Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Prison site narrowed to five on public lands

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Monday, December 18, 2006

PALMER— The possible site for a prison project in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been narrowed from 12 to five location ns on public land. Private land submissions may be added to that list this week if the submissions meet the same initial screening criteria as the public land sites.

The five sites on public land are:

  • Zero Lake - Houston (24 miles from Parks/Glenn interchange)
  • Knik-Goose Bay (18 miles from interchange)
  • Pittman Road- Wasilla (13 miles from interchange)
  • Mile 58- Sutton (24 miles from interchange)
  • Point MacKenzie (about 33 miles from interchange)

The public sites are located on land owned either by the Borough, the state, or the city of Houston. A map will be available on the new prison page on the Borough Web site at this week.

Four submissions for privately-owned land were recently received as part of a public process. The private lands have not yet been evaluated. The private land sites will be screened this week to see if any of the sites are acceptable. The four submissions are:

  • Meadow Lakes- Blodgett Lake is a 400-acre piece of private property in the Meadow Lakes area north of the Parks Highway
  • Palmer South is 160 acres of a larger 480 parcel located south of Palmer in the vicinity of the Old Matanuska Townsite, the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge and the gravel pits located along the Glenn Highway.
  • Goose Bay is made up of Mental Health Trust Land and general state land. The site is located near the Goose Bay airstrip on land that was a former Nike Site and was used for a short time as a prison. There are three Mental Health Trust parcels that total 320 acres.
  • Houston West is a single parcel of Mental Health Trust Land totaling 480 acres.

The prison is a joint project between three public entities, the Alaska Department of Corrections, the MAT-SU Borough, and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The overall prison project is estimated to cost about $330 million.

A site selection committee narrowed the list of public lands from 12 sites to five recently. The committee evaluated each site with the same criteria. The criteria include: how far is the site from a major highway interchange (Parks/Glenn); does the site have at least 160 usable acres; is it on an active fault or in a flood plain; would locating a prison at the site meet existing land use regulations; is adjacent land use consistent with the prison; are there public schools within one mile; and is the site within emergency radio coverage.

Seven of the original sites did not make the phase 1 short list for various reasons, among them: not enough acreage is available, the site is too wet for building, or has local land use regulations that are at odds with the project. For a specific comparison of criteria, see the Prison Project Matrix on the MAT-SU Borough Web site The page on the site will be running later this week.

An open house will be held on Oct. 12, from 6 pm to 8:30 pm, at the Wasilla Sports Center. Contractors for the state will be hosting the meeting. Officials from Corrections, AHFC, and the MAT-SU Borough will be attending. The open house will begin at 6 pm, followed by a short presentation on the site selection process at 7 pm. We encourage residents to give written comments. Comment forms will be at the meeting as well as online. The first comment period deadline is Oct. 20.

Opportunities to testify will occur at subsequent open houses. Additionally, the Borough Planning Commission and Assembly will hold public hearings.

An Anchorage management company, RISE Alaska, will be conducting the open houses. A Seattle design firm, DLR Group, is overseeing early design work and site selection.

Public comment will be given significant weight in the selection process. Information and opinion from the public will be considered alongside other determining factors. The final site requires Assembly approval.

For more information on sites, contact MAT-SU Community Development Director Ron Swanson (907) 745-9631; for state Dept. of Corrections, contact Facilities Manager Ted Kinney (907) 269-7361. For financing questions, contact MAT-SU Finance Director Tammy Clayton (907) 745-9630 or AHFC 's Project Manager Stuart Barrows (907) 330-8118.

The prison page of the MAT-SU Borough Web site holds extensive information as well, including maps, matrices, project descriptions, timelines, photos, among other items.