Judge rules against Delta Junction on prison contract

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fairbanks judge has ruled that Delta Junction's decision to toss out a sole-source contract for a private prison at Fort Greely was unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Charles Pengilly last week issued a summary judgment in favor of Allvest Inc., which wants to develop the prison.

''It validates what my clients were saying about that this is not the way to deal with the Allvest contract,'' said Mike Walleri, an attorney representing Citizens for the Advancement of Delta, a pro-prison group. ''Hopefully, Allvest and the city will now engage in meaningful discussions.''

At least one city official said he is also pleased the judge had cleared up pressing questions.

''If Allvest wants to go back to the bargaining table, I think it's an excellent time to talk,'' observed Pete Hallgren, the city's economic director. ''The city council wants to do the right thing, and it's all so highly convoluted.''

Delta's city council was scheduled to meet Tuesday night. It was expected to go into executive session to discuss the case with city attorney James DeWitt.

The private prison was endorsed by a community panel appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles to consider economic development possibilities for Greely, which is slated for closure by the Army.

Allvest's concept was also approved by city and area voters in two elections, but prison opponents have since rallied behind Sen. Ted Stevens in supporting a national missile defense system on the post.

The sole-source contract was awarded last March, but anti-prison residents sued and submitted a petition for a citywide election to repeal the agreement. Allvest and a group of pro-prison residents in turn sued the city for approving the election.

The city council, upset over being sued by Allvest, in September voided the sole-source agreement just before the repeal election was to be held.

At that point Allvest filed another lawsuit, which was the subject of Pengilly's order Friday.

The judge's pre-trial ruling frees the city council to pursue the type of sole-source arrangement Allvest has sought all along.

Frank Prewitt, a former Allvest executive now working as a consultant for partner Cornell Corrections, said the judicial order puts Delta Corrections Group back in business.

''Our goal has always been to build a corrections facility on Fort Greely,'' he said. ''We hope the court order will at least open the door to doing that.''

Allvest contends it can still develop a prison providing new jobs in time for Greely's announced military withdrawal in summer 2001.

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