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Masonic building to get sky bridge, legislative renovation

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Alaska Legislature this week moved forward with developing the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple into an annex to the Capitol building.

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It will likely house a day care center and offices, and make Juneau a better location for state government, said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau.

"I think it's good for the community," he said.

The temple building was sold by the city to the Legislature for $1 as part of an effort to make Juneau a good home for the Legislature.

Elton said the child care facility is needed by both staff at the Capitol and others who work downtown.

At least two legislators, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, are among those with new babies.

The building's most prominent feature will be a sky bridge, running over Seward Street to the second floor of the Capitol.

Elton said the child care space is designed so that it can be used for other things, but that there appears to be a commitment among legislators that child care is necessary.

The decision to proceed with plans for the Masonic building was made Monday in Anchorage by the Legislative Council, a joint committee of senators and representatives that manages the day-to-day business of the Legislature.

The council had previously discussed the issue, but some members had balked at the Legislature getting into the child care business.

After looking at the issue, however, Elton said there is a general consensus that the need is there. A licensed contractor would be hired to run the operation.

"We don't even get to the issue of whether this competes with other child care facilities because the need is so great," he said. "Anything we can do to provide any additional child care is going to be good."

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, was the only vote against proceeding.

"I don't think the public is clamoring for expansion," he said.

Stoltze said he acknowledged the need for child care, but thought it would be difficult to manage effectively with the Legislature only in town periodically, and may result in calls for subsidies later.

Legislative Affairs Agency Director Pam Varni said the legislative architect is working on construction documents, and expects construction bids to be opened sometime during the next session.

Varni said it is too early to predict the cost of the renovations, but that money had been set aside for capital improvements.

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



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