After a decision the Federal Way City council made last year to leave SCORE Jail, the city will refinance their jail bond and officially depart from the interlocal agreement.
Created in 2009 in an effort to save money, SCORE jail was founded by Federal Way and six other local cities: Renton, Des Moines, Auburn, Tukwila, SeaTac and Burien.
However, during budget discussions last year Mayor Jim Ferrell said he and city staff realized their jail budget had increased substantially rather than decreased like it was supposed to.
Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang said that in 2012 the city’s jail budget was $2 million, but last year the budget was nearly $6.5 million.
Councilmember Dini DuClos agreed that Federal Way should exit the regional agreement.
“[This] was going to save us money. Unfortunately it didn’t, it cost us money,” she said.
Hwang told the council during a presentation last year that exiting the regional jail agreement would save the city over $2 million. He described the city’s participation in the interlocal agreement as a “financial burden that is unsustainable.”
The council unanimously voted on Tuesday to leave the agreement, and with the passage of this motion to refinance the remainder of the loan the city owes on the jail facility, the city will no longer be members as of January 2020.
The Federal Way Police Department will still be utilizing SCORE jail until next January, said the city’s communications coordinator Tyler Hemstreet.
The city is looking at several other jail contracts to replace the SCORE contract, including Kent City Jail and jails in Yakima, Issaquah, Puyallup, King and Kittitas counties.
Hemstreet said Kent City Jail, Issaquah Jail and Puyallup Jail have minimum bed guarantees for Federal Way Police Department arrestees, and the other jails are billed on a “use-only” basis.
During an April 16 presentation about bond refinancing, Federal Way Finance Director Ade Ariwoola said refinancing the bond will allow the city to “have control over our own debt.”
Ariwoola said refinancing can’t exceed $15 million and the bond maturity will be in 2039.
Once the bond is refinanced and all of Federal Way’s arrestees are moved from SCORE, all ties will officially be broken.
Deputy Mayor Susan Honda agreed with the decision to leave SCORE, saying, “I believe this is the best thing for us.”
According to Nancy Neras, bond counsel for the city of Federal Way and attorney with Foster Pepper PLLC, this bond refinancing would actually be a credit positive for the city and SCORE because both entities would get lower interest rates on the new bonds.
When Ferrell first announced the city of Federal Way was considering leaving the interlocal agreement for financial reasons, some mayors of other cities in the agreement expressed their concerns over some perceived false information Ferrell told council members during a council meeting.
The Mayor of Tukwila, Allan Eckberg, expressed his concern over what he saw as false information pertaining to the size of the budget. Eckberg said the actual adopted budget for Federal Way was $500,000 less than what the Federal Way council was told.
A back-and-forth via email letters occured between the mayors of some of the member cities, including Tukwila, Federal Way and Auburn.
Full reportage on Federal Way leaving SCORE can be found at www.federalwaymirror.com.
The April 16 and May 7 council meetings can be watched on the city of Federal Way’s YouTube Channel.