Nebraska panel approves $181K plan to repair Capitol dome

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Capitol Commission has approved spending $181,000 on emergency repairs, in part to keep gold tiles from falling off the dome.

Work will begin soon to protect the dome from moisture and winter’s freeze-thaw cycles now that the state’s Capitol Commission voted to shift around funding.

“The condition is dire enough we needed to take action before winter arrives,” commission administrator Bob Ripley told the Omaha World-Herald on Monday. “It’s foolishness to wait too long.”

A July inspection discovered caulking applied to expansion joints in 2001 had deteriorated so much that water was getting inside the inner dome structure. Some exterior tiles had been moved out of place, raising the risk they could fall off, Ripley said.

The caulking had been replaced as part of a masonry restoration project completed in 2010. But current caulking products don’t last as long as previous formulations, which contained more toxic ingredients, he said.

Recaulking of joints in the lower parts of the building has been done every year, but budget limitations prevented the commission from checking the dome previously, Ripley said. To inspect the dome, contractors use rope harnesses and rappel down from the base of the Sower statue. He decided this year that the dome inspection could wait no longer.

Plans for the emergency repairs call for workers to rappel down the dome and temporarily seal the expansion joints to keep the tiles in place.

The longer-term solution will require scaffolding so workers can remove the tiles, fix the underlying structure and put the tiles back in place, he said. Caulking work also will be needed on the tower.