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Saturday tours to resume at state Capitol

Apr 22, 2015

Nearly 20 years ago, in the midst of a deep budget crunch, the state decided to close the Capitol to visitors on the weekends.

The Capitol building is in for repairs and June will bring back Saturday public access.
Credit Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

But now, as of June 6, you’ll be able to again visit the state Capitol on Saturdays.

John Truscott sits on the commission that oversees the Capitol Building, and is also president of Truscott-Rossman, a Lansing-based public relations firm. When the decision to close the Capitol on weekends was made in the 90's, Truscott was the press secretary to then-Governor John Engler.

“At the time we were looking for money in every single department,” he said. “Things were very, very tight and everybody was cutting back, you know, about 10%. The Capitol really had nowhere to go. Do you close down or limit tours during the week? Do you do it on the weekend?”

He emphasized the Capitol building’s “integral” role in Michigan children’s historical education, and the large number of children who tour it. For this reason, closing the Capitol down was not an option. So, the solution became to close the Capitol to reduce staff only on Saturdays. And Michiganders became accustomed to it.

Now that the economy is getting back on its feet, however, the Capitol building has a bit more flexibility.

The Michigan Capitol Commission, formed by state statute, is in charge of caring for the building, improving the building, and striving to allow the public more access.

“We were very excited the other day to open the Capitol – or vote to open the Capitol starting in June – and it will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday,” Truscott said.

One new tour guide, alongside volunteer docents, will conduct tours.

Restoration work on the building is also being done, and it’s been 25 years since the last restoration.

Infrared sensors and other high-tech technology have worked to find the sources of leaks around the building’s roof. A new roof is going up, and the chipped paint on the dome will soon be fixed.

“And it will restore the capitol to its really, its national historic landmark status,” Truscott said.