Administrative committee to review each; finalists to be chosen by Feb. 12

Prison proposal request interests 4

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2001

Four organizations officially threw their name in the borough's prison-proposal hat Wednesday. Each of the groups formally expressed their interest to work with the Kenai Peninsula Borough as it moves toward planning, constructing and operating the state's first private prison.

According to Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, the four are:

Maranatha Corrections;

Rise Alaska, LLC;

Corrections Group North; and

Corrections Corporation of America.

"When we announce the winning proposal, that's when everything can be made public regarding what is in the bids and how they scored," Bagley said.

According to information provided on the World Wide Web, Maranatha Corrections, of Bakersfield, Calif., is currently under contract with the California Department of Corrections.

Rise Alaska is working in partnership with the municipality of Anchorage and the Alaska Department of Corrections in the construction of a new Anchorage jail.

Corrections Corporation of America, of Nashville, Tenn., owns and operates facilities across the United States, including the medium-security prison in Florence, Ariz., where Alaska currently houses approximately 800 inmates.

Corrections Group North was created by Kenai Natives Association, according to KNA spokesperson Mike Slezak.

The four groups responded to a request for qualification, issued by the borough on Dec. 15. In it, firms were asked to describe their organization and others that would work with them on the project; list their qualifications and any experience with similar projects; discuss their approach to recruiting and training employees, with specific emphasis on hiring of borough residents; identify the location of project offices; offer a location for the prison; and provide references.

"I'm glad there's some local bidders and glad there's a good response," said borough assembly President Tim Navarre on Wednesday after the sealed bids were opened. "Our process appears to be fair, and I look forward to the evaluation committee getting into their job and completing it and the borough moving forward with the opportunity that this presents."

At the Tuesday borough assembly meeting, Navarre announced the formation of a prison committee -- consisting of himself and assembly members Bill Popp and Jack Brown -- to work with the borough administration on the proposed 800- to 1,000-bed medium security facility.

"We're not involved in the RFQ evaluation process," Navarre said of the role he, Popp and Brown will play. "We'll start looking at issues such as how to lobby the Legislature and start working with administration to work out contract negotiations before they are brought before the whole assembly. It's the committee of the assembly to work with the administration to flush out issues before they are finalized so (the administration has) some idea what the assembly's direction is on some of the issues."

Unanimously approved by the assembly at its Tuesday meeting was $150,000 to pick up the tab "for professional services to assist the borough administration with the prison project." A memo from Navarre and Bagley to the assembly said, "The initial funding is expected to be used as follows: financial adviser, $25,000; legal support and bond counsel, $25,000; project management and consulting, $100,000."

Also receiving unanimous assembly approval was the first $50,000 draw on the $150,000. It will secure the services of Richard Crane, an attorney from Nashville, Tenn., to assist the borough on the project.

"He came highly recommended," said Sinz.

Crane's experience include his work as director of the correctional law project for the American Correctional Association, chief legal counsel and assistant to the secretary of the Louisiana Depart-ment of Corrections and vice president of legal affairs and assistant secretary for the board of directors for Corrections Corporation of America.

In the last 13 years, he has been in private practice and lists numerous privatization projects in which he has been involved.

As the borough's consultant on the proposed prison project, he will be expected to act as a technical advisor to RFQ evaluation committee members Sinz, borough attorney Colette Thompson, borough capital projects manager Rob Robson, Jim Carter and Mark Powell. Crane will also assist in developing and negotiating the initial contract with the selected firm or firms and review and assist in passage of legislation to authorize building the private prison in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

"We will set up a meeting with the team members tomorrow to give them their copies (of the responses) and they will start to review them," Bagley said on Wednesday.

Crane and the team are scheduled to meet Feb. 1, with oral presentations from selected finalists scheduled for Feb. 12.

"Those dates are not completely set in stone," Bagley said. "If we think we can do something quicker, we will, but that's the approximate guideline."

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