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CVC Watch

The announcements made at last week’s Capitol Visitor Center oversight hearing included the news that Terrie Rouse, who will be the CVC’s chief executive officer for visitor services, officially started work on Sept. 17.

Rouse, who was hired in early summer, will be charged with long-term and operational planning for the CVC. She’ll also serve as an important link to Congressional committees, as she is expected to have responsibility for the CVC’s budget.

Rouse’s arrival on Capitol Hill marks a turning point of sorts for the CVC, which now has begun to slowly shift from merely a construction site to a living building filled with staff and visitors. [IMGCAP(1)]

“Terrie is working with our CVC Operations Transition Team to stand up the organization,” acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers told members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch last week. “One of her first priorities is to recruit and hire a staff to help her prepare the CVC to receive visitors.”

At the CVC, Rouse specifically will work with Congressional leadership on developing a CVC Web site, stocking and staffing gift shops, working to develop a transportation plan and reaching out to community, tour and business groups, Ayers said.

“Over the next several weeks, she will be working with this subcommittee and all of our other oversight committees to coordinate her efforts with Congress to ensure a seamless opening of the facility next year,” Ayers said.

Both the AOC and the Government Accountability Office have said the CVC should open in November 2008. Getting the operational aspects up and running will be tricky, because crews will need to test the facility’s complex life-safety systems before anybody can start work.

CVC officials are hopeful they can be issued a certificate of operation occupancy in summer 2008, so staff can prepare for the opening of the CVC while final acceptance tests are run, Ayers said.

“We are doing all we can to accelerate work where we can so that when we receive the certificate of occupancy next summer operational activities will be able to proceed,” Ayers said.

Meanwhile, Ayers noted last week that in addition to the AOC and GAO coming to terms on the final cost and opening date for the CVC, officials had made significant progress on some other big issues that had come up at earlier oversight hearings.

The status of the CVC’s sprinkler system perhaps tops the list. Earlier this year, it was discovered that the sprinkler system had not been properly inspected before the facility’s ceilings were closed in — potentially handing crews a significant setback.

But in the end, contractors and the CVC team were able to get a look at the system by using a camera scope, allowing the inspection to go ahead while creating minimal damage to the ceilings, Ayers said.

Inspectors found only minor deficiencies in the system, most of which already have been fixed, he added.

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