Nevada's historic Capitol is getting some badly needed sprucing up along with a remodel of the lieutenant governor's office that has drawn complaints from some female workers in the building.
The remodel caused a few problems when workmen cut through a 16-inch thick concrete wall across from the old Supreme Court chambers to provide the office with a new door. Dust floated through the halls and the noise was so bad at one point Gov. Kenny Guinn - whose office is downstairs - complained that he couldn't hear to have a phone conversation.
The door will provide a space for the lieutenant governor's secretary to greet visitors instead of letting them walk right into her office.
Aside from the dust, other protests have focused on a bathroom remodel which cuts the size of the existing women's room on the second floor from five to three stalls.
A number of female workers in the building have quietly objected, saying bathroom space is already inadequate and the change will reduce bathroom space available to women by 20 percent to seven spaces.
By contrast, the men's rooms in the building can accommodate 11 even though probably 80 percent of the workers in the building's numerous offices are women.
Buildings and Grounds Superintendent Mike Meizel said the lieutenant governor is the only constitutional officer without a private bathroom. And he said the remodel was planned before Lorraine Hunt was elected.
The counter-argument is that Hunt spends almost all her time in Las Vegas so the bathroom is really just a private facility for her two Carson City staffers. Hunt was unavailable for comment.
Meizel said the project is just one of several in the building. Others include stripping the walls in the treasurer's office, governor's office as well as the remodel of the Capitol Police desk station in the building entryway.
And the biggest single project planned before the end of the year is recarpeting most of the first and second floor work areas, which is budgeted for about $35,000.
The lieutenant governor's office remodel will probably end up costing that much as well when costs are totaled, he said.
But the money doesn't show up on the Capital Improvement Projects list. Meizel said that's because much of it is maintenance or just too small to qualify as a separate project.
"In the treasurer's office, we were just taking off the wall covering like we did in the governor's office," he said. "That wallcovering dates to 1979 and it was looking pretty dingy."
Meizel said it also gives workmen the chance to patch cracks in the plaster caused by settling in the 20 years since the building was completely remodeled. He said those sorts of projects cost "a couple of thousand."
He said some of the maintenance is badly needed - such as carpeting which is 20 years old in some areas.
Earlier this year, the Capitol Police desk, where most visitors make their first stop inside the building, was rebuilt at Guinn's direction. And last fall and early this past year, contractors installed drainage pipes around the foundation in an attempt to stop water from leaking into the basement offices during wet weather. Some of the Secretary of State's office space in the basement actually had puddles on the floor after rainstorms.
Whether the fix worked won't be known until spring runoff next year but workers in the area say they haven't had to deal with soggy carpets since the work was completed.
And more than a year ago, workmen installed a new "chiller" system to provide fresh, cool air to offices throughout the building during the summer.
The Capitol itself was gutted in the late 1970s and completely restored. In the process, a concrete inner shell was built to hold up the old stone outer walls. Then the original stairways, bannisters, wall murals, ceiling fixtures and other items were put back in and a refurbished dome reinstalled on top of the building.
"We should take good care of it," said Meizel. "It's a great building and, after all, it is our Capitol."