Last 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 pushed forward with a plan for 649 beds, built in two stages.
Here is their presentation which you can read yourself. First off the bat, there is still no needs assessment included. We have pleaded for a new needs assessment yet they seem content on going full speed ahead on this project using the initial flawed needs assessment. The planners say they are working on a fresh one, but it has yet to be seen by the public.
The other major issue is the size. This presentation was focused on the cost, and despite assertions that the first phase will be 521 beds and the second phase (bringing the number up to 649 beds) will be at some later point, the budget presented is for both phases. That leads me to believe that “phase two” will happen in tandem or soon after “phase one” is completed. This is being presented as a complete package for a facility of 649 beds. It does not matter if we build it in the space of six years as opposed to four years, we are still building space we might not need for another twenty years.
The new jail facility (and sheriff’s office) is estimated at $109 million, including $7 million to buy the property. If the taxpayers are going to shell out that much cash, we should at least know whether we are overbuilding or not. 521 beds is an acceptable size that will meet our needs for the next twenty years . . . according to the jail planners themselves. Discussing a 649 bed facility is ridiculous – including it in the budget? Deeply troubling.
You can voice your concerns at a community meeting to discuss the jail on Sept 26th, 6 p.m. at the Ferndale City Council chambers. Show up and let the county and the planners know that phase two is unacceptable at this time. We need to only be paying for 521 beds.