On Friday, signs went up announcing new digs for the Legislative Information Office and the offices of Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and Senator-elect Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna. Formerly located along the Sterling Highway, the three are now at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Bartlett Street, in what building owners Clay and Joan Ellington refer to as the “Pioneer Building.”
“Everyone else used to call it the Job Center building,” said Joan Ellington, referring to the building’s most recent tenant, Homer Job Service.
When the contract for the legislative offices’ Sterling Highway address neared an end, the state of Alaska began searching for new space.
“We went out to bid for a location and this was the winning bid,” said Louie Flora of Seaton’s staff.
Being closer to the public was another factor in the relocation decision.
“This is very accessible. It’s more visible. That was the primary concern, that we weren’t quite in the middle of things,” said Flora.
At an open house today from 2-6 p.m., the public is invited in to see the 2,000-plus square-feet of new space. It includes a teleconference room with a screen that will allow local participants to see, as well as hear, what’s happening.
“The conference room has upgraded technical features so people can participate in audio-visual materials being presented during meetings,” said Heather Beggs, also on Seaton’s staff.
In addition, a second room is available in the event of more than one teleconference occurring at the same time.
Teri Robl, who is transitioning from being Sen. Gary Stevens’ local representative to working on the staff of Micciche, also approves of the new space.
“We were so tucked away and hidden before, people didn’t even know we were there,” said Robl. “We’re excited people now can find us easily and come and participate in hearings going on in Juneau and concerns they want to pass along to their legislators.”
The space allows for separate work areas, including “a nice little waiting area so when people come to visit us, they don’t have to sit out in the LIO open area like in the past,” said Robl.
The move also resulted in new furnishings.
“Some of it was retained, but old furniture went to Hospice of Homer and Kachemak Heritage Land Trust,” said Robl. “Everybody has new, state-of-the-art work areas that we got to pick out and make our lives a lot more comfortable. It’s really comfortable and been long, long overdue.”
According to the Ellingtons, who own Homer Insurance Center, the building was constructed in 1957. Having moved to Homer in 1991, they recalled the building housing a liquor store, bagel shop and pasta restaurant. Originally a metal structure, in 2000 it was completely restored.
“They took it all the way down to the skeleton, took all the walls away and left nothing standing but the steel girders and then filled it back in,” said Clay Ellington.
The Ellingtons have owned the building for eight years.
“That building has been so unhappy for so long and now it’s happy again,” said Joan Ellington of the years it sat empty after Job Service moved to its Lake Street location in 2010.
Renovation of a second-floor apartment of the building also is planned. It will be turned into office space.
Packing up and moving to a new location comes one month before the 28th Alaska State Legislature convenes in Juneau on Jan. 15. That means contents in some of the boxes will remain packed until the move to the Capitol after the first of the year.
In spite of the boxes, however, there will be plenty of room for today’s open house.
The Ellingtons, as well as Legislative Information Office staff Charlene Ditton and Amber Corey, Seaton, Micciche, Flora, Beggs, Robl and Micciche’s chief of staff, Larry Semmens, former city of Soldotna manager, will welcome the public.
“We hope everyone comes,” said Flora.
Looking to the future, Robl added, “We’re excited to have the new senator and new space and a new session and get some things done that will benefit the good of the wonderful people of the Kenai Peninsula.”