Posted by: sweeneyblog | August 20, 2013

Sheriff, Executive Propose a Reasonably-Sized Jail

This is a headline I have been wanting to write for several years. After spending over $1.25 million on the planning process, Whatcom County has finally come to a reasonable proposal for the jail, clocking in at 521 beds for the first phase.

Jail plans

From the presentation

You can view their presentation here. Notice, they did not change any of their actual future needs projections (we are still waiting on that needs assessment) but the proposal for the first build of the jail (Phase I – on page 10) is down to 521 beds.

This is fantastic news and I am pleased to see the county moving in the right direction toward an affordable and appropriate facility.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions and issues that the community needs a voice in. No word on the Sheriff’s over-sized headquarters or how much time is going to pass between Phase I and Phase II (649 beds – almost identical to the Sheriff’s original proposal). The jail planners made the disturbing assertion that increased funding for mental health services in Whatcom County would have zero effect on our jail population, despite study after study that shows otherwise. There is still no plan for what is going to happen with the remaining facilities (the low-security facility on Irongate and the downtown jail) or how marijuana legalization will affect jail hours. I will continue to track this issue and speak out to ensure the community has a voice in these issues.

Public involvement continues to be a challengeThere still needs to be a public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement and we still need an accurate breakdown of costs for the initial building as well as sustaining the facility.

At the jail planning meeting, I spoke to County Executive Jack Louws about how we are going to fund the construction of this facility. He said there are two options, a property tax or a bond, and he has not decided which path the county will take, however, he is certain we will need additional funds.

No matter the exact details of this proposal, the voters will have to decide whether or not to fund this new jail and it is essential these issues get hammered out before even more money is spent. Still, this is good news for getting an affordable facility built.



  1. For a regulatory apparatus that is so tax averse, I’m surprised that Mr Louws would propose that option. Presumably, the tax proposal will be voted upon by the affected citizens rather than imposed by administrative fiat. But, there are always funding sources for items such as this, or so it seems, despite the glaring deficits elsewhere.

  2. Thanks Riley. Many issues do remain.

  3. Hi Riley,

    Thank you so much for the inspiration and instruction. Everyone was “fired up” by your Tipple and Talk presentation. Great job!

    I really enjoy and learn from your blog. Would like to contribute and don’t find a line for that. Please let me know how to send a donation.

    Sunny Brown


  4. glenn here, of “No Jail in Ferndale” (fb) The supplemental EIS is out…I’m still reading, and will have my take soon, I’m sure Riley is already reading it, or at least still trying to load it……But right off the bat it’s not looking good, at least in ‘form’ of delivery anyway—this thing is 18.4 MB! And that for only 473 pages!—I have a state-of-the-art IMAC, and this thing took forever to load…I lost count in my own brief little survey of similar reports no the county website, and other gov. sites—I could not find one that was near 18 MB—I found many with 4 times as many pages, but they were no more than 2 or 3 MB…I’m no conspiracy guy, quite the opposite…but come on, this isn’t even a good attempt to be coy about making something unnecessarily hard & ridiculous, and to what end? You decide…

    • I should have something up next week about it. It is huge!

  5. […] Tuesday, the Jail Planners made a presentation to the County Council that filled me with dread. After the Sheriff and the County Executive had finally seen the wisdom of a reasonably-sized facility (521 beds), the planners push forward with a plan for 649 beds, […]

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