Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001

Minuses of private prison far outweigh benefits it would bring

Have our Kenai Peninsula Borough leaders put the cart before the horse, or am I assuming too much?

In my opinion, the people of the borough should decide if there is going to be a private penitentiary in our area. It appears as though it is a "done deal." If the people are ever informed of the side effects of such a move it will surely be defeated. Please, my friends, don't take my word for it, investigate for yourselves. It will scare the hell out of you.

There are a few advantages to this venture; we've heard about them in glowing terms.

What of the disadvantages? Here are but a few, there are many more. Long-term commitments will bring the inmates' families to our area. Many of these are not the type of people who add to a community; they only take. Most will be low income and will seek jobs in the area. There are none. Your welfare bills will skyrocket. The theft rate will rise considerably. Everything you can think of that you don't approve of will increase -- narcotics, alcohol abuse, personal assaults, burglary, shoplifting and let's not forget rape, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. There would need to be more schools.

I could go on and on but would rather not. As I said before, investigate for yourselves. These negative statements come not from guesswork but my own personal experience. Thank you.

F.W. Dornberger, Soldotna

Peninsula should be protected from too much development

I recently had a conversation with an 80-year-old gentleman who has lived in Soldotna for 40 years. He related to me as to how the small community (population 300) worked hard to get a full-time doctor, medical facilities, businesses which were required to provide needed goods and services, schools and churches. During that time it was possible to determine the real community needs, and then they worked to satisfy those needs. I believe that would be an optimum definition of progress -- carefully adding value to the community in a planned, beneficial way .

But then he said to me "You know, today we have everything we really need to live a good life. We don't NEED anything else."

We have come a long way from those early days. Today we are driven more by the almighty dollar, personal gain and greed than by the needs and value to the community. When that happens our quality of life and the very fabric of our community suffers. If you believe we need more development and people on the peninsula, then ask yourself and your legislators how many more and what kind of people do we need.

For example, if the current population of 50,000 were to double over the next five years to 100,000, how would your quality of life improve and by how much? Would your ability to drive the local streets be easier or harder due to the increased traffic? Would we build another Kenai River in order to keep the fishing pressure no greater than what it is today, or would we just double the pressure on the current river? Would most hunting on the peninsula improve or would it be severely curtailed due to overharvest? Would we experience an increase in the interest of organized crime, drugs and gangs due to more potential "customers-victims"? At what point do the tourists start losing interest in our area because of over development?

These are the types of "quality of life" questions that must be asked and answered when considering the future growth and direction of our community.

It was interesting to watch the traffic pattern over the Memorial weekend -- hundreds and hundreds of motor homes, campers, trucks, boats, etc. coming from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula to get away from the city and enjoy the many recreational opportunities we have here. These recreational opportunities must be saved from overdevelopment and overuse, or they will lose their value to these and other tourists.

If we stop and and look at what we have:

1) A very viable energy industry which is poised to grow;

2) A very viable commercial fishing industry which should last indefinitely;

3) A very good tourist industry which could grow and produce good income to the area, if we continue to provide the environment tourists want.

Remember, people will fly/drive 4,000 miles and spend a lot of money to see the beautiful scenery the peninsula has to offer -- mountains, glaciers, forests, rivers, ocean and wildlife; have the opportunity to fish for our various salmon species and halibut; enjoy open undeveloped beaches with the many camping and clamming opportunities they offer; enjoy a natural, uncluttered drive throughout the area; and get away from the city environment they're forced to live in.

I understand some growth is inevitable; however, as a community we can try to encourage the type of growth that pays its own way, adds value and is not a burden to the community.

No matter how I look at the prison proposal it is a very marginal proposition. It adds 300-500 people, increases traffic, increases the pressure on our natural resources, and, most likely, we'll be asked to pay more taxes to support the infrastructure required to support it. This is the type of project that will benefit a few at the expense of and at a burden to the majority of the peninsula residents.

The Kenai Peninsula offers a quality of life and outdoor recreation opportunities that are the envy of most. We need to protect the very substance of these opportunities from greed and overdevelopment. Once they are gone --they are gone forever.

John Ossowski, Soldotna

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