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New tech to bring old Capitol elevators up to code

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Capitol Building Commission members Tuesday approved a fairly ingenious solution to bring two circa-1930 elevators in the state Capitol in line with modern-day safety requirements.

The two small elevators, part of the original construction of the main Capitol building, don't comply with modern-day safety standards for two reasons, commissioners were told.

Unlike modern elevators, the small elevators lack a mechanism to stop the doors from closing if something is in the way. They also have open-cage gate doors.

Architect Ed Webber told commissioners he came up with a solution to address safety issues without having to replace the historic House and Senate elevators with a modern design.

"It's what can happen when life safety and historic preservation come together," he said.

The solution, he said, is to install photoelectric devices in the elevators.

If the light beam is broken, either because a person or object is in the entranceway, or because an object -- a hand or an umbrella, for example -- is sticking through the openings in the gate -- the elevator door will stop closing, and/or the elevator will stop moving, Webber said.

The elevator on the Senate side, with the main floor entrance just outside the Governor's Office, is used almost exclusively by senators and Senate and gubernatorial staffers, with limited use by the public.

However, the House elevator, with the first floor entrance near the Attorney General's Office, is used more frequently by the public, because it provides the only access to the House Education Committee room on the 4th floor for people in wheelchairs or with mobility issues.

During legislative sessions, the House has hired elevator operators to run the House elevator to comply with safety issues.

Costs to modify the elevators were not immediately available Tuesday.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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