Anacortes signs off on four-city plan to build new Skagit Co. jail

SKAGIT VALLEY HERALDJuly 16, 2013 

ANACORTES — The Anacortes City Council approved the Skagit County jail agreement Monday night, signing off on a plan for how the proposed new jail would be financed by the county and its four largest cities.

Council members voted 6-0 for the agreement, while Councilman Ryan Walters recused himself for being a county employee.

Councilman Bill Turner was part of the Anacortes delegation on the agreement. He said that part of the reason he supported the agreement for a new jail was to create space for mental health programs and treatment.

"We found we were incapable of addressing mental health issues in the current jail," Turner said.

Councilwoman Cyn thia Richardson said while she generally opposes tax increases, she said $3 out of $1,000 spent here was well worth the benefits paid in increased public safety.

Sedro-Woolley approved the agreement Wednesday and Burlington approved it Thursday. The Mount Vernon City Council could approve the agreement Wednesday.

Officials have said the current jail in downtown Mount Vernon has been overcrowded for years. Built in 1984 for 83 inmates, the jail was retrofitted to house 160 inmates in the 1990s. Recently, however, more than 200 inmates have been incarcerated there at a time.

Contrary to a provisional agreement passed by cities two months ago, this agreement does not give individual cities a percentage of beds they can use.

With the new agreement, people accused or convicted of the most dangerous crimes would stay in jail, regardless of which city is paying for their stay.

Since Anacortes would provide a higher percentage of sales tax revenue than the city would likely use in beds, the city would receive $103,000 back the first year. This would increase or decrease each year, depending on revenues made through the sales tax, County Administrator Tim Holloran said.

County commissioners are considering two potential sites for the jail: the former location of Alf Christianson Seed Co. on south Kincaid Street and west of Interstate 5, and three adjacent parcels in south Mount Vernon, including Truck City.

A measure asking residents to approve a county-wide threetenths of 1 percent sales tax increase will be on the Aug. 6 ballot.

The proceeds of the tax will go toward building and operating the new jail. Officials say they want a 400-bed jail, which could cost $60 million.

The county currently has a sales tax rate of 8.2 percent, said Anacortes Finance Director Steve Hoglund.

A raise of three tenths of 1 percent would bring the rate to 8.5 percent, but still keeps the county rate below that of Whatcom and Snohomish counties, Hoglund said.

An informational meeting about the need for a new jail and the proposal to build one will be held 6 p.m. Tuesday in the County Commissioners Hearing Room, Skagit County Administration Building, 1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon.

Reporter Mark Stayton: 360-416-2112, mstayton@skagitpublishing. com, Twitter:@Mark—SVH, facebook. com/byMarkStayton. Visit the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.) at goskagit.com

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