Tired of feeling ignored, the Medical Lake City Council tonight will consider opposing any new corrections operation in the city.
“Everybody has a say about whether a jail goes into our community except us,” City Administrator Doug Ross said.
State officials are talking with Spokane County and the city of Spokane about possible joint use of the Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women. But Ross said Medical Lake officials heard nothing from the state even after threatening legal action Friday.
“With all of the noise we’ve been making, the mayor has heard from one county commissioner, and that’s it,” Ross said. “You’d think the state would at least make a courtesy call, but nothing.”
He said city officials were irritated to read in Saturday’s Spokesman-Review that a spokeswoman for Gov. Chris Gregoire said state officials conferred with Medical Lake officials throughout the process that led to Pine Lodge being placed on a list of facilities recommended for closure.
“It’s a complete fantasy to say that they have been in contact with us,” Ross said. “That’s wrong.”
The governor’s office responded Monday that John Lane, the governor’s policy adviser for corrections, talked with Mayor John Higgins on Jan. 7.
Also, Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren said, the governor’s chief of staff left a message for Higgins but got no response.
Ross said Medical Lake wants to keep Pine Lodge as it is but will shed no tears if it closes.
“If one facility closes, then there’s just one less here inside the city limits,” he said. “We’ve got five as it stands.”
The other four are Eastern State Hospital and its Westlake center for dementia patients, the regional Martin Hall juvenile detention center, and the Lakeland Village center for patients with developmental disabilities.
As a result, Ross said, one-fourth of Medical Lake’s population lives in state institutions.
“That’s enough,” he said. “It’s time somebody else takes on these difficult-to-site essential public facilities. … I don’t believe there are any of these things in Liberty Lake, are there?”
Only 21 Pine Lodge employees live in Medical Lake, and Spokane County probably wouldn’t hire them if it takes over Pine Lodge, Ross said.
Anyway, he said, “We’ll learn to live without all those wonderful, wonderful advantages that jails bring to your community.”
If the state wants to replace Pine Lodge with “something that everyone else wants, we’ll take it,” Ross said. “But that’s never the case here.”
He said Pine Lodge “was shoved down our throats and we learned to live with it.” The fact that Pine Lodge houses only women makes it more palatable.
“Families tend to follow the males and sometimes that can bring other, secondary problems to your community,” Ross said. “That doesn’t tend to happen with the females.”
He said a now-closed pre-release center at the Pine Lodge site gave the city experience with male prisoners.
It’s easy for other jurisdictions to put their undesirable institutions in Medical Lake, Ross said, because “we don’t have a large enough population base to make life miserable for elected officials.”
Nevertheless, he said, “We’re going to put up every roadblock to the county or the city of Spokane locating a facility out here.”