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Sunday, December 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

John Higgins

Mayor supports state institutions, but not a new jail, in Medical Lake

Medical Lake Mayor John Higgins hopes to save the Pine Lodge Corrections Center, and the jobs it provides. (Dan Pelle)
Medical Lake Mayor John Higgins hopes to save the Pine Lodge Corrections Center, and the jobs it provides. (Dan Pelle)
By Johnc@Spokesman.Com, (509) 459-5429

The Medical Lake City Council unanimously approved a resolution last week opposing any new jail in the city. City officials also have threatened legal action if Spokane County or the city of Spokane attempts to use the Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women, which Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed closing. Mayor John Higgins explains the city’s position:

Q.Why do you oppose any Spokane County or city of Spokane corrections operation in Medical Lake?

A.At this point, we’re trying to save Pine Lodge. There’re 82 people that work at Pine Lodge, and probably a quarter of those people live in the city of Medical Lake. We don’t want to see what we have gone so they can move the (county) jail out here and change the whole dynamics. We could go from 300 to 1,200 (prisoners) in a matter of a year.

Q.Is it mainly new prisons or jails that you don’t want? What about Eastern State Hospital, the Westlake center for dementia patients and Lakeland Village for the developmentally disabled?

A.The institutions go back a hundred years. We’ve learned to live with them. They’ve brought a lot of jobs to our community. But a jail brings a different type of people that move into your town, and we’re just not willing to go that route.

Q.Why do you want the state to bring back Pine Lodge inmates who were transferred to Western Washington?

A.They just do a number of things in our community that are positive. (Pine Lodge women run the city recycling center, grow vegetables for the food bank and make quilts for children’s charities.) They take pride in what they do, and they do a good job.

Q.Didn’t a previous mayor promote the creation of the Martin Hall regional juvenile detention center?

A.I think Sharie Stearns was the mayor at the time, and I think she promoted it – which we would today also. … We’ve had no problems since it’s been open.

Q.How would you describe Medical Lake? What’s your vision for development of the city?

A.We’re kind of a laid-back town, kind of a bedroom community. We don’t have a lot of commercial or retail. We have lakes for skiing and fishing. We do five triathlons a year … .We have a bluegrass festival that brings people from all over. We have very little crime. … It’s just a nice place to raise your kids. Medical Lake is not against development, but we want controlled development. We don’t want to outgrow what we can afford. We would like to have a medical place come out here, a billing place or something like that, but it’s tough to attract them.

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