A vote on a new jail will escape voters in 2011 and probably won’t be captured until sometime next year.
Spokane County commissioners announced Tuesday it was time to take a new tact in moving forward with a new corrections facility.
The commissioners said any vote on a new jail won’t come until 2012. It had been expected an election would be held in either August or November of this year.
Election dates this spring were jettisoned late last year after it was determined that more time was needed by county officials to gather information and to properly inform voters of what’s at stake.
County corrections officials had been considering a proposed $199.5 million plan, which was down from an initial $265 million proposal. If the commissioners would have moved forward with that bond vote, county property owners would have been faced with a hike in property taxes that would have been between 45 and 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation.
That plan had called for a 752-bed facility, which would be built near the Medical Lake exit along Interstate 90 and would replace Geiger Corrections Center. That facility, a barracks built during World War II, is aging and will not be available to the county in the future once the Spokane Airport Board terminates the existing lease.
The existing jail was built in 1986 and is frequently above capacity. Earlier this year, the jail reached “critical status” on at least two occasions when the population reached above the 650 maximum threshold. During those instances, anyone arrested on misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges could not be booked into the facility unless exceptions were made by jail commanding officers.
Under the proposed jail plan, the current jail would be remodeled and reverted back to a 462-bed facility.
Last week, county commissioners unanimously agreed to renew a contract with Utah-based consultant David Bennett, who has shepherded the county through the process of developing a new corrections plan. He has advocated a proposal that would end the longstanding “catch and release” philosophy in which low-risk offenders have been allowed to not see any or little jail time.
Under Bennett’s vision, the county would also construct a community corrections center near the existing jail at the courthouse campus that would emphasize drug treatment, mental health and work-release programs.
During a meeting between the Spokane and Spokane Valley city councils on Monday, the topic of a new corrections facility was on the agenda. Joe Shogan, Spokane council president, said it would be tough to rally support for the effort until more facts become clear.
“It’s hard to come up with a position on the current proposal,” Shogan said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there.”
Spokane Valley City Council Member Bill Gothmann said that, after taking a tour of Geiger, he is certain a new facility is needed.
“(Geiger) is extremely long and skinny,” he said. “It’s extremely dangerous for our (corrections) officers…it seems to me, Geiger has to go.”