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Federal Way will share cost of regional jail in South King County

A regional jail, in the works for more than a year, is finally becoming a reality.

A location has been selected and city staff is prepared to request $910,000 at the Feb. 3 city council meeting to cover the Federal Way's portion of design and permit work for the jail — known as the South Correctional Entity or SCORE.

Des Moines, Burien, SeaTac, Auburn, Tukwila and Renton are all signed on to the 668-bed project and will pay a share of all costs.

Federal Way currently houses approximately 65 misdemeanant prisoners in King County, Yakima County, Fife and Enumclaw. The smaller jails are used for temporary holding and immediate bookings. Yakima County does not accept prisoners with medical, mental or behavioral problems.

King County is quickly running out of room for prisoners, and any available space will be going for a higher price.

Contracts with Yakima County and King County jails are up for expiration in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Solutions for housing prisoners must be in place before the contracts expire. A regional jail will provide guaranteed space at a controlled cost.

"It's one of those essential functions of government to protect citizens from folks who have committed crime," City Manager Neal Beets said.

Design costs

Design development and permitting, estimated to cost $5.2 million, will begin once funding has been awarded.

Federal Way's chunk of the costs, if approved by the city council, will be taken from the General Fund and a $1.6 million stash that was saved, due to low construction bids, in the Southwest 356th Street improvement project, spokeswoman Linda Farmer said.

Originally, SCORE participants each planned on appropriating money from the sale of land — owned by all King County cities as a whole and originally purchased two decades ago as a future regional jail site — to design costs, Beets said. The land is no longer fit for a jail and its sale price has increased over the years. Seattle Children's Hospital now wishes to purchase the property, but is waiting to make a move until the state issues it a certificate of need, Beets said. When the land sells, Federal Way expects to receive $590,000, according to a Jan. 21 memorandum prepared by assistant city manager Bryant Enge. This will offset some of the costs taken from the General Fund.

Staff expects SCORE will open for bidding by August and be ready for inmates by the end of 2010. The cities expect competitive bidding due to the economic environment. SCORE will cost the city, in 2010 dollars, approximately $16.6 million in construction costs and $3 million annually in operating costs, Federal Way police Cmdr. Stan McCall said.

Location

A Des Moines site, owned by the Port of Seattle and located beneath Seattle-Tacoma International Airport's flight path, is slated to house the regional jail. The land has been surveyed and is in the process of being appraised. There are no nearby homes and the location is central for SCORE participants, Beets said.

"It can't be developed for much else," he said. "It's a nice combination of circumstances."

Management

Management and operations of the facility will be spread among all participating cities. A board of directors, with a person representing each jurisdiction, is established. At any given time, the two cities with the largest average daily populations (ADP) housed in the jail will have weighted votes on policies, budget and expenditures, services and rates.

Upon the opening of the facility, Renton and Auburn are expected to have the largest prisoner populations and will therefore be appropriated more bed space. For this reason, the two cities are contributing more funding to construct and operate SCORE.

In any vote, at least one of the top two agencies with the highest average daily jail population must be in agreement with the majority of the board for a measure to be carried out. The top two (ADP) holders could change over time. This prevents smaller cities, such as Des Moines and SeaTac, which expect to house approximately 20 prisoners, from having an upper-hand on cities that will rely more heavily on the jail.

Federal Way Mayor Jack Dovey was hesitant to accept the management proposal at the Dec. 2, 2008, city council meeting. Dovey felt the setup could put a substantial amount of control of the jail in the hands of two of the seven SCORE jurisdictions.

"I have some reservations," Dovey said at the meeting. "Although it seems fair, we are putting ourselves in a position we may regret in seven or ten years down the line."

Council member Dini Duclos said the agreement is fair, given those cities are contributing larger up-front costs for the jail and have more to lose if things do not go as planned.

"I can understand their positions a bit since they are putting in the bulk of funding for this," Duclos said at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Following the Feb. 3 meeting, the city council will not likely receive an update on the jail until the Bellevue land has been sold or bonds are ready to be issued, Beets said.

Check it out

The cities plan to launch a public education piece on the jail beginning in February. Learn more about SCORE in the near future by visiting www.SCOREjail.org.

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