Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is expected to give his recommendation of the various sites at a county commission meeting on April 15. As the county's consultant, Integrus Architecture will also make recommendations. A final decision should be made within two weeks after the upcoming meeting, according to Lt. Mike Sparber, project manager for the sheriff's detention facilities project. Once a site has been selected, the county can develop a master plan -- and yes, a price tag -- for the new facility. Spokane County taxpayers will be asked to approve a bond measure for the new jail in November.
"We're also going to be taking care of technology that we don't currently have because we're so far behind the times," Sparber says, referring to video arraignment and video visitation equipment intended to reduce transportation and staffing costs.
Based on a study presented in February, the county expects to need more than 2,000 beds by 2035. The existing county jail, built to house 470, has been retrofitted to accommodate up to 670, and up to 500 additional inmates are held at the Geiger Corrections Center in Airway Heights. Geiger's lease will expire in 2013, and the Sheriff's Office wants to see the population in the existing jail reduced back to 470 so it can return to the direct-supervision model it was designed for. The new facility, therefore, must house approximately 1,700 inmates.
The county campus site encompasses two acres that the county already owns. If selected, it would reduce the cost of transporting inmates back and forth to court hearings, but it would also require a high-rise design similar to the existing jail, which could be more expensive than a horizontal design. The 45-acre Spokane Valley site is a gravel repository owned by the county. The 44-acre Medical Lake site is privately owned and worth approximately $200,000.
According to Bob Estlund of Integrus Architecture, there are still too many unknown variables to compare construction and operational costs among the three sites.
Over the life of any new jail, however, operational costs will dwarf construction costs. "You build a building, you pay it off, and you're done with it," Sparber says. "But ultimately, at the end, it's really the staffing costs.
"We do know that we'll have a lot of the staff coming to us from Geiger," Sparber says. "We're trying to figure out how many of the new posts they're going to staff." He'll work with Integrus to report more fully on operational costs once a master plan is in place, he says.
In the event that an off-campus site is chosen, booking and classification functions would remain downtown, along with inmates held for arraignment. Transportation costs would be comparable to what the county is paying now to shuttle people back and forth from Geiger, Sparber says.