It rained this week, after a dry winter, and today the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider giving the National Park Service $4.5 million to repair the leaking roofs, terraces, walls and floors of the John F. Kennedy Center for the performing Arts.
This is not to be thought of as simple cause and effect - Hey, it's raining indoors. let's close up those holes.
Leakage problems at the Center began to be noticed shortly after the building was built. The Department of Justice has a lawsuit against the architect pending in the Court of Claims. And with the increase, every year, of the interior damage - the buckling ceilings, ruined exhibits, dampened concertgoers - there has been an increase in the estimated repair bill.
And in the meantime, nasty stains have formed and are spreading on mirrors and on marble. Chandelier stems have corroded and carpeting has been ruined. The kitchen is leaking into the Concert Hall corridor. Service, garage and crawl space areas, filled with large pans to collect the water, are believed to present electrical hazards.
Exterior walls and overhangs are cracking. The Hall of Nations' marble is stained. An exhibit in the IBM "America on Stage" was ruined. Archives of the Center, including records and photographs, have been damaged, some of them destroyed.
Audiences in the Concert Hall have been trained on, as have people standing under the main canopy of the entrance.
Meanwhile, under the waterproof dome of the Capitol, there is continuing disagreement over who should get the check for the repair work. Legislation to fix the leaks died last session over this question, and it many yet hold up the work during this spring's rains.
The problem arises from the dual nature of the Kennedy Center, as a memorial maintained by the Park Service and as a cultural center run by a board of trustee.
Jurisdiction over leaks seems to have fallen between the cracks, so to speak.
The House of Representatives has proposed giving the money to the Kennedy Center board which would, in turn, contract the Park Service to do the work. A supplemental appropriation proposed in the House was removed last Wednesday on a point of order.
The Senate's supplemental appropriation gives the money directly to the Park Service in what its most revehement supporter believes will clarify the division of authority at the Center.
"How many years has that roof been leaking?" asked Sen. James McClure (R-Idaho). "The Kennedy Center has a tendency to neglect these problems until they're forced to act. Maybe there are other structural problems that should be looked into. If the Kennedy Center won't, then the federal government ought to. The Kennedy Center hasn't discharged its responsibility to act. We could force the Park Service to act, if they did not, in a much more direct way."
The Kennedy Center chairman, Roger L. Stevens - who happened to be on the Hill during the worst part of the rain - said it only began to act after finding that the Park Service was not doing so. "We are not in charge of maintence," he said, "but rather than fight over who should get the money, we went after it ourselves."
The Senate and House have agreed to go into conference over the matter, but no meeting time has yet been agreed upon.
The Kennedy Center has advanced about $100,000 to do emergency repairs on the roof and the ceiling of the Grand Foyer, which threatened to drop rainwater and plaster flakes into people's drink during intermission.
But the engineer who fixed the ceiling gave the Center a written guarantee that the place would not disintegrate again for "at least two weeks."
That was on Jan. 15.