October 4, 2012 | volume 116, issue 24

If new jail site suits county, take Medical Lake off jail site list

In Our Opinion

It was good news to read last week that Spokane County Commissioners are reconsidering their 2010 decision to build a new jail near White Road just off the I-90 Medical Lake interchange. It was even better news that a recent study of 10 new sites determined that the top site was one offered to the county by Spokane International Airport along Geiger Boulevard north of the Waste-to-Energy Plant.

Our thanks, and likely the thanks of many other West Plains residents, goes out to the commissioners and to the airport, led by director Larry Krauter, who last December offered the Geiger Boulevard site to the county as a possible new location replacing the aging Geiger Corrections Center not far away. We’re somewhat disappointed however, that the Medical Lake site still remains under consideration by the commissioners.

The White Road site was never a clear favorite between two other locations in a study done in 2010, and there are many reasons why it would not be a good location at all, even without the airport’s offer. The site is zoned rural, privately owned, and lacks the infrastructure necessary to support a large essential public facility such as a jail. All of these situations would have to be remedied at great public expense in money and goodwill the county cannot afford to lose. And even though it is near the freeway, traffic at the Medical Lake interchange is already becoming a concern because of residential and business development in the area.

The Geiger Boulevard site is a far better choice now that it is available. It is zoned for industrial use, not far from the current corrections center and is closer to Spokane, saving money on logistics such as travel.

It is also nearer to existing infrastructure – power, roads – capable of being expanded to handle such a facility, including possibly tapping into the output of the Waste-to-Energy Plant to provide heating. And since the property would be leased from the airport it would provide a revenue for that essential public facility helping it meet its own financial needs and hopefully expanding service – a win-win situation for all.

From all that has been said so far it sounds like the commissioners are supportive of the Geiger Boulevard site as the new location for the county jail, and are simply engaged in the public siting process required by state law and county regulations. That’s a good thing, but keeping the Medical Lake site as an option is not.

Elected officials in Medical Lake, along with West Plains residents in the area have asked that the White Road site not be considered. We join this chorus, and believe commissioners should demonstrate some goodwill by removing it and proceeding as fast as legally possible to establish the Geiger Boulevard location as the new site for the Spokane County Jail replacement.

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