Back in June, county commissioners agreed in a 2-1 vote they preferred a site near Medical Lake for a new jail.
On Tuesday, by the same vote by the same commissioners, they finalized that decision. And, come next April, it will be up to voters to decide whether or not to fund the project.
While the choice near the Medical Lake interchange at Interstate 90 was never in doubt, the commissioners were unable to finalize their decision until the completion of environmental reviews at that location, plus that of the county courthouse, where a new “community corrections center” will be placed next to the existing jail.
Once again, county Commissioner Bonnie Mager – who says she prefers the downtown site for both elements – voted no as the commissioners declared an emergency so land-use details can be cleared up well before next April’s bond vote to fund the project.
Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard prefer the Medical Lake location for the medium-security jail, which will supplement the existing facility built in 1986, due to the cost savings of building a “campus” style horizontal structure that can be built in phases. A vertical tower downtown would cost about $54 million more in construction costs at an estimated $265 million.
Mager, however, has argued that it will be cheaper to run such a jail downtown as many services won’t be duplicated. Also a downtown site would have better access to public transportation and other services.
Still, the commissioners all agreed the courthouse location makes the most sense for the community corrections center, which will provide classes, counseling, drug treatment, job assistance and other services to discourage recidivism in offenders.
The new jail will also replace Geiger Corrections, which must be vacated by 2013 when the current lease expires. The Spokane Airport Board, however, has stated it will work with the county to keep Geiger open longer until the new facility is built.