Kenai private prison defeated

Haines voters approve ballot measure to manage helicopters

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Kenai Peninsula Borough residents voted overwhelmingly against a plan to proceed with a private prison project and Haines Borough residents voted for the managed use of helicopters for tourism in municipal elections Tuesday.

With all precincts reporting, the prison idea went down by a 3-1 margin. The vote bars the borough from proceeding with its feasibility studies on the project for two years.

Prison backers had raised nearly $150,000 for the campaign on the ballot issue - about three times as much as their opponents.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly had chosen Cornell Companies to operate the 800-bed, medium security facility on land owned by the Kenai Natives Association. The state had authorized the Department of Corrections to enter into negotiations with the operators of the private prison.

Backers of the project included Cornell and several construction companies. Opponents included the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents Alaska State Troopers and state prison guards.

Results of an advisory vote indicated Haines Borough residents favored the managed use of helicopters for tourism by a nearly 2-1 margin. The advisory vote asked residents if they supported the managed use of helicopters for commercial recreation, including heli-skiing from February through April. Backers of the proposal said it would lay the groundwork for an expanded winter economy.

A second measure before borough voters to create a service area to regulate commercial helicopter tours was too close to call.

In the Haines Borough mayor's race, Jan Hill was leading Fred Shields 508-423. The race for mayor of the city of Haines was too close to call. David Black had 313 votes to Carl Lehman's 309, with 108 absentee ballots still to be counted.

City residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of using the 1 percent sales tax, currently dedicated to tourism, for other forms of economic development as well.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough voters rejected a 2 percent sales tax by a vote of nearly 3-1. Voters have turned down the tax in three previous elections. Wasilla and Palmer already charge a sales tax.

In Klawock, Mayor Donna Williams appeared headed for a third term, leading former mayor Bob George by a vote of 94 to 78.

In Craig, incumbent Mayor Dennis Watson was leading with 96 votes. Greg Head, who was on the ballot but announced he did not want to run for mayor after all still collected 65 votes.

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