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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Interesting state capitol news...

Posted 5/15/18 (Tue)

There’s been a story floating around the nation lately about North Dakota that seems to be intriguing to a lot of people.

The Bismarck Tribune broke this story, but it’s been published in the Sacramento Bee, Rapid City Journal and Miami Herald, among others.

Four elevators are being replaced in the state capitol and facilities manager John Boyle has a $1.8 million budget to get it done.

Apparently, elements of these four elevators have been in place since the state capitol opened in 1934. That’s a long time, so it makes sense the government is shelling out nearly $2 million for the fix.

No. 1, it’s for the safety of the passengers and No. 2, can you imagine getting stalled in a state capitol elevator? That could be a major embarrassment.

According to Mr. Boyle, four elevators are being replaced; two north elevators are first followed by the two south side elevators.

It is expected that each pair will take four or five months to change out and become operational. And since Otis Elevator is doing the work, we can assume it will be done right.

And speaking of done right, it was also announced that the elevator doors, which are brass, will be kept from the scrap heap and remounted to maintain that historical ambiance.

Each of the 19 floors has a set of doors, so if you’re going up to say the Agriculture Department, brass doors will remain there as well.

Those doors can get a lot of fingerprints in a day since thousands of people ride those elevators every day, according to Mr. Boyle, with about 600 using them multiple times each day. He said the brass is wiped down twice a day with an environmentally friendly product mixed with water that removes any fingerprints.

That means each morning when the capitol opens for business, those original elevator doors are nice and shiny.

During the Legislature, the daily use of the elevator cars increases by 50 percent so we can assume there would be 50 percent more fingerprints to wipe down each day.

It would be impossible to find out how many lawmakers have ridden up and down in 84 years, but we can certainly narrow it down to governors.

Ole H. Olson was probably the first governor to ride into the sky since he took office in June 1934. Since that time, 15 governors, including Bill Langer have been there and done that.

And since we’re on the subject of leadership, the question came up about how many presidents have ridden in those elevators? How many such historical rides have there been?

None, according to state historian Rick Collin. Franklin Roosevelt was in Bismarck in 1936, Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 and George H.W. Bush was here in 1989 to celebrate the North Dakota Centennial, but Collin said there is no record of any kind indicating any of the three were in the elevators.

There have been a lot of presidents in North Dakota before and since, but none of the others were in the state capitol, at least not that we know of. Ulysses Grant, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson have all visited Bismarck, but the skyscraper on the prairie didn’t exist at the time.

These lifts (as they’re called in the U.K.) are strictly for people and aren’t used for cargo, unless an employee tries to sneak in a Christmas tree or something. Mr. Boyle said there is a separate elevator for remodeling projects and moving furniture.

With all this hoopla about these elevators that is trending nationwide, in addition to the $1.8 million price tag, you’d think the Chamber of Commerce, some elementary children and Bismarck’s illustrious mayor would be on hand to cut a pretty, red ribbon.

Unfortunately, there won’t be a ceremony, but there is a however.

Mr. Boyle will not have the distinction of being the first person to ride the new, state-of-the-art elevators. He hints that he might like to do just that, but there is a higher authority.

“I will need to ask the governor’s office if Governor Burgum would like to take the ceremonial ride,” Boyle said.

OK, fair enough. It’s kind of like the National Guard building a bridge. The general is always the first person to drive his jeep across the new bridge.

Regardless, because you and I are taxpayers in North Dakota, we should ride those elevators when we are in Bismarck. I’m sure we’re going to notice quite a difference in quality.