October 17, 2021

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News from around our 50 states


Montgomery: Legislative leaders are continuing to discuss prison construction and renovation alternatives, including whether pandemic relief funds can be used to offset costs or renovating and building prisons. Key lawmakers say they expect to continue discussions this month in advance of a possible special session later in the year. “I think the House and Senate are pretty close to an agreement,” said Rep. Steve Clouse, who chairs the House General Fund budget committee. “The vast majority of legislators want to move forward with a bond proposal and for us to own the prisons.” Clouse and Sen. Greg Albritton, chairman of the Senate General Fund budget committee, said a topic under discussion is whether federal funds from the American Rescue Plan may be used to offset some of the costs or do renovations. States can use that money for a wide range of uses to contend with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Albritton said the state is trying to get clarity on “what can we do with the recovery money.” Lawmakers are looking for more options after Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to rent prisons, which would be run by the state but built and owned by private companies, fell apart because of financing concerns. However, federal officials have been clear that new facilities will not solve the state’s prison woes.


Anchorage: A wildfire burned close to a vacation destination Tuesday, but fire officials believed Chena Hot Springs Resort would be spared. “They’re pretty confident that they’re going to be able to defend the resort, based on the measures that we’ve set up and the personnel we have on scene,” said Tim Mowry, a spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry. Firefighters were working to protect the resort, homes and recreational cabins in the area of interior Alaska about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. Flames were about 100 yards from the resort, where crews were spraying water on buildings, the agency said in a statement. Firefighters also conducted a back burn near a trail that leads to two yurts for viewing the northern lights in hopes it would help stop the fire from advancing toward the main buildings. Hoses and sprinklers also were set up at nearby homes and cabins. No structures in the Chena Hot Springs area had burned, fire officials said. Light showers that fell overnight weren’t enough to put out the fire, but the increased humidity was helping to slow its growth. The Fairbanks North Star Borough on Monday issued a voluntary evacuation order. Alaska State Troopers conducted a survey of homeowners and cabin users and found that about 30 people decided not to leave, along with resort owner Bernie Karl.