Clarkston City, in partnership with Asotin City and Asotin County, has sought a solution to build a new county prison.
Under the guidance of former County Commissioner Jim Jeffords and the Jail Advisory Committee (our Police Chief Joel Hastings is a member), we have made good progress towards a solution by setting up a new fund for a public safety sales tax on November 2019 ballot .
The committee was instrumental in researching and formulating a plan to obtain funding for the construction of a new prison.
Local proposal No. 1 was approved by voters with a majority of 67.79 percent. In addition, in July 2019, Asotin City, Clarkston City, and Asotin County signed an agreement on the use of on-site prisons. This document provides for financial concessions from the three parties to fund the new prison with their 0.3 percent of 1 percent sales tax, access to the new prison, and the ability to review finances and plan expansions should the new prison reach capacity .
Most of the sales tax money is generated in the town of Clarkston. In 2020, the city council members and I attended the council-led town hall meetings to learn about the feasibility of building a much-needed new prison.
As a city, we were aware of the condition of the current prison, which has stood next to our city police station for almost 40 years. After attending all City Hall prison meetings in person, it was clear, as presented by the District Commissioners, that Sixth Street / Evans Road was the most logical location as this property was owned by the District.
It was accepted that the savings from not buying property could more easily be used in building the prison itself.
The 14th Street location was only casually discussed. As recently as September 29, Florida architects were speaking at the town hall’s district commissioners’ meeting about two likely locations for the new Asotin County Jail – the first near Sixth Avenue and Evans Road and the other in Turning Pointe.
Not quite three weeks later, on October 19, at around 2 p.m., Commissioner Brian Shinn called me and told me that the county commissioners were voting that night to see if they would approve the property on 14th Street and Port Drive Should buy prison.
When I asked where the money for the property was coming from, the answer was vague. I raised concerns that the sales tax money might not be used.
My next response to him was, “Brian, you are permanently taking more than 6 acres off our Clarkston City tax records. You have just complained bitterly that the Nez Perce Tribe may have removed the Red Wolf Golf Course from the county’s tax authorities, and you do the same to us. Clarkston is 2 square miles and we get almost half of our income from sales tax rather than property tax. “
His answer was: “This is different.”
The county covers 636 square miles. Clarkston is 2 square miles.
Still, Clarkston has most of the tax-exempt properties within its city limits: schools, churches, government facilities, and a large hospital complex.
According to the vacant land purchase and sale agreement signed October 19 by Commissioner Chris Seubert, the money was $ 14,000 and the property on 14th Street and Port costs $ 1.4 million for 6.4 Tomorrow. Even with a possible future expansion, the new prison only needs 4 hectares.
This adds up to a total cost of approximately $ 2 million including site work of $ 602,880.
That’s $ 341,276 more than Option 1B of the location near the landfill.
For some reason the cost of land for 14th and port doesn’t appear on the county’s website; just the cost of the construction work, which might lead some residents to believe that this is the most cost-effective option.
Why do the district officials keep saying that 14th Street and Port is the cheapest option? Why buy more space than you need?
Has transparency suddenly become voluntary because of the district commissioner?
Are the district officers good administrators of public funds?
The district commissioner’s statement was that the 2.4 hectares would be resold.
The City of Clarkston believes that the Washington State Constitution does not allow communities to purchase property for public use and then resell any portion of that land.
There are already legal proceedings that have spoken about it.
We had an agreement between our three entities that each of us would have a voice in making decisions about the new prison. The Clarkston City Comprehensive Plan, as well as the County Comprehensive Plan, states that regional planning should be used to fairly distribute public facilities such as county prisons and other facilities and, through an equitable distribution of facilities, distribute benefits / burdens across the county.
So this is not a decision by the Clarkston City Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council based on malice to the county.
It’s about obeying the letter of the law, be it the Washington State Constitution, the Revised Code of Washington, or the ordinances on urban development.