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Federal Way struggles to alleviate higher jail costs

At the 2011 ribbon cutting, from left, Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest; Burien Councilmember Rose Clark; Renton Mayor Denis Law; Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis; Des Moines Mayor Bob Scheckler; Seatac City Manager Todd Cutts and Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton. - File photo
At the 2011 ribbon cutting, from left, Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest; Burien Councilmember Rose Clark; Renton Mayor Denis Law; Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis; Des Moines Mayor Bob Scheckler; Seatac City Manager Todd Cutts and Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton.
— image credit: File photo

Federal Way’s financial commitment to the SCORE jail facility is running far over projected cost estimates for the past few years.

However, the jail is still on the minds of city officials. Located in Des Moines, the jail is shared by a consortium of cities in the region, but Federal Way pays nearly 25 percent of the total load.

As Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest has alluded to in recent months, those cities tied into SCORE as “member” cities have been exploring options to market the jail to other agencies and entities throughout the region.

As the agreement between cities sits now, those who send the most prisoners to SCORE end up shouldering a higher cost than those who don’t, and Federal Way had been sending a fair amount, resulting in the unanticipated costs.

City finance director Tho Kraus gave a brief update on SCORE and what measures are being taken to alleviate the costs to the city.

In 2012, jail revenues were roughly $607,000, which has been adjusted downward a bit to $602,000, Kraus said during the March 26 Finance/Economic Development/Regional Affairs (FEDRAC) committee meeting.

“For the first two months (of 2013), we’re up at $217,000,” she said. “Our biggest contract is with the Washington State Department of Corrections, and they brought in a lot of people for the first two months.”

Kraus reported that Federal Way has lowered its count of people it sends to the facility, but that Auburn has also done the same.

Unfortunately for Federal Way, that means costs will continue to be an issue. According to statistics compiled by the city, in a year-to-date comparison of average daily population (ADP), Federal Way has reduced its number from 99 in February 2012 to 76 this year. Auburn, on the other hand had an ADP of 123 in February 2012, compared to an ADP of 52 for February 2013.

“With Auburn being down as low as they are…even though we’re reducing our population, we’re not necessarily going to be decreasing our own charges,” Kraus said.

According to Kraus, one of the agencies the city and those involved in SCORE with have been talking to is the United States Marshal Service.

“That contract is in progress,” Kraus noted.

Kraus indicated the city has a new contract with the city of Fife, which should help the situation, especially because Tacoma sends a lot of its jail inmates to Fife. Along with that, Kraus noted that Federal Way and a number of the other SCORE “member” cities are interested in having a financial consultant examine the facility’s financial model to see if it could be tweaked to reduce the cost burdens on all involved.

Federal Way Police Department Chief Brian Wilson said SCORE is an excellent facility, and as those involved to continue to work on marketing it, things should get easier.

“The services provided by SCORE are second to none,” he said, “and that is really the selling point to the agencies we’re talking to. The operational component of SCORE is very strong, and there are benefits to that, and we just need to market those services.”

FYI

Opened in 2011, the SCORE jail serves Federal Way, Auburn, Renton, Tukwila, Seatac, Burien and host city Des Moines.

In 2014, the facility will cost Federal Way about $3.75 million, with a one-time cost of $1.4 million associated with that year, according to the city. Federal Way is shouldering almost 25 percent of the total load for the facility, according to the city’s projections.

 

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