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HUNDREDS sign Capitol dome beams

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Hundreds of people crowded outside the State Capitol Tuesday to put their signatures on four steel columns that will support the new Capitol dome.

Children in shorts and adults in business suits and skirts wielded black markers beneath the blazing afternoon sun as they inscribed their names and personal greetings on the 56-foot-long steel beams.

The state-sponsored graffiti gave Oklahomans a chance to make their name a permanent part of the new dome, said John Jamison, project executive for Capitol Dome Builders, a joint project of two Oklahoma-based companies, Flintco Inc. and Manhattan Construction Co.

The steel columns will be hoisted to the top of the Capitol during a dome-raising ceremony Wednesday. Once mounted, the columns will be encased in pre-cast concrete and the signatures will not be visible, Jamison said.

``Do you know how long your name will be there?'' Jamison asked one boy who had scribbled his name on a column. ``As long as the dome is.''

A total of 32 columns will be mounted at the top of the Capitol, Jamison said.

Some who signed the beams included personal messages, such as ``say no to hate.''

Others included political messages. One woman said ``fix my roads instead,'' an apparent reference to the dome's $21 million pricetag.

The dome's exterior is being paid entirely with private donations, with the interior finishing work to be paid with state bond money. About $3.5 million has already been spent on the project.

The Oklahoma Capitol was built between 1914 and 1917 at a cost of about $1.5 million. It is the only Capitol building in the nation for which a dome was designed but never built.

Plans for a concrete-and-steel dome were abandoned because of a shortage of money and steel during World War I.

The dome will weigh 5 million pounds when finished and will double the height of the Capitol to 255 feet _ about the size of a 26-story building.

Begun in April, the new dome is scheduled for completion on Nov. 16, 2002, the 95th anniversary of Oklahoma's statehood.

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