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Report: Workers at proposed state office building mostly live in the valley

Survey part of effort to decide location of new building

Posted: August 24, 2011 - 7:42pm

As state officials ponder where a possible new state office building should be located, one element to their decision may be a just-completed survey of those who would work there.

The location search has already been narrowed to a downtown site, above a current State Office Building parking garage on Willoughby Avenue, and a Mendenhall Valley site at Vintage Business Park.

The survey shows that several times as many of the new building’s workers live in the Mendenhall Valley or even further away than live downtown.

The survey did not ask employees where they’d prefer to work.

The survey was conducted earlier this month of employees in several departments likely to work in the new building, if it is eventually built.

They currently work at the Department of Labor building at the foot of the Juneau-Douglas Bridge, the Fish & Game building in Douglas, and the Public Safety Building downtown, all of which are considered substandard by state officials.

According to the survey, few of the workers in those buildings currently live downtown.

Even including the many employees who live on Douglas Island, nearly two-thirds of employees live in Lemon Creek or further away, with most living in the Mendenhall Valley.

Downtown resident Ellen Carrlee, who fears the possible impact of the downtown site on her Calhoun Avenue home, said the survey shows the building would be best located in the valley.

“As for the traffic flow on Willoughby, things are going to get hairy,” she said.

The valley’s Vintage Park location is already set up to handle large amounts of traffic, she said.

The survey also asked about commuting data, including methods and times. Sixty percent of the employees went to work at 7 a.m., with another 29 percent at 8 a.m. and 10 percent at 6 a.m.

Most of the employees drove to work, about 83 percent, while 13 percent walked, 11 percent carpooled, 6 percent biked and 5.5 percent rode the bus. Some used more than one method of transportation on their commute.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, questioned why the survey hadn’t asked where employees preferred to work.

“It sounds like they’re explaining why they want to use Vintage Business Park,” he said.

A decision on location is imminent, state officials say. A committee of representatives from departments using the building will soon review the information complied by consultants ECI/Hyer Architects, and will make a recommendation.

State procurement manager Vern Jones said late Wednesday that decision was still being deliberated.

The decision will then have to be approved by Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg, and likely Gov. Sean Parnell, officials said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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