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Wednesday, October 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County Jail vote delay changes PR needs

Commissioners may need to extend contract after moving bond to April ballot

Spokane County commissioners realized Tuesday they may need to extend a jail project public relations contract they haven’t yet signed.

Chairman Mark Richard called that “a little bit frustrating.” Nevertheless, Richard wanted to press ahead with the contract.

Citing last week’s surprise discovery that the city of Spokane is thinking about building its own misdemeanor jail, Richard didn’t want to wait “a minute longer” to get some professional public relations help.

Every “hiccup” like last week’s can confuse voters and cause them to vote against a county bond measure to build a replacement for the Geiger Corrections Center, Richard said.

The contract glitch results from commissioners’ decision to place a bond measure before voters next April instead of during the November general election as originally planned.

They authorized staff last week to negotiate a six-month, $62,500 contract with Gallatin Public Affairs, a regional firm that plans to use Spokane-based Tobby Hatley and Associates as a subcontractor. A mid-May start was envisoned.

But sheriff’s Lt. Mike Sparber, the jail project manager, reminded commissioners Tuesday that a six-month contract would expire about five months before the election.

Richard said he didn’t yet have an appetite for what he described as the $100,000 “full meal deal.”

He thought a public information campaign should stop well before the election, anyway. Other groups should handle bond measure advocacy after Gallatin publicizes the facts, Richard suggested.

Commissioner Todd Mielke proposed delaying the start of the Gallatin campaign so Spokane and Spokane County officials can work out their positions before any fliers are printed.

“The dialogue that we need to have with the city of Spokane is significant and may affect the outcome,” Mielke said.

Still, he took Richard’s point about the need to deal with hiccups.

With Commissioner Bonnie Mager absent, Richard and Mielke called for staff members to see what could be worked out with Gallatin.

Eric Williams, a principal in Gallatin, said in an interview that there had been no discussion of extending the contract from six to 11 months.

“I guess I’ll wait till I hear from the folks at the county, but we’re more than willing to sit down and have a discussion with them about it,” Williams said. “We’re eager to get started working with them.”

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