Lawmakers on prowl for cheaper digs in Anchorage

Lawmakers are considering alternatives to their expensive and controversial office space in Anchorage.

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When the state renewed its lease on the Legislative Information Office in downtown Anchorage last year, it paid about $7.5 million for renovations — and saw its annual rent spike from under $700,000 to more than $4 million per year.

The deal was negotiated by Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, and approved by the Legislative Council, which handles the legislature’s administrative business.

But with a budget crisis prompting cuts across the state, the high rent has become an embarrassment for lawmakers.

The question now is whether the state can get out of the deal and find anything cheaper.

On Friday, the Council heard a range of options prepared by its chair, Republican Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak. Stevens’ report found the cheapest option — by far — would be to move into the state-owned Atwood Building, a few blocks away.

Moving into the Atwood Building would cost about $10 million over 10 years.

Keeping the existing lease, by comparison, would cost an estimated $40 million over 10 years, Stevens found, while buying the current building outright would cost at least $43 million.

But lawmakers expressed concern that breaking the existing lease could prompt expensive litigation. A decision on the building was postponed Dec. 19.

Rachel Waldholz covers energy and the environment for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media, KTOO in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Before coming to Anchorage, she spent two years reporting for Raven Radio in Sitka. Rachel studied documentary production at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and her short film, A Confused War won several awards. Her work has appeared on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace, among other outlets.
rwaldholz (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8432 | About Rachel

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