Anchorage legislators seek new offices

New space is not part of a capital move, council chair says

Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anchorage legislators have been seeking new office space for some time, but in the past such moves have concerned Southeast legislators who feared a backdoor attempt at moving the capital.

The Legislative Council, the joint Senate-House of Representatives committee that runs the day-to-day logistics of the Legislature, met in Anchorage on Tuesday to hear proposals for new office space in that city.

Legislative Council Chairman Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, said looking for new offices for the 22 Anchorage-area legislators should not trigger capital move concerns in Southeast.

"Under no circumstances is this an attempt or an effort for anything like that," he said. "You can take that to the bank."

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, who has been following the issue, said she was not concerned that it was a secret effort to move the capital.

"I think it is fair for the Legislature and the Legislative Council to take a look at the existing lease, as they do with all leases when the come up (for renewal), and see if there is a better deal," she said.

Harris said the Legislature has the option for as many as four more one-year extensions on its current building's lease, but needs to act now if it chooses to construct a new building to ensure it has time.

The Legislative Council, which met in executive session Tuesday, took no action but is seeking more information on a couple of sites, Harris said.

Harris said he supported the Anchorage legislators' desire for a better space to work from when not in session in Juneau.

"Some of the members believe and feel this building isn't adequate for the needs of the Legislature. It's not big enough, it's not configured right, for a variety of reasons," he said. "As chairman, I felt it was important enough to look at this issue now, rather than wait."

Harris has his interim office in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, but said he was deferring to the views of the legislators who lived there on what to do.

Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, was appointed to the council last week but was unavailable for comment after the meeting Tuesday.

In 2008, a new office building in Anchorage was proposed to be built in conjunction with the Alaska Court System. Costs of that project ballooned from an estimate of $40 million to $86 million, and the plans were abandoned.

Former Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, Egan's predecessor on the council, acknowledged the need for new offices for Anchorage legislators, but he and other Southeast legislators said they feared that it might become part of a capital move effort.

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



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