The Legislative Council approved spending up to $12.5 million to buy the Walls Fargo Bank building in Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood on Monday. The building would be used for legislative offices and to provide a venue for public testimony.
The council turned to the building after Gov. Bill Walker threatened to veto $32.5 million the council planned to spend to buy the Anchorage Legislative Information Office. A judge found the council violated the competitive bidding law and invalidated the state’s LIO lease.
Council chairman Kodiak Republican Sen. Gary Stevens said the Wells Fargo building could be a better deal than having legislators use space in the state’s Atwood Building. The bank would continue to rent first floor retail space.
“It would cost probably less,” Stevens said. “And in the end, we would own the building. Not that we don’t own the state building – the Atwood — but it is the governor’s to use, primarily.”
The Anchorage Downtown Partnership asked the council to keep the office downtown, saying that moving it would conflict with municipal plans. But Stevens noted that lawmakers have had offices in Midtown in the past.
“Just an enormous problem downtown is the parking,” Stevens said. “In our current building, we have plenty of space for our legislators, but not much space for the public.”
In other action, the Legislative Council voted to release the late Rep. Max Gruenberg’s papers to his widow, Kayla Epstein. The council also set up a process for releasing a legislator’s records after their death to his or her family.
A lawyer with the legislature’s legal services division advised that Gruenberg’s papers shouldn’t be released under legislative immunity after the Anchorage Democrat’s death in February.