By JAMES EIK
The siting process for a proposed new jail location in Spokane County is beginning once again, after new property was submitted by Spokane International Airport along Geiger Boulevard.
Spokane County Sheriff's Office Lt. Mike Sparber led a brief presentation at the Spokane County Commissioners board room Wednesday, Aug. 22, detailing the process that will come in the next few months.
The initial siting process started around five years ago, with the goal of finding a new facility to replace the aging Geiger Corrections Center, located off the Geiger Boulevard exit of I-90, and upgrade the facility on the county's campus in downtown Spokane. Geiger Corrections Center loses its lease in 2013.
The top three sites in the 2008 siting process were presented to the Board of County Commissioners, and typically that would be the end of the process. But, since the county is the owner of the process, Sparber said, it is considering the cost of the overall operation. The downtown facility at the time of the initial siting process was housing 1,100 inmates, with a capacity of 1,200.
The top site in the process turned out to be the county's existing site, with an overflow facility out on the West Plains. That West Plains site is located west of the Medical Lake I-90 exit along White Road.
Selection of the site drew some criticism from the city of Medical Lake, which said it wasn't the top location from the siting process and had several inefficiencies attached to it.
The White Road site would have to be built horizontally, rather than vertically. Aside from serving as an long-term housing facility, it would also incorporate mental health and medical facilities, a kitchen and laundry uses into its overall operation. Cells in the downtown Spokane facility would be for inmates requiring closer supervision.
Spokane International Airport earlier this year submitted an alternate site on its property along Geiger Boulevard, across from the Waste to Energy Plant. The site could garner savings to the tune of $3.2 million, as it is already in an industrial area, with sufficient infrastructure in place. A site along White Road would require transportation improvements, utility expansion and zoning changes in order to be ready for construction.
“In the past they've offered up sites that just didn't work for us,” Sparber said at the meeting. Those sites were either too difficult to get to, divided between jurisdictions or had other incompatibilities for the project. The site next to the Waste to Energy Plant, however, fills several holes from previous offers, and includes some other potential for saving money on energy costs.
By taking the new site along Geiger Boulevard into account, it also offers the opportunity for Spokane County to remain partners with the airport.
In addition to providing more inmate beds, a downtown facility would also incorporate a community corrections center, using around 1,600 beds, to help offenders transition back into everyday life. The program's goal would ultimately seek to lower the number of repeat offenders.
Last week's meeting started the 30-day review of the functional analysis portion of the siting process, where site size, estimated costs and transportation capacity, among other items, are considered. From there, it moves to a 30-day qualitative analysis period, where proposals are judged by items such as design, nearby population and spin-off impacts. A 30-day weighted analysis reduces the number of sites down to three, which are then presented to the countycommissioners.
The next siting process meeting will take place in late September, when the functional analysis portion is completed.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.