11/28/2013 07:56 EST | Updated 01/28/2014 05:59 EST

B.C. Legislature Dome Upgrades Could Cost Millions

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VICTORIA - The golden statue of Capt. George Vancouver that stands atop the green dome of British Columbia's iconic legislature buildings in Victoria is on a shaky perch, B.C. politicians have been told.

An all-party legislative management committee also heard Thursday the green dome that holds up the statue is twisting and in need of repairs that could cost millions of dollars, and that could be just the start of a massive, multi-million-dollar repair job.

Legislative Clerk Craig James said engineers believe weather-related factors have taken their toll on parts of the 115-year-old building, with shifting and water damage compromising the dome's integrity.

"My understanding is that the dome has slightly shifted or twisted as a result, we think, of water leakage and other kinds of weather-related deterioration," he said.

"We don't know how much it's twisted, but we do know it's twisted enough that it is a priority. It's safe but it's certainly something that needs to be attended to."

James said engineers estimate it will cost $5.7 million to repair the dome, but that could be just the starting cost because once workers tear into the building they are bound to find other structural issues.

He said the current engineering estimate does not include any seismic upgrades to the legislature, which have been long overdue and the subject of several government reports.

"The number we have from the engineer is roughly $5.7 million for the total dome," said James. "But that again is based on what they know now without actually getting in there and examining in much closer detail what structural damage may have occurred and the effect that it may have on the columns supporting it."

James said the legislative committee is meeting again Dec. 12 and may make a decision on how to tackle the issue.

The legislature is already known as one of the least earthquake-proof buildings in the province, and a 2011 report concluded it needs upgrades and maintenance worth $250 million to prevent a collapse.

James said other buildings that surround the main legislature building and house government workers are also in poor shape and are in need of potentially costly upgrades.

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