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BIA to move regional office out of Juneau 7-07

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The regional office for the Bureau of Indian Affairs is moving out of Juneau to cut costs in a move one Juneau official is saying smacks of "capital creep."

"I think that this is a real wake-up call for this community," said Juneau Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker. "Our job base is being eroded away by capital creep. It's not capital move anymore, it's capital creep ... Juneau has a different type of fight on its hands now."

He said the special session held in Anchorage June 11, and Juneau's continuing loss of government jobs should alert the community that something's awry.

Niles Cesar, the agency's regional director and a lifelong Juneau resident, said the move has nothing to do with capital creep. He said it stems from recommendations that go back to the 1980s.

"That was never the thought process and it certainly isn't turning out that way," Cesar said. "We have tried to look at this thing according to function and from a functional perspective of what works best."

Cesar said the office, along with about 24 employees, will likely be relocated to Anchorage by Sept. 30.

The regional office of 130 employees, with a roughly $110 million annual budget, provides educational, social and governmental services to tribes.

Only 20 of the 231 federally recognized tribes in Alaska that the office oversees are in Southeast Alaska, and traveling across the state from Juneau is expensive, Cesar said.

"Not only is it for us so that we can keep our costs down ... the savings also comes for the tribes," Cesar said. "It costs them money to travel around. If they can visit with us in Anchorage, it makes it cheaper for them."

Over the years, the number of BIA employees in Alaska has dropped substantially because many of the agency's functions are now contracted out to the tribes.

Wanamaker said he still sees the move as part of a larger trend and that the community needs to fight to keep government jobs in Juneau.

"It's clear to me that because of this and other things that are happening with capital creep, Juneau really needs to protect its economic base," he said. "Having a mix of government and nongovernment jobs is one of the best ways we can do that."
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