State employees prepare to move from Douglas to Bill Ray Center

Lauren Sill didn’t make the end-of-February deadline to rid her office space of personal items.

“I have pictures of my daughter and I have calendars and just different notes and pictures and decorations tacked to the walls and a bunch of coffee cups – I think those we’re allowed to keep until we move, those probably don’t have to go quite yet. And plants, I have plants,” Sill says. 

Sill is a subsistence resource specialist for the Department of Fish and Game. She’s been mostly out of town the past few months for work and plans to start packing when her field season ends in a couple weeks.

About 160 state employees in the Douglas Island building will temporarily relocate to the Bill Ray Center in downtown Juneau starting in April. The move will accommodate the state’s $18 million remodel of the Douglas building. 

“We have a lot less space in the Bill Ray Center so a lot of things are going to storage, so just trying to figure out our files and our books and things that we’ll need for the next little while and pack it up,” Sill says. 

Her officemate Rosalie Grant is further along in the moving process. Last month, she took items off her wall, like artwork, maps and family photos. Her fish tank went home and she gave away her plants.

“My office is looking pretty bare right now,” she says.

More than 100 fish and game employees and 43 from the Department of Corrections are relocating to the Bill Ray Center in waves. Corrections moves in the beginning of April. Fish and Game goes next in four phases. Renovation is scheduled to begin June 1.

Down the hall from Sill and Grant’s office, biometrician Kray Van Kirk is really close to having his office entirely packed up.

We got rid of a lot of stuff. We were purging manuals from, like, 1995 and old Windows 95 disks and things, and ‘how to’ use this and ‘how to’ use that,” Van Kirk says.

Unlike everyone else at the Douglas building, Van Kirk and two others are not moving to the Bill Ray Center. They’re temporarily going to fish and game headquarters located across the Douglas Bridge, but will return to Douglas when the renovation is complete.

“We’ve already – two years out – picked our desk formations and how they fit together along with our little pen holders and cups and everything,” he says. 

In the remodeled Douglas building, fish and game employees will all be in 6-by-8-foot cubicles as part of the universal space standards being unrolled in state buildings throughout Alaska. None of the fish and game employees in Douglas will have an office anymore.

Van Kirk says he has reservations about the open office model. He’s gotten used to talking loudly with other biometricians in his office.

“If we want to work on a stock assessment model and we have a particular issue and one of us says — ‘Hey, what do we do with this catch curve analysis?’ — we can all sit here and jabber and make a bunch of noise. In a large area like that I think we’ll be more hesitant to do that because we don’t want to bother somebody who’s sitting 20 feet away who doesn’t have anything to do with what we do,” he says.

Leon Shaul has worked in the Douglas building since 1984. He’s not looking forward to relocating to the Bill Ray Center, but sees it as inevitable.

“The building obviously needs some work as far as retaining heat. It’s built to 1960s standards. So I think that part’s necessary and to accomplish that, I guess we have to move,” Shaul says.

The state is leasing the Bill Ray Center from First National Bank Alaska for $49,000 a month. The renovation is expected to take 16 months.

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