Juneau City Hall could soon be parked in a new spot.
A plan was presented Monday night during a City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole meeting that would move the city’s headquarters from 155 Seward St. to a new, two-floor structure on top of a downtown parking garage built in 2009 as part of the Downtown Transportation Center.
“I think there needs to be a new city hall, whether any of us sitting up here will ever have a meeting there,” said Assembly member Rob Edwardson, who later added a new city hall in the Mendenhall Valley might make just as much or more sense.
City Manager Rorie Watt said the project would help consolidate City and Borough of Juneau employees to one central location and make things more efficient. A NorthWind Architects estimate puts the price of the proposed New City Hall to cost $26,732,600. Rain Coast Data estimates operating costs custodial, utilities and minor maintenance to be $331,762 annually, according to a city summary.
“I’ll be frank, it’s higher than I hoped,” Watt said.
The plan, as roughly outlined Monday night would be to to recoup some of that cost by selling the current city hall. The property is currently insured for $3.4 million, according to a city summary of the project, and it would be expected to sell for before $2.4 and $3.5 million.
The project would also be paid for via general obligation bonds, and a packet summarizing the project includes three potential payment options for the Assembly to consider.
They were not discussed at length, but they are detailed in city documents.
One option planned for no “down payment,” one called for $5 million and one called for $10 million. The lower the price paid up front, the more that would need to come from general obligation bonds, which would result in property tax increases.
No down payment would result in an increase of .15 mills or a $15 tax increase for a $100,000 home; $5 million would mean .09 or $9 and $10 million would result in .03 for a $3 increase.
There was talk of the project’s necessity, price tag and what the timeline is for the project.
Assembly member Wade Bryson asked how often city employees need to visit a staff member in another building.
“I would estimate it happens all the time,” Watt said. “I would give you another answer, and it’s a little cheeky, not often enough.”
Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski asked if there might be other, cheaper options that could or should be considered.
Watt said alternatives that come up in anticipated public discussion should be considered, but he preemptively shot down one idea that’s often circulated — the old Walmart building.
“It’s four times larger than we need. It’s built as a box store,” Watt said. “It’s high ceiling. That kind of thing.”
There was not an exact timeline provided for the project, but the possibility of bringing the idea to ballots by this or next October were discussed.
Assembly member Loren Jones said if residents are going to vote on the idea this year, there needs to be a concerted effort to get information out as quickly as possible.
The city manager was ultimately instructed to go out and seek public input, which was what said should be the next step in the plan.
“The one thing I fear is the public feeling this is pushed too hard or too fast,” Watt said.
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