The city's new Capitol Planning Committee wants to improve the capitol with more committee rooms and sufficient space for public participation and have a building that stands as a symbol for the state's pride and values.
These were some of the ideas that the 16-member committee offered Thursday. The committee - made up of state legislators, Assembly members and the public - broke into small groups to discuss the purpose of having an improved capitol and what information will be needed in the decision-making process. McKie Campbell of Juneau, who is not a committee member, moderated the 90-minute meeting.
Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho created the committee in hopes of building a new capitol in Juneau. His plan calls for funding a new legislative hall with a revenue bond secured in the form of a long-term lease from the state. It's unclear whether the committee will recommend constructing a new building or renovating the existing structure on Fourth Street.
People on both sides of the capital move issue agree that the state needs a renovated or new capitol - regardless of location.
Alaska is the only state that has not conducted a major renovation on the capitol, Campbell said. The lack of renovation work makes sense, Campbell said, because Alaska is the second youngest state.
Hawaii built a new Capitol and performed a major renovation project in the late 1990s. Alaska converted its original territorial building into the state Capitol when it joined the union in 1959, Campbell said.
The Capitol is a six-story, U-shaped facility built in 1929. It was originally designed as a territorial office building. A 70-vehicle parking garage was added in 1968. The legislative and executive offices occupy 90,000 square feet. In 1984, the city donated $2 million allowing the state to acquire land on Telephone Hill.
The city donated the Terry Miller Legislative Office Building in 1999. Numerous ideas and concepts for advancing the Capitol have emerged in the past 30 years, but few have been implemented, Campbell said.
In the coming months, committee members said they would be seeking information including square footage of different parts of the building, different site possibilities, input from professionals who have been part of a Capitol renovation and how a possible new site would fit into the city's downtown waterfront plan.
The committee is expected to meet again in February, Botelho said. At that meeting, the committee plans to discuss specific state Capitols throughout the United States and have someone there to discuss those specifics, he said.
Rep. Norman Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican who sits on the committee, is also expected to discuss his legislation, House Bill 60. It calls for a new legislative hall but does not dictate a location in the state. Rokeberg wants state cities to compete for the new capitol. His other plan is to put a capital-move initiative on the ballot and have the electorate decide. That bill has stalled for a year in the state Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican. Rokeberg said he's prepared to ask Weyhrauch for a hearing on the bill this session.
Tara Sidor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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