Possible jail sites picked by a task force of community members and law enforcement personnel will be unveiled Tuesday evening, Dec. 4, at the Whatcom County Courthouse.
A total of 11 properties will go before the public and Whatcom County Council at the 7 p.m. meeting in council chambers, 311 Grand Ave. County Executive Jack Louws also plans to announce who the county will hire as a jail planner.
After perusing proposals for the past few months, committee members have narrowed their pick for a new jail site down to three favored properties: one plot off of Northwest Avenue, another by Hannegan Road and a field west of LaBounty Drive.
Louws and Sheriff Bill Elfo plan to make a case for the latter, a 40-acre parcel owned by Sedro-Woolley businessman Rob Janicki. A spokeswoman for Janicki said he's "prepared to sell at the assessed value."
If you ask Elfo, it's a good fit.
It already has standing infrastructure. It's a few hundred feet from the freeway and it's in an industrial park, so it's not near schools, hospitals or neighborhoods.
Part of the property is on wetlands. According to Louws, there aren't many large sites in Whatcom County without wetlands, so in that regard it's as good an option as any.
Over the course of several years, the county spent $750,000 studying potential jail sites including a site off Slater Road that was sold for $5.4 million to Lummi Nation in late 2011.
Few people dispute the need for a new jail. The current building in downtown Bellingham has crumbling concrete walls and outdated security.
How big the new jail should be and where it should be built, however, have been debated by local government for years.
Elfo is pushing for a property conducive to an expandable, horizontal jail. The initial footprint, he said, would house 500 to 700 inmates.
Louws encouraged the public to attend the Tuesday meeting and be part of the selection process moving forward.
"We want this to be done methodically, involving the community," he said.
Who evaluated jail sites, the scope of the $750,000 study, wetlands concerns and the potential cost of the LaBounty property were corrected Dec. 3, 2012.