January 30, 2010 in City

Medical Lake leaders object

Officials ‘insulted’ by Pine Lodge jail proposals
John Craig And Jim Camden Staff writers

On the Web: Find previous coverage at spokesman.com/tags/ pine-lodge-corrections-center.

Medical Lake city officials said Friday they want the Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women and no other prison.

If state officials close Pine Lodge as suggested by Gov. Chris Gregoire, Medical Lake will “take every action available, including legal, to prevent any other corrections facility from occupying that building,” city officials said in a press release.

The statement, prepared by Mayor John Higgins and City Administrator Doug Ross, said city officials were “insulted and outraged by the state of Washington’s lack of communication on the proposed closing of this facility.”

Neither Higgins nor Ross could be reached for comment.

Their press release complains that Medical Lake was blindsided when both Spokane County and the city of Spokane expressed interest this week in using Pine Lodge for their own programs.

“The city of Medical Lake has not been contacted by any officials from the state of Washington, the city of Spokane nor Spokane County to discuss this matter,” the press release states.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Chris Gregoire said the Corrections Department had discussions with Medical Lake city officials throughout the process that led to Pine Lodge being placed on a list of facilities recommended for closure.

After it was placed on the list, state officials were approached by Spokane County and Spokane city officials, Karina Shagren said.

“The Department of Corrections was presented a proposal by the local community to keep Pine Lodge open and preserve jobs in the area,” Shagren said.

She said state corrections officials agreed to discuss the joint overture of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner.

Medical Lake’s opposition to the proposal is “an issue that needs to be taken up with local leaders in the community,” Shagren said.

Friday’s statement by Medical Lake officials says the city already has five “essential public facilities,” including four state institutions, and “will not tolerate becoming a dumping ground for yet another ‘difficult-to-site’ facility.”

Spokane County commissioners “only recently” learned that Pine Lodge might become available for local use and so far have only expressed interest in opening a dialogue, commission Chairman Mark Richard said.

Spokane city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said that’s true for city officials as well. She said they didn’t know Pine Lodge might be available until Gregoire said in her Jan. 12 State of the State address that the prison might be closed for lack of money.

On Thursday, however, state Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail announced Pine Lodge would remain open while state officials discuss the potential for joint use by Spokane and Spokane County.

Richard said he understands and respects Medical Lake officials’ desire to keep Pine Lodge as it is. He said he called Higgins on Thursday to apologize for failure to include Medical Lake in “a conversation that was moving very fast.”

Richard and Feist said Medical Lake would be included in any “substantive” negotiations.

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