Mat-su eyes its own site for session

Borough pushes to construct legislative building instead of new capitol in Juneau

Posted: Friday, April 08, 2005

The hoopla over the state Capitol design has focused on Juneau, but the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is making its own bid for a legislative building.

The Borough Assembly is asking borough staff to look into how an office and meeting area for the Legislature might be financed and where it could be built in the Valley.

The assembly unanimously approved a resolution March 15 directing Borough Manager John Duffy to investigate the idea. The resolution also recommends that the Legislature consider this site as a possible upgrade instead of the new building Juneau city officials are hoping to build.

Assemblywoman Mary Kvalheim, who sponsored the resolution, said a building in the borough would eliminate the need for two other costly structures - the state Capitol in Juneau and the building that houses the Anchorage Legislative Information Office and interim offices for several Southcentral legislators in Anchorage.

"To me, it makes sense to put it all in one place," Kvalheim said.

The state-owned Capitol, some say, is outdated and unsafe, with corridors that don't meet fire and safety building codes and rooms that don't meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While the interim offices in Southcentral Alaska might be in better repair, they're leased to the state. Karla Schofield, an accountant in the state Legislative Affairs Agency, said the state pays about $770,000 each year in leases for legislative offices in Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla.

Kvalheim said legislators could use the one building in Mat-Su year-round for offices and meet in the building during the legislative session.

She said she would like to see the borough find a way to fund construction, perhaps through a bond, and then lease the building to the state. It could be an arrangement, she said, similar to Juneau's plan for building a Capitol.

Duffy said the building shouldn't be confused with an attempt to move the capital city.

"This is strictly a legislative office building, not a capital," Duffy said.

The building would fit the specifications set out in a bill proposed by Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage.

The bill would allow Alaska municipalities with populations of more than 30,000 to submit competitive proposals to provide a new legislative meeting facility. The bill was referred to the House State Affairs Committee but has not yet had a hearing.

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