Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/08/2004 09:05 AM Senate FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 353 "An Act relating to repealing a requirement for a day-care facility in the Fairbanks courthouse; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. CHRIS CHRISTENSEN, Deputy Administrative Director, Alaska Court System, gave the following testimony. SB 353 was introduced at the request of the Supreme Court. Back in 1986, Senator Don Bennett of Fairbanks introduced legislation giving the Supreme Court the authority to lease- purchase a new court facility in Fairbanks. The amount authorized was $29,900,000. It was understood at the time that construction of a new Fairbanks courthouse would not begin immediately, but would instead follow construction of a new courthouse in Anchorage During the committee process, language was added that required the project to include a private licensed day-care facility rented to a provider at market rate. In 1997, following completion of the Anchorage courthouse, the legislature reauthorized the Fairbanks project by appropriating planning and design funds. Construction finally began in 1999, and the Rabinowitz Courthouse opened to the public in August 2001, 15 years after its initial authorization. During the planning process for the courthouse, several approaches to providing a day-care facility were studied, taking into account the need to ensure the reliable, safe operation of such a facility and state ownership of the building. It was decided to set aside $350,000 of the bond proceeds for a stand-alone day-care facility in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse. A request for proposals would be issued in which respondents could offer a property within two blocks of the courthouse for the court system to purchase and renovate. This facility would then be leased to the respondent for the operation of day-care services. Standards for that operation would be set out in the RFP. Since provision of daycare services is not a normal procurement activity for the court system, research was done with other government agencies (Department of Education and Early Development and Fairbanks North Star Borough) and a consultant was hired to develop an RFP to solicit proposals. The consultant performed extensive research to determine whether properties and providers were available for response, and to determine what criteria should be used to evaluate proposals. A meeting was held with potential providers in mid- 2003 to discuss the process and solicit interest. Using input gathered at that meeting, the RFP was finalized and issued. While several suitable properties were available within two blocks of the courthouse, only one proposal was received. This proposal was non-responsive, in that if offered to provide day-care services in a facility five blocks away. This outcome was undoubtedly influenced by two things. First, there is a private day-care facility already located within two blocks of the courthouse. Second, the consultant we hired surveyed court employees and persons who had served as jurors, and found little or no demand for daycare services. The courthouse construction project will be completed by July 1. At that time, the $350,000 set aside for day-care will be all that remains of the bond proceeds. There are two possible methods of dealing with these funds. First, the trust account containing the bond proceeds could be kept open and the court system could periodically reissue and RFP, in an effort to find a suitable property and a day-care provider. However, as long as a private day-care facility is already located in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse and demand is not demonstrated to exist, it is unlikely that the RFP will receive a responsive bid. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a successful bidder would remain in the State facility once it was purchased. If it did not, heating and maintenance money for the empty structure would become the responsibility of the State. Alternatively, as proposed by SB 353, the legislature could repeal the requirement that a day-care facility be included in the project. This option would allow $350,000 from the bond proceeds to be transferred from the construction account to the bond redemption account held by the State's trustee. These funds would then be available to offset $350,000 in general fund spending from the State's Debt Retirement Fund. Because the private sector is already providing day-care in the immediate vicinity of the courthouse, this option would not disadvantage the public. Co-Chair Green offered a motion to report SB 353 from Committee with individual recommendations and a new fiscal note. Without objection SB 353 MOVED from Committee with new fiscal note from the Department of Revenue for $350,000 dated 3/1/04.