Once again, the county is moving ahead on constructing a jail that is too big and too expensive for Whatcom County. Just last week, the County posted a notice that they were accepting scoping comments on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed new jail.
Similar to the Gateway Pacific Terminal, the scoping would determine what issues are examined in the EIS. Unlike the Gateway Pacific Terminal, this notice for comment provided a pretty clear idea of the county’s goal.
The principle project elements would be: Adult Jail, Jail Support Area, Sheriff’s Headquarters and Services Building. The proposed project may be constructed in multiple phases. The first phase would open in 2017 with up to 660 beds. Based on a needs analysis through 2040, it is anticipated that a future phase might occur after 2030 which could bring the facility to approximately 800 beds total.
Let me be perfectly clear, 660 beds is way too big for our community. Just take a look at other local prisons to see how this proposal is extremely disproportional.
|County or City||# of beds||Population served||Notes|
|SCORE||822||340,000||Officials state this will serve them for 20 years.|
|Kitsap||510||248,300||Officials state that this will suffice for quite awhile|
|Thurston||389||252,400||They build a new jail but it sits empty at a cost of $500,000 per year. They recently hired a consultant to help them decide what to do|
|Whatcom||660||205,262||Proposed Capacity of new jail|
If Whatcom County were to follow the same ratio of prison beds to population served as SCORE, our jail should be 496 beds
If Whatcom County were to follow the same ratio as Kitsap County, our jail should be 422 beds.
Building capacity for the future is important but the purpose of building a horizontal facility out on a large piece of land is that we can expand it in 25 years when we need more room.
Think about the cost to our community. Using the Jail Planning Task Force numbers, each additional bed costs an average of $80,000. Assuming that the SCORE ratio of population to beds is an ideal model – then building a facility with 660 beds will waste $13.9 million dollars. That does not even figure the costs of staffing and maintaining such a large facility or the cost of the land.
You can help stop the county from making this costly mistake! Click here to email Michael Russell with Whatcom County Facilities Management and Jack Louws, your county executive and let him know that 660 beds is too big and too expensive for our community.