Fairbanks North Star Borough’s administrative center remains shut down due to what officials describe as threatening communications. The Juanita Helms Administrative Center was closed Thursday night, just as the assembly was to begin meeting. No threat suspect has been publicly identified, but a local man suspects the situation is the result of his questioning borough authority.
Chris Ripple claims he’s never threatened the borough. Ripple subscribes to sovereign citizen ideology, a perspective that does not acknowledge laws established after the U.S. Constitution. He considers borough taxes illegal, and is fighting to keep the local government from selling off his foreclosed-upon property.
”Some of the emails that I have been sending to them has been pointing out the law. All it is is trying to educate them to the law that they should have to abide by. Their law. And they take that as harassment. I mean, this whole thing, where they’re trying to build a case against me as I’m some kind of vigilante or something. They shut down the borough yesterday for the meeting the same time I’m sitting there with two troopers watching my house burn and they knew it.”
Ripple says the home he built himself, in a rural subdivision north of town, was found burning Thursday afternoon, two days before it was scheduled to be auctioned off by the borough. Ripple says he was in town when the fire started, delivering copies of a newspaper he co-publishes. “Free the People AK” questions institutional authority.
“How they’ve been stealing from our communities, stealing our wealth, stealing our lives away, stealing our human capital, our human energy away from us,” Ripple said. “What’re you gonna do? Either we need to stand up and try to educate people and hopefully call enough of our community members to come alive, come awake to what’s happening.”
Ripple says that kind of talk generates backlash, and he suspects his house was set on fire by someone who doesn’t agree with the paper’s message.
The North Star Borough called police to its Juanita Helms Administrative Center Thursday evening, and closed the building just as an assembly meeting was supposed to start. Mayoral Chief of Staff Jim Williams says the actions were prompted by what he characterizes as escalating threats.
”I cannot comment as to who the threats are coming from. I will tell you that they are targeted to certain individuals in our organization and because of that, we are taking appropriate responses,” Williams said.
Williams says the borough briefly re-opened the administrative center midday Friday but closed it again after becoming aware of additional threats.
“We’re not sure what the scope and depth of it is,” Williams said. “All we know is I have employees that have threats made against them, both overt and covertly. And I need to ensure the safety of my staff. And I also need to ensure the safety of the public.”
Williams says the borough is developing a security plan so that the building can re-open soon.
“We have to operate, so we may need to change our security,” Williams said.
Williams says the borough has postponed Saturday’s auction of foreclosed upon properties until a yet to be determined date. No one had been arrested or charged related to the alleged threats as of early Friday afternoon. State Troopers are investigating the fire that destroyed Chris Ripple’s home.