Commissioners consider new slate of jail options
Site near airport tops list of 10 choices in preliminary study
Spokane County officials are reconsidering their 2010 choice to build a new jail at the Medical Lake interchange off Interstate 90.
The selection of the Medical Lake site from among 10 sites studied that year ran into controversy over converting rural land to urban use.
That selection was made before a change of leadership at Spokane International Airport led to a 2011 offer to locate a new jail facility on airport land along Geiger Boulevard.
County commissioners have decided not to pass up the airport offer, but under state law they need to undertake a full new site selection process that examines at least 10 sites.
On Tuesday, commissioners were told that in a preliminary study the airport site ranks at the top of the current group of 10.
A public workshop on those sites will be held at 5:30 p.m. today in the commissioners hearing room on the lower level of the Public Works Building, 1026 W. Broadway Ave.
Commissioners hope to select a site as early as Dec. 4.
Commissioner Mark Richard said that despite the airport offer for land along Geiger Boulevard, “there is no presumption here” about which site will eventually be chosen.
The airport site is located just north of the Waste-to-Energy Plant on the east side of the airport property at 2900 S. Geiger Blvd.
Three other sites ranked highly in the preliminary study.
They are a privately owned site on Electric Avenue at Soda Road to the south of the airport; a privately owned gravel pit at the northeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Russell Road in Airway Heights; and a county-owned site east of Tschirley Road and north of Euclid Road in Spokane Valley.
Consultants said that they hope to finish a qualitative analysis by early October, which opens a 30-day public comment period.
The next step will lead to a weighted analysis and a 14-day comment period.
The study may be ready for a public hearing before commissioners in early December, followed by a vote.
Last December, Airport Director Larry Krauter said he was concerned when he took over in April 2011 that previous airport management had asked the county to remove Geiger Corrections Center from airport land.
At the time, he said he “felt an obligation to find the county an alternative on airport property.” He said the airport would do that for any other tenant.
The county pays nearly $500,000 a year in rent for the Geiger facility, which holds inmates serving time or pursuing rehabilitation programs. Krauter said he agreed that a jail facility should be in a different place and that the existing Geiger site would be more suitable for air cargo businesses.
The Medical Lake interchange site was not brought into the current process because it was thoroughly studied in 2010, officials said, and it remains an option for the county.
Residents living near the Medical Lake interchange site criticized the necessary rezoning to use the site for a jail, and their complaints were echoed by growth-management activists, jail opponents and Medical Lake city officials.
Commissioners said Tuesday that elected officials on the West Plains prefer that the Medical Lake interchange site not be used.
The other six sites under consideration are at McFarlane and Craig roads; near Grove Road and Fifth Avenue; near U.S. Highway 2 and Campus Drive; the southwest corner of Lawson Road and 21st Avenue; east of Flora Road and north of the Spokane River; and east of the North Spokane Corridor along Wilson Street in Mead.