Spokane County commissioners aren’t locked into a November general election to decide on a new jail.
During Tuesday morning’s CEO meeting, the commissioners – minus an absent Mark Richard – tentatively agreed that they would not attempt to move too fast in getting a ballot question before voters this fall. Instead, they would continue to work through which site makes the most sense, what kind of corrections facility will be built and getting a clearer idea of what the cost will be.
“I know we get caught up on what (election) date works best,” Commissioner Todd Mielke said. “I think we start reversing the cart and the horse with this thing.”
Once the commissioners make their final choice, it should be clearer as to what the final cost will be – and how much voters will be asked to contribute via a bond issue. At that point, further sites that just show up – such as Pine Lodge did last month – could be officially eliminated from the list.
The courthouse campus was ruled the best choice during an “essential public facilities” siting process two years ago, which could have paved the way for a vote on a facility that could cost $265 million at that location. The commissioners, however, decided to move forward with a new EPF process that could open up new locations for a “horizontal,” campus-like jail rather than a “vertical” tower downtown.
However, current ranking for potential sites still has the courthouse campus – directly adjacent to the current jail – ranked as No. 1 due to its proximity to essential services, personnel and the courts. The No. 2 and 3 spots, a gravel pit near Medical Lake and land in Airway Heights, are both located in the West Plains
Last month, county commissioners said they wanted cost estimates to for potential corrections facilities in the No. 4-6 choices to see if any of those would move higher in the current rankings. Two of those are also in the West Plains while a previously rejected located on Tschirley Road in Spokane Valley – sixth on the current list – is undergoing more scrutiny.
The county commissioners will have the final say on where the jail is built. Affected jurisdictions, however, do have the ability to negotiate certain conditions for the jail’s operation.
Lt. Mike Sparber, who heads the county’s jail expansion program, told the commissioners that the final top three recommended sites would be chosen by the end of March, which would give them time to decide on a preferred site in mid-April.
In other news, the commissioners decided to move forward with a request from Assessor Ralph Baker for a $560,000 aerial photography program to offset the loss of appraisers who would normally do their work from the ground. Pictometry International Corp. is expected to begin the program – which involves taking photos of homes or businesses from low altitudes every two years – this April.
The commissioners also agreed to raise Spokane County Interstate Fair ticket prices from $8 to $10 for an adult one-day admittance. Children’s prices – those 7 to 13 -- will go up from $5 to $7. Children 6 and under still get in for free.