Stevens offers office space after ricin scare

Senate Sergeant at Arms is in charge of finding space for those displaced

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

FAIRBANKS - Sen. Ted Stevens is offering to share office space with other senators displaced after the deadly poison ricin was found this week in an office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Stevens, an Alaska Republican, has two office suites in the Capitol. One serves as headquarters for the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which he is chairman. The other comes with his position as president pro tempore.

Stevens worked at his Appropriations Committee office Tuesday, said Courtney Schikora, his spokeswoman.

Stevens and Sen. Lisa Murkowski occupy Senate offices on the fifth and third floors, respectively, of the Hart Senate Office Building.

A white powder determined to be ricin was found Monday in Frist's mailroom on the fourth floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The Dirksen and Hart buildings are connected by hallways on each floor.

Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, was flying back to Washington from Anchorage on Tuesday, said her spokeswoman, Kristin Pugh.

Schikora and Pugh said they had left the buildings before learning of the ricin Monday night. Schikora said she heard the air system shut down before she left but didn't know why it did.

"We didn't realize the extent of the ricin scare until the 11 o'clock news," Pugh told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

But other staff members were present in both Alaska offices when three office buildings were evacuated, they said.

Staff mostly worked from home Tuesday with cell phones and e-mail.

No one answers the main office numbers in Washington.

"We encourage Alaskans to call the local state offices for quick and efficient service," Schikora said.

The Senate Sergeant at Arms is finding space for displaced members, Pugh said.

The Senate on Monday began debating the six-year transportation bill produced by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on which Murkowski sits.

Murkowski also had two bills scheduled for a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting, but it was canceled. One bill would authorize land swaps between the U.S. Forest Service and two Southeast Alaska Native corporations, Cape Fox and Sealaska. The other would let the city of Craig sell land to the Forest Service and use the money to purchase other land.

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