Alaska Legislature

Alaska lawmakers approve $3.5 million project for public access, air system at their Anchorage offices

JUNEAU — A committee of Alaska legislative leaders Thursday unanimously approved spending $3.5 million to renovate their new Anchorage office building in Spenard.

The project includes replacements of heating and cooling equipment and upgrades to make the first floor accessible to people with disabilities.

It will result in an "adequate" Legislative Information Office — the space for visitors and people giving public testimony — but none of the work is for "comfort for the legislators in the other floors of the building," said Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna.

"We've taken it down to what's necessary for serving our constituents," Micciche said.

Micciche said the project had been pared back from a previous proposal to spend $8 million on the building.

Micciche is one of 14 members of the Legislative Council, the bipartisan House-Senate committee that approved the project Thursday and charged with handling the Legislature's own budget and internal business.

The unanimous decision came after a 10-minute, closed-door "executive session" and a subsequent 10-minute discussion in public.

At the meeting, the committee offered no documentation of how the $3.5 million would be spent, though when a reporter asked, an aide to Chair Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, provided a breakdown.

It includes $2.5 million for construction on the building's core and shell, as well as on the first floor, the location of the LIO; $250,000 for "minor construction" on the second and fourth floors, where legislators and staff will work; and $300,000 for audio and visual equipment.

Lawmakers bought their new building from Wells Fargo last year for $11.85 million. That was after Gov. Bill Walker threatened to veto the Legislature's purchase, for $32.5 million, of a different renovated building lawmakers were renting downtown.

The Legislature has rejected a $37 million damages claim from the downtown building's developers, which has been appealed to superior court.

Nathaniel Herz

Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He’s been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at ADN and Alaska Public Media. He’s reported around the state and loves cross-country skiing.