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CVC Heads Into Final Test Mode

With roughly a year to go before the Capitol Visitor Center opens to the public, officials have begun hiring the contractors who will help mold the operational side of the facility.

Acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers announced during a CVC oversight hearing last week that his department has awarded the contract for the development of the facility’s ticket reservation system, as well as a contract for developing the CVC Web site.

“Having these contracts in place is a positive sign of strong, forward progress on the operations front,” Ayers told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

InfoSpherix Inc., a small company based in Beltsville, Md., was awarded the contract for the ticket reservation system, AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki confirmed. The company specializes in reservation systems for parks, as well as point-of-sale systems for campgrounds, marinas and tour sites, according to its Web site.

The Redmon Group Inc., a female-owned small business is Alexandria, Va., was awarded the contract for Web site development, Malecki said. Redmon Group has designed Web sites for an range of museums, including many for local Smithsonian facilities.

Terrie Rouse, the CVC’s chief executive officer for visitor services, also is in the midst of hiring staff and developing a transportation plan for the CVC, Ayers told the panel.

With operational plans under way, the Architect has begun to develop a CVC operational budget for fiscal 2009, Ayers said. According to current estimates, the AOC will need about $7.5 million in annual recurring costs for the facility.

About $3 million will be needed for maintenance, with most of the rest going to pay for the salaries and benefits of 65 full-time CVC employees, Ayers said.

According to current projections, the CVC will open in November 2008 at a cost of $621 million. With more than 98 percent of construction efforts at the facility completed, crews are focusing on the extensive fire- and life-safety tests that must be run before the building can be given a certificate of occupancy.

That certificate will be needed to allow operational employees to enter the CVC and train for the public opening. Officials are hoping to obtain a temporary certificate by the summer.

The safety tests are going well so far, Ayers noted. For example, testing of the facility’s smoke control systems, which were scheduled to begin on Oct. 19, started a week ahead of schedule and were completed a week early.

There are potential testing delays, however. At Wednesday’s hearing, a Government Accountability Office official noted that fire testing has not yet begun at the CVC. If delayed too long, it could possibly set back the CVC opening date, said Terrell Dorn, the GAO’s director of physical infrastructure issues.

Ayers said testing had not yet begun because officials have just gotten outside recommendations for fire-safety testing from agencies such as the Office of Compliance and General Services Administration.

That issue should be settled this week, however. Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) asked Ayers to present his fire-testing plan to the panel by Wednesday.

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