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B.C. uses 'Flash Gordon' device to watch dome

B.C. uses 'Flash Gordon' device to watch domeThe B.C. Legislative building is shown in Victoria, July 2, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA - British Columbia politicians are preparing to use what one assembly member says is a Flash Gordon-type device to monitor any movements of the provincial legislature's green dome.

An all-party committee of the legislature decided Thursday to bring in an accelerometer to measure movements of the dome at the more than 100-year-old building.

Speaker of the Legislature Linda Reid said the highly accurate device will be attached to the dome area and is capable detecting any movement.

"We are going to learn by the attachment of an accelerometer whether or not our dome has shifted subsequent to 2006," said Reid. "That's when the first report came out that indicated the shift. It may well be it's come to rest where it is and there may not be any additional movement."

She said the dome's movements were last reported seven years ago and the accelerometer will be able to provide up-to-date measurements, possibly saving millions in repairs.

Legislative Clerk Craig James said at last month's all-party legislative management committee meeting engineers believe weather-related factors have taken a toll on parts of the 115-year-old building, with shifting and water damage compromising the dome's integrity.

He 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.

Reid said she reviewed structural issues with experts at other legislative buildings in the United States and was told shifting was an issue in many stone buildings, but they didn't require major refits.

She said she believed it prudent for the B.C. committee to monitor the building before embarking on a costly repair job.

New Democrat committee member John Horgan said the use of the accelerometer relieves public tensions about the building's safety.

"It sounds like something out of 'Flash Gordon' doesn't it?" said Horgan, of the science fiction movie of the 1980s, and comic strip hero of the 1930s.

"Quick, get the accelerometer and we'll see what we can do," he joked.

The B.C. 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 earlier that the other buildings surrounding the main legislature building that house government workers are also in poor shape and are in need of potentially costly upgrades.

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