State Senate chamber to be renovated through October

  • New Hampshire Senate Chief of Staff Kristy Merrill stands in the construction site of the State Senate chambers in Concord on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Construction workers work out of the gallery of the State Senate chambers on Monday, August 20, 2018 at the State House. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The State Senate chambers at the State House in Concord is being renovated with a $125,000 and is scheduled to be finished by October. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/20/2018 3:30:38 PM

The legislative session is weeks in the past, but the New Hampshire State Senate chamber is bustling.

As legislators have withdrawn to campaigning, contractors are busy working on a wide-ranging renovation of the Senate. Tables have been removed; doors taped off to visitors. Wires have been extricated from walls and floorboards. The entire ceiling has been removed, leaving for now a network of intersecting joists and beams.

The goal, Senate Chief of Staff Kristy Merrill said Monday, is to update the room by October. The acoustic ceiling tiles, which were aging, will be replaced with a plaster alternative, she said. Meanwhile, the 30-year-old carpet will be swapped out, the walls repainted, the murals restored, the electrical systems updated and the windows replaced with UV-resistant glass, Merrill added.

The plans came out of leftover funds from the Capital Budget, which set aside $1.3 million in 2015 for State House projects. About $124,000 of those funds will be spent on the project overall, with most coming from the budget and some portion from the Senate’s operating budget and the Department of Administrative Services, Merrill said.

The Senate chambers, as with Representatives Hall, has been in continuous use since 1819, barring a few exceptions for renovations over the years. Often off-limits to everyone but senators, staff and press, the Senate floor attracts guests and tourists in the off season, Merrill said.

Throughout the renovation planning process, Senate President Chuck Morse advocated for an approach that would update the room, but not too lavishly. For example, “We could have gone a lot more wired and high tech for the senators’ desks, but we’re not going in that direction,” she said.

Among the remaining choices yet to be made, Merrill said: the color of the carpet.

“It’s probably the hardest decision of all,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is accent the murals and the colors in the room, so we want something that’s really fitting and isn’t too busy or anything.”

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