ANCHORAGE - Allvest Inc., the largest provider of prisoner halfway house beds in Alaska, has agreed to a merger with one of the country's largest private prison companies.
Cornell Corrections Inc., a publicly held firm based in Houston, Texas, also signed an agreement to work with Allvest on its plan to turn an Army post near Delta Junction into the state's first private prison.
The sale price was not disclosed Tuesday.
``There's not a lot we can say, other than we're buying a portion of the Alaska operation,'' said Steve Logan, Cornell's executive vice president and chief operating officer. He called the purchase agreement a ``partnering.''
Cornell Corrections Inc. was founded in 1990. The company has 2,500 employees and 42 facilities in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
Allvest, a 13-year-old company wholly owned by Bill Weimar, employes about 200 people and owns five halfway houses in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Barrow and Bethel. The company houses more than 75 percent of the state's 576 halfway-house inmates. Those state contracts are worth $10 million.
The company also administers a number of other government contracts, including Anchorage's animal shelter and Community Service Patrol, which picks up drunks off downtown streets. The sale will not affect those contracts.
State Corrections officials learned of the sale late Tuesday afternoon. Commissioner Margaret Pugh said Allvest and Cornell officials met with her to tell her about the merger. Pugh and officials from both companies were scheduled to meet again.
The halfway house contracts that Allvest holds are transferrable, Pugh said, but require the approval of the department. Pugh said she did not anticipate any problems with that.
Weimar helped found Allvest in 1985. Over the years, he bought out his partners and grew the company into a multimillion dollar corporation that runs halfway houses here and in Washington.
In 1991, Weimar started another corporation, St. John Investments Inc., which provides contract administrative services to Allvest. Weimar used to own and operate Allvest Laboratories, which did contract urinalysis work, but he sold that company in 1996 to NANA Regional Corp.
Allvest led a controversial effort earlier this year to get the state Legislature to approve a plan that would turn the soon-to-be abandoned Fort Greely Army post into the state's first private prison. The Legislature approved the proposal and the planning process is under way. With 800 beds, it will be the state's largest prison.
A year ago, Weimar stepped back from overseeing the day-to-day operations to focus more on development and corporate expansion. He hired Frank Prewitt as the company's new president and chief executive officer. Prewitt had served as commissioner of the state Department of Corrections in 1993 and 1994.
Logan said Prewitt will still be involved with the operation but declined to explain what his role will be.
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