However, witnesses observed fireworks striking the Capitol dome, which raised concerns by sculptor Joe Mullins and others about potential damage to the tissue paper-thin gold leaf covering the dome.
While I was on winter break, General Services awarded a $42,400 contract to Swanke Hayden Connell Architects of New York to inspect the Capitol dome "to assess its current condition, note problem areas, provide recommendations to extend the life of the existing system, and provide opinions of probable cost associated with any repair work."
The contract includes costs for the architectural firm to bring in several consultants, including David Riccio of John Canning and Co. of Cheshire, Conn., the company that gilded the dome during the 2004-05 restoration.
(Swanke Hayden Connell was the architectural firm that oversaw the restoration project, and the general contractor on the project, Wiseman Construction of Charleston, and CAS Structural Engineering of Alum Creek have also been retained as consultants for the dome inspection.)
The contract runs through Nov. 4, but does not specify exactly when the inspection is to take place. (I'm guessing it probably won't be this week.)
By the way, the contract didn't go out to bid, under an exception in state purchasing law for architectural and engineering services costing less than $250,000 when special circumstances exist (such as the specialized nature of inspecting the Capitol dome).
The most embarrassing moment of the year: The state Ethics Commission, whose duties include enforcing the state's Open Meetings Act, violated that law by failing to file public notice of its December meeting.
Finally, 2013 may be remembered as the year West Virginia outlawed stupidity, or at least criminalized it.
As of July 1, using a handheld cellphone while driving became a primary traffic offense, joining a similar ban on texting while driving which went into effect a year earlier. Fines are $100 for first offense, $200 for second offense, and $300 for each call thereafter.
Also on July 1, West Virginia University went tobacco-free, with tobacco use prohibited on all campuses. (Naturally, Marshall followed suit with a ban of its own.)
Wouldn't it be great if state government followed the lead of the state's flagship institution and instituted a campus-wide ban on tobacco use at the Capitol Complex?
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.