Costs Plague Construction of State’s Largest Prison
Alaskan lawmakers could put a dead stop on the mega-prison Goose Creek Correctional Center being built out in the valley because of higher costs not anticipated.
Alaskan lawmakers could put a dead stop on the mega-prison Goose Creek Correctional Center being built out in the Mat-Su Valley because of unanticipated higher costs. Department of Corrections officials say the numbers were not a surprise, but lawmakers say they were unaware of the final price tag.
“We’ve known it was going to more expensive from the beginning. We've never been shy about that,” Dept. of Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt said.
Lawmakers say the state cannot afford to operate the $200 million prison set to open in 2012. The prison will house 1,000 Alaskan inmates currently in Colorado serving time.
“What would it mean to the families of the prisoners, they are currently unable to visit with their loved ones in Colorado,” Mat-Su Acting Borough Manager Elizabeth Gray said.
The state expects to spend about $50 million year to operate the facility, plus another $17 million in annual lease payments to the Mat-Su Borough for construction. The cost to keep the Alaskan inmates housed in Colorado about $20 million, and lawmakers say this difference in cost is significant and not in the state’s best interest economically, and claim the location of the building was the biggest mistake.
“It was actually less expensive to place it out there and build a facility rather than upgrade one of these facilities that we currently have,” Gray said.
The prison was a result of legislation passed seven years ago, Senate Bill 65, to expand and renew current prisons across the state.
But Department of Corrections officials say there's only so much they can do without financial backing.
“When we went to these communities, it's not our place to go and pitch a prison, that's the community's decision,” Schmidt said.
Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said the prison has become an economic development project for the borough, at the state taxpayers expense, but Mat-Su Borough officials say that is true no matter where it's built.
“Anywhere there’s a prison or industry built there are jobs that follow, so yes it would be an economic development initiative for the borough, it would help the borough,” Gray said.
Department of Corrections officials plan to meet with lawmakers in the coming week to discuss the fate of the Goose Creek Correctional Center.