July 23, 2008 -- Spokesman-Review (WA)
[Spokane] County Pushes Back Jail Vote Until 2009
By Jonathan Brunt, Staff writer
Original article: www.spokesmanreview.com/breaking/story.asp?ID=15832
Voters must wait to have a say on a new jail complex that could cost taxpayers $245 million.
Spokane County Commissioners on Tuesday decided unanimously to wait until November 2009 to put the jail proposal on the ballot.
For more than three years, county jail, law enforcement and courts leaders have worked to formulate a proposal to replace Geiger Corrections Center and remodel the county jail.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich aimed to have the jail proposal on the November ballot so that the expanded facility would be ready in 2012.
He said Tuesday that the delay could push the opening of the jail until 2013, when the Geiger lease expires, but that there still would be enough time to have the complex built.
The jail proposal was complicated earlier this month when cost estimates for the project came back higher than expected.
County leaders received a report from Integrus Architecture that estimated the cost of the new jail complex at $245 million.
Complicating matters was an estimate that it will take 80 additional employees to operate the complex beyond those now working at Geiger and the jail.
The new workers would cost the county $8 million a year extra.
Commissioners questioned if the amount was enough to force them to ask for a sales tax to help pay for salaries, on top of the property tax that would pay for construction.
Knezovich recommended delaying the vote until 2009 to help find ways to pay for operating costs.
"We still have questions that aren't answered," Knezovich said. "I don't think that the public appreciates when you can't answer questions."
He said he's hopeful plans can be changed to prevent the need for a new sales tax.
Plans call for the current jail to be remodeled and maintained for high-security inmates. Inmates deemed less dangerous would be housed in a new tower adjacent to the jail.
It would replace Geiger, a former World War II-era Army barracks on Spokane International Airport property.
Commissioners say the plan would put more emphasis on rehabilitation in an effort to prevent recidivism.
The project would include construction of a "community corrections center" that would emphasize job and parenting training and alcohol and drug counseling.
Related story: Jail Projections Show Two Taxes May Be Required