While there is still some discussion to be had on exactly what will be presented to voters, one thing is for sure: An election to fund new jail proposed for the West Plains won’t happen this spring.
Instead, a possible bond issue vote will likely happen during the August primary or November general election, Spokane County commissioners decided. The issue was set to be one of the topics of discussion during the Spokane Regional Council of Governments meeting today (Friday) at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
The current model being considered includes a renovation of the existing 25-year-old jail located directly behind the Spokane County Courthouse and a new 192-bed community corrections nearby that would be the center for counseling and classes for low-risk offenders.
A new campus-style corrections facility – which could be built in phases and would be less expensive than a tower configuration – would be constructed near the Medical Lake interchange on Interstate 90 that will replace the Geiger Corrections Center, which will be closed. The county is losing its lease space for the facility in 2013, plus the condition of the nearly 7-decade-old structure us rapidly deteriorating – elevators routinely break down, for example -- say corrections officials.
What’s worse, there’s no room to put inmates during critical overflow periods. On Tuesday, a noon population of 665 inmates meant that Spokane County Jail was put on “critical status,” according to Sgt. Dave Reagan, which meant that new book-ins were limited to primarily major crimes, probation holds or misdemeanor offenses with mandatory custodial arrests.
The jail goes into a critical status any time the population climbs over 650, a number that was reached last Sunday. The jail was originally built to hold 462 inmates.
Geiger’s population was at 168 inmates on Tuesday, for a total in-custody population of 883.
While exact costs for the new plan have yet to be figured out, the estimate is about $199.5 million for construction, down from the original $265 million. There would also be ongoing operating costs for staffing and transportation between the two sites.
If a $200 million bond is asked from voters, that would mean an additional 45 to 50 centers per $1,000 in assessed property value – which could translate up to $100 more a year for a $200,000 home.
There is evidence to suggest, however, that voters may be leery of spending any more money on taxes – even if proponents demonstrate a genuine need. For example, the Central Valley School District election on Feb. 8 only earned about 48-percent “yes” votes for a $69.6 million bond. The measure, which needed a 60-percent supermajority to pass, would have raised taxes 65 cents per $1,000 in assessed value – an annual increase of $98 per year on a $150,000 home.