Juneau Assembly approves Law Department’s move to Sealaska Plaza

Municipal Way Building sign-2

Moving the CBJ Law Department to Sealaska Plaza is expected to allow the city to move the Human Resources staff out of the basement of the Municipal Way Building. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

The City and Borough of Juneau’s Law Department will move into the Sealaska Plaza building around the first of the year.

The Juneau Assembly on Monday voted 5-3 to approve the move, which will give the law department more space to accommodate additional staff. The city’s in-house legal team is expanding as it takes on more responsibilities for the Juneau School District and Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Some Assembly members wanted to remodel the department’s current office space in the Municipal Way building. That would have saved the city about $6,000 this year compared to the cost of moving.

Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl also argued there would be long-term savings – about $68,000 per year – in the amount of rent the city pays if the Law Department stays at Municipal Way.

“I look at the cost estimates,” Kiehl said. “Even if they are below market – the ongoing expense estimates from the increased lease space – and I have a difficult time supporting adding that to the budget.”

CBJ Lands Manager Greg Chaney said a tentative lease negotiated for Sealaska Plaza would be about 20 percent below market rate.

Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker said moving the Law Department was the right thing to do, because it will allow the city’s Human Resources staff to move out of the basement of the Municipal Way Building.

Juneau City Attorney Amy Mead

City Attorney Amy Mead. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

“[Human Resources] needs to get out of the basement and if they can move into the Law Department space, those rates are 20 percent below market rates, and it’s available now,” said Wanamaker. “I think we need to take advantage of this. We are adding staff to the Law Department, and we’ve taken on additional responsibilities that we have to fulfill.”

Kiehl and Assemblymen Loren Jones and Jerry Nankervis voted against the move. Wanamaker voted for it, along with Assembly members Mary Becker, Kate Troll, and Karen Crane, as well as Mayor Merrill Sanford.

Assemblyman Carlton Smith recused himself due to a conflict of interest. Smith is a commercial realtor, whose clients include Sealaska Plaza.

Measure creating HR and Risk Management Department delayed

The Juneau Assembly wants more time to consider an ordinance that would create a separate Human Resources and Risk Management Department in the city.

Right now Human Resources is a division within the CBJ Administration. The City Manager’s office has proposed making it a department, since the staff now deals with hiring and personnel issues for the city-owned Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Wanamaker said he needed to hear more before he said yes to the change.

“I understand that there’s an increase in responsibilities,” Wanamaker said. “But I don’t see how we have enough information to fully understand how this affects Bartlett and the need for a city HR department.”

At Wanamaker’s request the Assembly voted unanimously to refer the measure to the Finance Committee for further discussion.

The Bartlett board of directors, which is appointed by the Assembly, supports the city taking on hospital human resources issues. The hospital’s former HR Director Norma Adams resigned in September, one of three members of the Bartlett senior leadership team to resign or announce plans to step down in recent months.