Kenai private prison goes down to defeat, Mat-Su rejects sales tax again

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Kenai Peninsula Borough residents voted overwhelmingly against a plan to proceed with a private prison project in municipal elections Tuesday and voters in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough voted down a sales tax for the fourth time.

With all precincts reporting borough, the prison idea went down by a three-to-one 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.

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

In Palmer, Jim Cooper appeared victorious over Henry Guinotte in the race for mayor of Palmer.

Fairbanks businessman Steve Thompson won the race for Fairbanks city mayor.

Thompson was the top vote-getter among six candidates vying to replace outgoing Mayor Jim Hayes, who was leaving office after nine years.

Kodiak Borough Mayor Gabrielle LeDoux managed to hang onto the job she won earlier this year in a special election. Unofficial results showed LeDoux defeating Darlene Turner by a nearly three-to-one margin.

Kodiak voters also decided to retain the borough's city manager form of government, rejecting a proposal to return to the strong mayor form of government by a vote of 1,151 to 850.

The race for mayor of the city of Haines was too close to call Tuesday night. 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 one percent sales tax, currently dedicated to tourism, for economic development as well as tourism.

In the Haines Borough mayor's race, Jan Hill was leading Fred Shields by a vote of 508 to 423.

Results of an advisory vote indicated Haines borough residents favored the managed use of helicopters for tourism by nearly two to one. 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 say it will lay the groundwork for an expanded winter economy.

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

In the Barrow mayor's race, unofficial results favored Edith Vorderstrasse -- the wife of outgoing mayor Jim Vorderstrasse. She was leading former Barrow mayor Nathaniel Olemaun by a vote of 368 to 319. The 105 absentee and questioned ballots still need to be tallied, however.

In Klawock, incumbent mayor Donna Williams appeared headed for a third term, leading former Klawock 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, had announced he did not want to run for mayor after all but still collected 65 votes.

In Unalaska, Councilwoman Pam Fitch was winning the mayor's race, leading Bill Bradshaw by a vote of 284 to 261. Still uncounted, however, were about 40 absentee and challenged ballots.

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