capitol Hill on Monday in the form of the AOC’s budget request for fiscal 2008, in which the agency is seeking $34 million for the Capitol Visitor Center.
Submitted as part of President Bush’s $2.9 trillion budget proposal, this year’s request by the AOC seeks $20 million next year to finish physical work on the new facility and $13.9 million in operational funding to run the center.
While operational funding in the past has never been approved above $2 million, the almost $12 million jump in the current year’s budget request shows the AOC expects to have the new facility open and running sometime in the next fiscal cycle. (Though the AOC is predicting a late-2007 opening, the Government Accountability Office, which Congress has asked to help monitor the project, has said that early 2008 is more likely.)
As of November 2006, about $531 million had been provided for the construction of the massive underground visitor center and the AOC said then that total cost would be about $556 million. But the fiscal 2007 continuing resolution that was introduced last week included some $44 million in CVC funding (to be split between operational and construction costs at the discretion of the AOC and its oversight committees), so it appears the final construction price tag for the largest addition in the history of the Capitol likely will come out to be closer to the almost $600 million that the GAO estimated last fall.
CVC Project Executive Bob Hixon, who has overseen CVC construction since joining the AOC in 2004, said last week that with most of the major construction work on the project finished, CVC crews are shifting their focus to completing the installation of new fire and life safety systems and getting those systems tested and approved. Hixon said some of the construction funding that Hantman requested would go toward paying CVC contractors who have been impacted by unexpected delays caused by various design revisions and other unforeseen circumstances.
Hixon, who will be following in Hantman’s footsteps and retiring from the AOC on March 31, added that while he and Hantman will not be with the AOC for the final months of construction, their on-site presence this late in the game is less crucial than it was in the earlier stages of the project.
“The construction decisions that needed to be made have all been made,” Hixon said. “The decisions that need to be made now and in the future are almost all operations decisions and those are really going to involve the people who are going to be here long term anyway, so I don’t see any problems” in the final months of construction.
One operational decision that the AOC attempts to address in its budget request: Who would pay for future maintenance for the new facility? An administrative provision the agency hopes to include in next year’s budget would make the CVC an extension of the Capitol when it comes to infrastructure and maintenance issues.
“Starting in Fiscal Year 2008, and each fiscal year thereafter, the CVC’s facilities maintenance budget and associated payroll will be included with the Capitol Building’s Appropriation budget, and integrated in such a way as to facilitate the reporting of expenses associated with the maintenance of the CVC facility,” the provision reads.