Public Safety building partially evacuated

This sign warned employees at the Alaska Dept. of Public Safety building in Juneau not to go up to the 2nd floor. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

The second floor of the Alaska Department of Public Safety building in Juneau was evacuated for about an hour this afternoon (Monday), while a structural engineer checked the facility.

State Chief Procurement Officer Vern Jones says employees in the building heard a noise, which was determined to be the main structural beam shifting under the weight of heavy snow on the roof.

“We’re told the design of the building was meant to allow for some deflection, and the question really was, was that within what the building was designed for? And we were told that yes it was, and the building was safe to occupy,” says Jones. “Almost certainly it was the snow on the roof, just the weight of the snow.”

Signs posted on the first floor of the building informed workers that the 2nd floor was off-limits as of 12:15 this afternoon. “DO NOT Go upstairs,” the signs warned. Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Terry Vrabec says employees were cleared to return at about 1:30 p.m. He says about 20 DPS employees were affected by the evacuation.

The Dept. of Public Safety Building in Juneau. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Built in the 1970s, the structure was originally meant to be a temporary home for Public Safety employees.

Last October, the Parnell Administration opted not to build a new state office building in Juneau, which would have housed employees from the Departments of Public Safety, Labor, Fish and Game and Corrections. Instead, the administration decided it would focus efforts on renovating the Douglas Island Office Building.

At the time, Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg said the Public Safety building was not worth renovating and employees would have to be moved at some point. Jones says there’s no timeline for moving those workers.

“That’s still an ongoing process. I really don’t have any information to update you at this time. But it is an ongoing process,” says Jones.

In the dozen or so years he’s managed the Public Safety Building, Jones says this is the first time he can remember an issue with structural integrity.