- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A legislative agency estimates it would cost $2.5 million to renovate the Atwood Building in Anchorage if state lawmakers decide to move their offices there to save money.

Alaska already has spent $7.5 million on upgrades for legislators’ current space in downtown Anchorage, the Legislative Information Office, and has signed a 10-year lease at about $3.4 million annually. However, the state is facing a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall and is considering breaking the lease, the Juneau Empire newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/1Cg8jZ5 ).

A Legislative Research Services report estimated that the state will spend about $45 million on the Legislative Information Office over the life of the lease, including approximately $32 million in payments, operating expenses and tenant improvement costs over 10 years.

Space in the Atwood Building would cost an estimated $7.9 million over the same decade, not counting tenant improvement costs.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, chairman of the Legislative Council, a standing committee that oversees the business of the Legislature, this week toured the Atwood Building with architects from Anchorage-based ECI/Hyer Architecture.

The building already houses executive branch departments and an office for the governor.

For lawmakers to move in, the building would need individual offices for about 24 legislators and their staffs, House and Senate leadership and visiting lawmakers. It also would need a conference room and an auditorium for teleconferences, Stevens said.

“That’ll be a part of the architects’ concern: How do you find room for an auditorium that size plus all the offices you need?” he said.

The Legislative Affairs Agency estimated renovation costs at $2.5 million.

Space in the Atwood building was not available when the deal for the Legislative Information Office was made, Stevens said.

The Legislature’s contract for that space contains an exit provision. The state could be sued, Stevens acknowledged, but legal opinions he has received say the state is “on very strong ground.”

The Senate has passed a budget that provides money for the current lease only through January.

The Legislative Council could discuss the matter at a meeting Thursday.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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