FIRST REPORT, 9:13 AM: As mentioned last night, a “significant development in the regional jail-planning process” is promised this morning. It’s been two years since Seattle announced it needed new jail space, and started looking at sites that currently include one in West Seattle (West Marginal/Highland Park Way) as part of what’s become a regional effort. We’re at King County’s Chinook Building downtown, expecting to see a group any moment that we’re told will include County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Mike McGinn. As soon as the “development” is announced, we’ll add it here.
9:20 AM ANNOUNCEMENT: The headline on the news release reads, “Proposal to extend jail contract clears way for cities to consider shelving plans.” Jail contract may be extended thru 2020, Constantine announces. Mayor Mike McGinn says that means an end to the jail-siting process. “This is good news, Seattle,” the mayor said, after Executive Constantine announced the proposal to extend the agreement. “Today as a region we will work together to do this.” Shoreline’s mayor has also spoken; that city was under consideration as a jail site. Details of the proposal, from a news release handed out here: King County is offering the cities 150 jail beds through 2020. In addition, they are proposing creation of “a regional jail planning and management group.” Negotiation of this proposed agreement will start next year. Councilmember Nick Licata says “We have pulled the plug on the jail-siting process – and I can almost hear the cheers.” (As we read further into the news release, however, it warns that if there is an indication for new capacity after 2020, the jail-planning process may have to resume as soon as 2013.)
9:34 AM: They’re taking questions now. We asked Constantine, what do you tell the people of Highland Park (and elsewhere) who went through two years of anguish – not to mention the time and money spent by the governments – was it all for naught? We have his entire answer on video and will add it later, but bottom line, he said, he wished it hadn’t played out that way, but it did, and it’s time to move on. (added 9:57 am, here’s his entire answer on video)
Regarding the possibility of needing new space in the future, he notably mentioned the possibility of adding on to the regional county jail complex in Kent. He also said that part of this regional jail process would involve figuring out who has space where so that it could be used more efficiently – including the new jail that is being built by the south end SCORE group. Constantine also said that a future process would be conducted more “rationally” – saying this one seemed to have been “sudden” (regarding the 2008 disclosure that more space was needed and planning for a new site would commence immediately).
10:35 AM UPDATE: We talked with two key behind-the-scenes people after the room cleared, and will include their perspective in a followup story – what’s next, and what’s to keep this all from revving up again in a few years? Meantime, the county has published the full news release about today’s announcement on its website – you can read it here.