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Janell Cole, Published March 14 2009

Bills call for studies on office space needs

BISMARCK – North Dakota state government is renting about as much space in Bismarck off the Capitol grounds as it has on the Capitol grounds.

Some legislators are asking whether efficiencies aren’t lost as a result.

“It makes you wonder if we’re getting the best space for the money,” Said Sen. Aaron Krauter, D-Regent.

Krauter is among supporters of Senate Bill 2425, which calls for a study of whether a new office building and parking garage are needed on the Capitol Grounds. Its location is already envisioned by the Capitol Grounds’ Master Plan adopted in 2000. It would cost $43 million.

Another bill to be heard in a Senate committee next week, House Bill 1403, calls for a similar study. Its original purpose was to build a new governor’s mansion but it was amended in the House.

The House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee heard SB 2425 on Friday but took no immediate action. Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle requested the study in his State of the Judiciary Address in January.

State officials also testified about their far-flung offices. The attorney general has several divisions in an office building in north Bismarck, another near downtown and its Capitol employees are on the first, ground and 17th floors. The Agriculture Department is on the sixth and 14th floors. The Tax Department is on the seventh, eighth and 16th floors, in the Capitol’s basement and in the basement of the State Office Building on the southeast edge of the Capitol Grounds.

The Supreme Court recently ran out of space and moved its information technology employees to rented offices in downtown Bismarck. Rep. Karen Karls, R-Bismarck, also a member of the committee, said the court is still crowded. She said the chief justice recently gave her a tour of the court’s quarters.

“I was amazed at how tiny it is, how cramped they are,” she said.

Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, wondered if floors could be added to the three-story legislative wing of the 1933 Capitol. And Rep. Jim Kasper,

R-Fargo, said he was hesitant about supporting SB 2425 because it doesn’t mention legislators helping with the study. Kasper sponsored HB 1403, which originally called for a new governor’s mansion.


Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net