Legislature takes over neighboring Masonic temple

Posted: Friday, February 02, 2007

The Alaska Legislature accepted on Thursday ownership of Juneau's Scottish Rite Masonic Temple and agreed to begin a $1.5 million renovation of the building.

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The 14.900-square-foot building, on Fourth Street near the Capitol, was purchased by the city for $725,000 to turn over to the Legislature.

"The building is structurally sound and in good condition," said Pam Varni, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency.

The building contains minor amounts of asbestos and lead paint, which can be dealt with during the renovation, she said.

The Alaska Legislative Council, made up of leaders of both houses of the Legislature, runs the business of the Legislature. It accepted ownership on behalf of the body.

Varni said that one possibility for the new space was a child care facility, although House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, and Majority Leader Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, objected.

Harris warned against "dumping a lot of money into day care."

Anchorage Republican Sen. John Cowdery, chairman of the council, said the lack of child care was a problem for not only staff, but some legislators as well. The lack of child care may make it harder to work for the Legislature and possibly even to serve as a lawmaker, he said.

Tenants other than the Masons have already left the building, and the Masons have 60 days to leave, Varni said.

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