Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Prison project moves forward

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Wednesday, August 02, 2006

PALMER—This week the state chose an architecture and engineering company and a project management company for a proposed 2,251-bed prison to be built in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

DLR Group, a design firm from Seattle, will oversee early design work and site selection in conjunction with the Anchorage management company, RISE Alaska.

Governor Frank Murkowski issued a press release yesterday outlining the partnership between the state Department of Corrections, the Borough, and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation for the prison complex.

The Borough will provide financing, land, and will own the facility. Corrections will lease the prison from the Borough, operate it, and eventually own it when the financing costs are repaid through 25 annual lease payments. Alaska Housing Finance Corporation will act as the Borough's construction project manager.

The Borough will issue revenue bonds to finance the project, which is projected to cost $303 million plus inflation. Borough Finance Director Tammy Clayton said the bonds do not obligate the Borough financially and will not be paid by Borough taxes. The state will pay for the bonds through lease payments.

The site of the medium security prison has not been selected. A public process on site selection could begin in the fall and will be managed through a consultant. Friday (Aug. 4) is the deadline for proposals to the Borough from private landowners who are interested in exchanging or donating land for the prison site. Half a dozen tentative sites, either on Borough or state land, located throughout the Borough, are under consideration.

Wednesday at a Big Lake Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the Commissioner of Corrections, Marc Antrim, said the construction of the prison will generate 1,500 direct jobs. The prison will ultimately employ 400 to 600 full time jobs for more than 40 years, he said.

Construction is expected to begin next spring and could be completed by 2010.

Because Alaska prisons are overcrowded, about 1,000 Alaska prisoners are housed in Arizona and at a significant cost for air travel and incarceration. Antrim said $20 million goes to Arizona annually to cover prisoner costs.

For more information on the economic benefits from the project, call Economic Development Director Dave Hanson at (907) 745-9508. For questions on financing, call Finance Director Tammy Clayton at (907) 745-9629. For questions on project management, contact AHFC's Sherrie Simmonds at (907) 330-8447.