Darwin Peterson Cap. Budget Finance Committee Aide
"These funds would then be available to offset $350,000 in general fund spending from the state's Debt Retirement Fund."
- Sen. Wilken
"An Act relating to repealing a requirement for a day-care facility in the Fairbanks courthouse; and providing for an effective date."
In 1986, the legislature enacted Ch. 92, SLA 1986, which gave 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 courthouse in Anchorage.
In 1997, the legislature reauthorized this project by appropriating planning and design funds. Construction began in 1999, and the Rabinowitz Courthouse opened to the public in August, 2001.
Included in the original lease-purchase authorization was the following language:
Sec. 2. The supreme court may enter into a lease-purchase agreement not to exceed a cost of $29,900,000 for construction and all other related costs of a court facility in Fairbanks, if
(1) a private licensed day-care facility for the use of employees, jurors, witnesses and the public is included in the project, and the space is rented to the private licensed day-care provider at a market rate;
During the planning process for the Rabinowitz 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 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 it offered to provide day-care services in a facility five blocks away. This outcome was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that there is a private day-care facility already located within two blocks of the courthouse.
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 an 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, 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.