The 170 state executive branch employees legislative leaders are forcing out of the Capitol Annex to make more room for lawmakers will relocate in a downtown Frankfort office building.
After several months of “examining various office possibilities under an extremely tight deadline,” the decision has been made to relocate the 170 workers to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Office Building on Mero Street in downtown Frankfort, said Jill Midkiff, director of communications for the state Finance and Administration Cabinet.
The move has to be made by Dec. 1 to comply with a directive from legislative leaders.
Midkiff said space planning will begin immediately at the Transportation Cabinet building.
“Until this space plan is completed, we do not have an estimate of what the total cost to taxpayers will be for this move,” she said, noting that the Transportation Cabinet will realize some savings due to a reduction of total space allocated to its agencies in the building.
Midkiff said the move is “difficult and costly” and many of the executive branch agencies in the Capitol Annex have been there since the large, four-story building behind the Capitol was built in the 1950s.
But, she said, “We are hopeful moving this large number of employees to downtown Frankfort will have a positive economic impact on the local merchants and restaurants.”
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported July 22 that Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Holly M. Johnson was informed July 1 by a memo emailed by Legislative Research Commission General Counsel Greg Woosley about the move.
Midkiff said the legislative leaders made known their intent to “kick out” more than 170 executive branch employees who work in the Capitol Annex to accommodate about 50 employees who work for lawmakers.
Since then, Midkiff said, the cabinet has been exploring any and all possibilities for relocation of the executive branch employees being forced from the Annex.
She said the search included an extensive investigation of both state-owned and leased space with the capacity to physically accommodate the 170 executive branch employees who are being displaced from the Capitol Annex, and allow for sufficient meeting space, adequate parking and much-needed storage space with the security and confidentiality needed to protect sensitive information that the agencies possess.
The move affects the Finance and Administration Cabinet staff, who occupy approximately 45,000 square feet in the basement, first, third and fourth floors of the west wing of the Capitol Annex; and staff in the office of the state budget director and the Governor’s Office for Economic Analysis, who occupy nearly 10,500 square feet of office space located in the west wing of the second floor of the Annex.
Other offices and officials affected include the state controller; staff of the Office of Financial Management; staff of the Office of Procurement Services; staff of the Division of Goods and Services and the Division of Technology Services Procurement; and staff of the Customer Resource Center, which operates a help desk to support the nearly 5,000 users of the state’s electronic web-based service called eMARS.
Legislative leaders said the move is necessary because “the General Assembly and the Legislative Research Commission are in need of additional office and meeting space in the New State Capitol Annex.”
They said as of Dec. 1, “the legislative branch shall occupy all additional space in the Capitol Annex in the basement and on its four floors” excluding the cafeteria, snack bar, security offices, nurse’s station and a room occupied by Secretary of State Michael Adams in the basement and utility, mechanical, janitorial space and public entrances and restrooms throughout the building.”
At the Aug. 4, meeting of the Legislative Research Commission in the Capitol Annex, Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, and Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, complained about the move.
McGarvey said it was done without consultation with the executive branch. Thomas said, “I do believe that we should always work closely with the governor. To remove the executive budget office from this facility without any consultation or discussion with the governor is just wrong.”
House Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said he wished there was more communication with Gov. Andy Beshear, “but I do know that our legislative body is in a kind of rut because of space.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said legislators approved a law in 2003 on how lawmakers could take space in the Annex. He said Beshear’s senior advisor, Rocky Adkins, voted for the law when Adkins was in the state legislature.
Stivers said lawmakers need the additional space, especially because office space on the fourth floor of the Capitol, which has been occupied by the General Assembly, is unsuitable for continued use and renovation of it is not feasible.
For decades, lawmakers gradually have been taking over space in the Capitol Annex.