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Capitol courtyard

Shown in 2014, the northeast courtyard of the Capitol is one of four matching interior courtyards. A fountain is being installed in each, as was in the architect's original vision nearly 100 years ago.

The fountains that soon will grace the Capitol's four interior courtyards caused some tremors when they were funded, but the next big project could be earth-shaking.

Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley asked Capitol Administrator Robert Ripley on Tuesday what might be "the next large project" at Nebraska's iconic Capitol.

Earthquake protection, Ripley told Hadley during a meeting of the Nebraska Capitol Commission. 

Nothing is programmed or planned, Ripley said, but it might be time to consider "some serious evaluation" of the Capitol's ability to withstand damage from an earthquake.

Nebraska is on a tributary of the second worst earthquake fault zone in the United States, Ripley said.

"This building is very rigid," he said, and consideration may need to be given to its capability.

The courtyard fountains project probably won't be completed for two years, Ripley told the commission. Last year, the Legislature approved $2.5 million in funding for the fountains over the veto of Gov. Dave Heineman.

Installation of the interior courtyards will complete the final unfinished piece of the original Capitol design.

With completion of all of the exterior repair and reconstruction, "this is the best shape this building has been in its lifetime" since original construction, Ripley said.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha told the commission he has introduced legislation that would move the authority to bestow names on rooms and space in the Capitol from the Legislature to the commission.

That bill (LB24) also provides for the payment of rent on office and storage space in the Capitol to provide funding for building maintenance.

"It's a shot across the bow," Krist said. "This is a magnificent building, and it needs more preventive maintenance."

Krist, chairman of the Legislature's Executive Board, told the commission he needs three more offices in the Capitol for state senators. Now, he said, six of them are housed in shared office space.

Gov. Pete Ricketts presided at the commission meeting for the first time Tuesday as its designated chairman. Hadley and Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican also are members of the commission.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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