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New Library, Archives and Museum effort moves ahead

Building advocates welcome support for replacing deteriorating homes for state's history

Posted: October 23, 2011 - 12:11am
Ed Beam of Admiralty Construction works on site preparations for the new state Library, Archives and Museum building on Friday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Ed Beam of Admiralty Construction works on site preparations for the new state Library, Archives and Museum building on Friday.

Juneau leaders were disappointed when the state decided not to build a planned new office building, but they said that disappointment has been alleviated by signs of support from the Parnell administration for another of Juneau’s top priorities, a new state Library, Archives and Museum building.

“We understand that the governor is fully behind that, and it is on an accelerated schedule,” said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau.

The new, 118,000-square foot building will provide new homes for all three activities, and group them together in a single location.

They are now in separate structures, some with critical maintenance needs, and being forced to use off-site storage for some of their collections.

While some money has already appropriated, the project will still need additional legislative appropriations of $94.5 million to build a building estimated to cost $127 million, said Linda Thibodeau, director of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums.

Work began on the project following a quiet groundbreaking recently, with construction manager PCL Construction Services hiring local subcontractor Admiralty Construction to being site work.

The building itself was designed by ECI/Hyer Inc., Thibodeau said.

The state library, currently located on the seventh and eighth floors of the State Office Building is not suffering the same types of critical issues as are the Museum and Archives, she said, but can operate more efficiently when it is located together with the two other agencies.

Among the problems the archives and museum are struggling with are lack of space and water infiltration, through the roof in the Archives and through the foundation in the Museum, she said.

They also suffer from some design flaws, she said, such as water pipes located above historic collections, where leaks or breaks can damage irreplaceable holdings. The items damaged in a recent water main break at the Archives have been able to be restored and are usable, she said, but that is still not a good practice.

The new building’s design process is now about 65 percent completed, she said, with hopes for completion around spring. Legislative budget approval won’t be able to happen before July 1, however, she said.

Thibodeau denied the governor had endorsed the project, calling such comment “conjecture.”

She said the groundbreaking ceremony and start of site work was intentionally kept quiet and the public was not notified it was happening.

“We didn’t want it to be a big event,” she said.

The support by the governor for the project has already played a role in the state’s decision for a new Juneau office building. Department of Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg said her department must now consider whether the vacated Library space can meet other needs and possibly eliminate the need to build a costly new building.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the Parnell administration is supporting the Library, Archives and Museum project, and she expects to see it in this year’s budget.

“We appear to have administration support for the ... project, and that’s great,” she said.

“Construction costs just seem to keep going up, and we need to get it built now,” she said.

Kerttula said while the building is in Juneau, she has heard strong support for it from around the state.

Thibodeau agreed.

“This is a building that’s located in Juneau, but it is not for Juneau — our building serves the state and it is for all of the people of the state,” she said.

All of the agencies using the new building already have strong outreach efforts around the state, and Thibodeau said she expects that to expand in the future.

Construction timelines will depend on funding, but she said she expects actual construction to take at least two years.

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

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