Despite another weekend of graffiti, the state Department of Personnel and Administration announced Monday that cleanup of the state Capitol is now underway. But that work isn't likely to be done before winter, according to DPA.
On Friday, a 6-foot security fence that envelops the state Capitol was erected, the first step in blocking off the building so the cleanup could begin.
DPA has been working on a plan to clean up graffiti and other damage since May 28, when vandals began tagging the state Capitol and seven of the other eight buildings in the state Capitol complex with graffiti, protesting the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis.
But it's been a moving target, according to DPA spokesman Doug Platt. Over the past seven weeks, people have continued to tag the building, break windows and do other damage, such as tearing down a Civil War statue on the Capitol's west side.
That's made planning for the cleanup a little tough, as they want to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money and not have to do the job twice, Platt said.
Even after the security fencing went up on Friday, people climbed over it and tagged the building again.
The base to the Civil War statue also suffered more damage over the weekend, according to Platt. It had four plaques that listed the Civil War veterans from Colorado who died in the war, as well as the battles in which they fought. One of those four plaques was stolen over the weekend. The other three were removed for safekeeping. DPA also put into storage two cannons from the Capitol's west side.
According to a DPA news release, the cost is still being calculated. Some of those costs will be covered by insurance, but the state self-insures for damages of up to $1 million. Other funds for the cleanup include $245,000 in emergency funds from the Office of the State Architect, which was made available on June 16, and Risk Management Property Funds kicked in another $525,000 on July 16.
Most of the work at the other buildings in the Capitol complex, save for boarded-up windows, has been completed, Platt said. They've had to modify the plans for cleaning the Capitol given that people have continued to tag the building and cause other damage.
“We have been addressing these issues since Day One as they have arisen, but unfortunately, those efforts have largely gone unnoticed as vandalism continued every day for weeks,” DPA Executive Director Kara Veitch said. “We are dedicated to returning these historic buildings to a pristine state, but we need to do so judiciously to ensure we don’t further damage the buildings."
The current estimate for graffiti removal, window and security door repairs, and restoration stands at over $1 million. That amount will most likely change as the project progresses, according to the statement.
Platt pointed out that the Capitol's granite is porous, and that requires specialized chemicals to remove the damage. He said some of the graffiti will take multiple passes in order for it to be removed completely without damaging the granite.
The Capitol's granite and windows were already undergoing renovations — part of a multi-year renovation project — when the protests began, and DPA is working to ensure that those costs aren't duplicated.
There have been other problems that have added to the costs. In June, well-intentioned Republican lawmakers and candidates, including Lauren Boebert, who is running for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District, tried to clean up some of the graffiti. However, the home cleaning solutions some of them used damaged the Capitol's porous granite.
House Republican Reps. Richard Champion of Columbine Valley, Tim Geitner of Colorado Springs and Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch also were involved in those efforts, although most used soap and water.
Champion told Colorado Politics he used diluted vinegar to try to clean up the graffiti but said it didn't do any good. "I thought it would be helpful because the governor wasn't doing about about this. Sorry!" he said.
Manufacturers of granite products warn strenuously against using vinegar on those surfaces.
Boebert, however, was unapologetic. "I know from plenty of experience that ordinary soap and water doesn't damage granite. I'm certainly not going to apologize for helping clean up a mess that Governor Polis should've prevented in the first place."
Those attempting to clean up with household products included Audrey Herman, who lost the Republican primary for House District 34. In a Facebook post Herman said they were canceling a scheduled cleanup primarily because of "what people have been using to clean the granite... . So we need professionals to come out and clean it," she wrote. "I greatly apologize but we don't want to make the problem worse."