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Thu, Feb. 20

Prison site future uncertain

PRESCOTT VALLEY - The future of a proposed private prison off Fain Road remains uncertain days after a majority of the Town Council said they oppose the location.

Meanwhile, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee was scheduled to meet this morning for an executive session to decide whether to support the release of a request for proposals to recruit companies to house a maximum of 5,000 inmates.

The company that explored the Fain Road site, Corrections Corporation of America, would need to respond to the RFP to be in the running.

"Nothing has changed" since Thursday, said Louise Grant, a spokeswoman for the CCA in Nashville, Tenn. "We are assessing all our options."

Grant said she does not know when CCA officials will decide whether to pursue the Fain Road site.

She added she thinks CCA officials will cancel a meeting with the public that they scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9 in the CASA Senior Center, 9360 E. Manzanita Circle.

Like CCA, the Fain family, which owns the land near the Grapevine Industrial Park that the prison company was considering, is evaluating its options.

"I think right now our company is still trying to evaluate what happened Thursday," said Brad Fain, managing partner with the Fain Signature Group in Prescott Valley. "It was our understanding there was nothing before the council to be voted on. We are still trying to evaluate what the ramifications are of their actions."

The Fains might have limited options, according to Town Attorney Ivan Legler.

He wrote via e-mail the Town Council must adopt an ordinance or resolution before anyone circulates a referendum petition to try to overturn the council action at the ballot box. Failure to adopt an ordinance or resolution for an annexation or rezone is not subject to referenda.

He added Arizona courts have determined zoning changes are subject to referenda but not to initiatives.

"I've not found similar cases that discuss annexation, but I note that annexation also has rather specific procedures which must be followed," Legler wrote. Those procedures are recording a blank petition, conducting a public hearing and receiving signed petitions from certain percentages of property owners.

"Therefore, I believe Arizona courts would also conclude that annexation is subject to referendum, but not initiative," he stated.

Fain said the family-owned company was "approaching a contract" with CCA for a prison site. The land is located on 881 acres that the family is trying to develop into an industrial park.

By contrast, the family "was not involved" in the fall of 2007 when Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, was considering the location for a private prison.

"We had no land under contract or identified," he said.

The previous proposal drew widespread opposition as well, and the council in October 2007 opted not to pursue a private prison there - also without taking a formal vote.

Mayor Harvey Skoog went on the record Wednesday against the CCA prison, and Vice Mayor Lora Lee Nye and council members Mike Flannery and Fran Schumacher spoke out against the prison at the meeting Thursday, also without a vote.

Skoog and Councilwoman Patty Lasker, who supports the proposed prison, disagree over whether the prison is a dead issue.

"Who knows?" Skoog asked rhetorically. "They still have the right to buy land and build on it. Within the borders of Prescott Valley, it is a long haul. It is not totally dead."

Lasker countered, "I think it is dead. It is pretty obvious to me. The thing that dissatisfies me is the public process has been halted."

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