Ferndale moves ahead with county-funded jail study


FERNDALE - The City Council voted unanimously Monday, July 15, to enter into an agreement with Whatcom County to study the fiscal impact of a jail proposed to be built in the city.

Under the agreement, Ferndale will direct the study by Berk and Associates of Seattle. County Executive Jack Louws has agreed to pay up to $10,000 for the study, a figure that did not require county council approval.

"We fully expect that this study will be done for less than that," said Jori Burnett, Ferndale's community development director.

The financial study, to be completed by mid-August, will estimate the revenues to be gained and lost by the city if a jail is built on a 40-acre industrial property at the corner of LaBounty Drive and Sunset Avenue.

The city will lose property tax revenue after the county buys the land, but Ferndale could come out ahead with sales tax, city Administrator Greg Young said.

"On an ongoing basis, jails buy a lot of stuff - a lot of stuff they pay sales tax on," Young said.

Louws said he agreed to pay for the study because the county would be required to provide the study after applying for a building permit. If the study shows that the jail would place a "disproportionate financial burden" on the city, the county must agree to compensate the city in some way or the permit will be rejected, according to city code.

The financial study will be released with a study of the jail's impact on the environment, to come out in September.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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