NEWS: Legislative Office Building Renegotiations: Rep. Gara Says Costs Should Not Exceed Moving to Much Cheaper Atwood State Office Building

Rep. Les Gara

ARMING PUBLIC WITH FACTS: Legislative Council Vote Allowing Renegotiation of Current Lease Should Be Compared to Nearly 90% Reduction in Lease Costs by Moving to State’s Atwood Building

January 6, 2015

ANCHORAGE – Last month, the Alaska Legislative Council voted to allow 45 days to potentially renegotiate the costs of the controversial Anchorage Legislative Information Office Building (LIO) in downtown Anchorage.  Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) is concerned Republican leaders, who have repeatedly voted and stood against Democratic efforts to move from this space, might renegotiate a new contract that still costs far more than existing options.  Rep. Gara wants the public to know how much one of the options would save so they can fairly evaluate any attempt to renegotiate this lease.  A report by the non-partisan Legislative Research Division shows that moving to the Atwood State Office Building would be 80 to 90% cheaper than the current Legislative Information Office Building, which costs roughly $4.2 million a year.  Whether moving to the Atwood Building would cut the costs by 80%, or over 90%, depends on how much space the Legislature leases.  However, Rep. Gara believes the cost of any lease should be at least as low as moving to the Atwood Building. 

“The current building is vastly overpriced at a time when the state should be much smarter in protecting its money,” said Rep. Gara, who along with many other legislative Democratsopposed the lease and voted to move to cheaper space.  “We know moving to the Atwood Building would save over $3.3 million a year, as would other office space options.”

The report by the Legislative Research Division shows the current lease and improvement costs at the Anchorage LIO are roughly $4.2 million a year.  The report shows space at the Atwood Building would be between $277,000 – $838,000 per year, depending on the amount of space needed.  Based on a tentative office space request by the Alaska Legislature for 24,750 square feet, the cost would, according to the Legislative Research Division, be roughly $475,000 per year.  That amount is almost 90% cheaper than the lease on the current Anchorage LIO. 

“I’m concerned about the clause in the vote that allows members who have defended this costly building to try to renegotiate the current lease and keep us in an overpriced building,” said Rep. Gara.  “The public should know how to evaluate any renegotiation. One benchmark is how much the state can save my moving to the Atwood Building.”

Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau) is the only member of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition on the Alaska Legislative Council.  He has stated his concern that the 45-Day renegotiation clause in the committee’s December vote might be used by some to delay a move from the over-priced Anchorage LIO. 

“We hope that doesn’t happen,” said Rep. Gara.  “Arming the public with information can help stop that from happening.”

Rep. Gara, and other House and Senate Democrats, have voted to move from the expensive Anchorage LIO.  Republicans have blocked cost-saving efforts in House and Senate votes during the 2014 and 2015 legislative sessions.

There would be one-time tenant improvement costs for any move (changing office configurations, etc.), but they will be minimal compared to state savings estimated at roughly $38 million over 10 years.

For more information, contact Rep. Les Gara at (907) 269-0106.

* During the 2015 Legislative Session, Rep. Gara and members of Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition voted in the House Finance Committee to move from the Anchorage LIO to cheaper space at the Atwood Building.  Members of the Republican-led majority on that committee opposed the move.  A similar vote failed with Republican-led Senate Majority opposition on the Senate Floor in 2015.  In 2014, House Democrats voted to shave costs from this lease.  Later in the session, Senate Democrats, after analyzing a provision in the lease saying it was not valid without legislative approval, voted to cancel the lease.  However, the Republican-led majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the lease as is.  Prior to those votes, Democrats also vocally opposed the current Anchorage LIO lease.



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