Two more seats added to capitol-planning panel

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2003

Local residents are so interested in serving on a new committee that would set the vision for the state's capitol that Mayor Bruce Botelho added to the seats for members of the public, he said this week.

Botelho increased the number of public seats from five to seven on the Capitol Planning Committee. He announced formation of the committee last week.

Botelho also wants to launch a Web site that would allow residents across the state to give input on a new state capitol, he said.

"It would help in terms of citizens knowing what is going on and they would have a say," Botelho said. "While this is a Juneau initiative, we're always aware that this is an opportunity for any Alaskan to give feedback."

About 20 people contacted Botelho interested in serving on the committee that will review renovating the current capitol or constructing a new facility.

Botelho originally proposed constructing a new building. But he said this week, after hearing from constituents, he will consider renovating the current building.

The group may start meeting in December or January. Botelho has not made any appointments yet, he said.

Ron Somerville of Juneau has spent most of his life in Southeast Alaska and told Botelho he was interested in sitting on the committee.

"I feel very strong personally to keep the capital in Juneau," Somerville said in an interview. "I think the current capitol is insufficient for the proper running of government."

Somerville consults on natural resources for the governor's office and the Legislature. Retired from the state Department of Fish and Game, Somerville said he has the time and budgetary background for the committee.

Pua Maunu, an architect with the city of Juneau, wants to lend her architectural background to the committee, she said.

"I think to represent Alaska, there needs to be a little more, there needs to be an identity," Maunu said.

Hawaii, which has the newest capitol in the United States, designed it to reflect the culture and symbolism of the state. Maunu, a native of Hawaii, would like to see similar concepts applied to Alaska, she said.

Hawaii built its capitol in 1969 and renovated it in 1995. Otherwise, no state has built a new Capitol in about 70 or 80 years, Botelho said.

Maunu suggested the city hold a design competition for a capitol, a common method among cities eyeing to build or renovate significant structures, she said.

Kim Metcalfe, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, wants to sit on the committee, to represent the interests of downtown if structural changes are made to the capitol and surrounding landscape, she said.

Specifically, she wants to protect Capital School Park from being taken as part of a capitol renovation project.

Final committee recommendations for a Capitol would be sent to the governor and legislative leadership by Aug. 1, 2004.

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