Alaska Legislature turns down free office space, continues renting in Juneau
The Alaska Legislature voted Tuesday to turn down the donation of a free building in Juneau. The Juneau Community Foundation purchased the historic house on 524 Main St. in May, valued at $820,000, and has offered it to the Legislature as a donation to the Alaska State Capitol Complex.
“From our perspective we would donate the property sooner rather than later so we don’t have to manage it and we don’t have to rent it in the meantime,” Reed Stoops, a board member of the Juneau Community Foundation, told lawmakers at a Tuesday morning Legislative Council meeting.
Sen. Gary Stevens, chair of the Alaska Legislative Council, said the home could be used as additional office space as well as for meetings and receptions.
The state is currently paying $15,000 a month to rent office space in the Bill Ray Center in downtown Juneau during the special session because of renovations to the capitol building. But members of the Legislative Council voted against acquiring the free space Tuesday — which could generate at least $10,000 a year, according to the Legislative Affairs Agency, should the legislature decide to rent it out to another party.
“I don’t know if we’re moving too quick or not. I do have some concerns about that,” said Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), a member of the Council, who voted against taking the building. “I’m just perplexed right now on whether I think that we really should take on this responsibility at the time that we’re in right now.”
Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole) agreed, saying, “It’s probably economically a good decision. We could put it to some use. At this point I don’t know that it fills the need.”
Others, like Senator Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel), said accepting the building was a clear choice since the Legislature could decide to give it back to the Juneau Community Foundation at any point in the future.
“I don’t see a downside to the acquisition at this time, especially when the options are wide open for us if we decide not to at a later time,” said Hoffman. “At this point, the positives strongly outweigh the negatives in my opinion.”
The vote came in at 4 yays, 7 nays, not to accept the space :
Legislators who voted not to accept the building:
- Rep. Mark Neuman (R-Big Lake)
- Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole)
- Sen. Charlie Huggins (R-Wasilla)
- Rep. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski)
- Rep. Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage)
- Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage)
- Rep. Bob Herron (D-Bethel)
Legislators who voted to accept the building:
- Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak),
- Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel)
- Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna)
- Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau)
Sen. Anna Mackinnon recused herself from voting because of a potential conflict of interest, given she’s rented space in the building during session before.
The Juneau Community Foundation has also offered the building to Governor Bill Walker’s administration.
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