Delaware's Legislative Hall Opens to Public, State Releases Dama - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware's Legislative Hall Opens to Public, State Releases Damage Cost Estimate

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The walls of multiple hallways in Leg Hall are bare. (Photo: WBOC) The walls of multiple hallways in Leg Hall are bare. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - The public got its first look inside Delaware's Legislative Hall Wednesday since a recent fire did what firefighters described as "extensive damage" to parts of the building as the state announced a cost estimate for that damage.

Leg Hall was open to the public for the first time since the fire three weeks ago. The Senate met for a special session in the afternoon to confirm cabinet and judicial nominations.

Looking around the capitol building, things are obviously missing. State officials have told WBOC about 160 objects, including paintings, were taken out for repair and restoration after the fire.

"It does feel a bit empty," said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford. "There are still bare walls, bare floors."

Sen. Simpson was in Leg Hall when the fire started.

"When I came out of my office out in the hallway, the hallway was just filled with a gray smoke, especially in front of the governor's office. It was just as thick as a fog," he said.

He got out OK as did everybody else.

The fire did the most damage to the office of the chief of staff for House Democrats. Windows to that office are cardboarded up. And that section of building is blocked off to the public.

But other parts of Leg Hall were in good enough shape for lots of staffers to return to work there two weeks ago.

"There have been a lot of clean up crews in and out of the building and making progress every day," said Mike Jackson, Delaware's deputy controller.

Repair equipment and materials are all over the place. They likely will be there for a while. And Sen. Simpson says something else is still in the building.

"There's still a little bit of a smoke smell that can notice. But pretty much, at least on the Senate side of the building, we're back in working order."

Leg Hall was open to the public just for Wednesday. It will be open again for budget hearings starting Monday. Regular public access will resume four days later.

The state Office of Management and Budget says the estimated cost of damages is $1.5 million. The state is self-insured so the repair costs will come from the state's self-insurance fund.

Costs include the cleaning of all smoke and fire damaged areas including the attic duct, as well as repairing and replacing anything damaged by water or smoke such as computers, artwork, and furniture at Leg Hall.

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