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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Workshop set on Spokane County jail expansion

Courthouse, Airway Heights gravel pit are top picks

Potential sites for a new Spokane County jail will be discussed at an informal meeting Jan. 28.

The public workshop will focus on the second of two studies of 10 potential sites.

Together, a “functional” analysis completed in November and a preliminary “qualitative” analysis, released Dec. 30, show two sites at Airway Heights, one at Medical Lake and the county courthouse campus are the best possibilities.

The courthouse campus was ranked No. 1 in the first study while the second study favored a privately owned gravel pit at Airway Heights and made the courthouse campus third choice.

Sites near Spokane International Airport and Medical Lake filled the No. 2 slots.

However, neither of the rankings considered the cost of building and operating the proposed jail.

Another study shows a tower on the courthouse campus would cost more to build but would be cheaper to operate than a remote complex of one-story buildings.

Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Sparber, the project manager, said the “functional” analysis considers the basic suitability of the properties while the “qualitative” analysis looks at social issues, such as the surrounding population density.

The two studies, prepared by Integrus Architecture and Jim Kolva Associates, are to be merged after possible revisions based on public comments.

The resulting “weighted” analysis, to be issued Feb. 3, will give county commissioners detailed information on the top three sites. However, commissioners will be free to choose any of the sites as a possible bond measure. Sparber said the project timeline calls for a public hearing March 9 on the final report. After reviewing construction and operating costs, commissioners tentatively are to make their selection on March 23.

If commissioners agree, a bond measure could be presented in the Aug. 17 primary election, Sparber said.

Current estimates say a six-story tower behind the existing jail would cost almost $265.7 million while a one-story modular complex would cost $229 million.

Doubling the 462-bed capacity in 2035 would cost an estimated $146.7 million for another six-story tower on the courthouse campus, or $106.9 million for more modules at a “horizontal” complex.

Officials say another tower would require a new bond measure, but the county might be able to add one-story modules as needed with regular taxes.

A tower would cost an estimated $2 million a year to operate, while a remote complex would cost $3.2 million, assuming the jail employees work eight-hour shifts. The 80-acre Airway Heights gravel pit site is at the northeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Russell Road. It is surrounded by the Spokane County Raceway Park, a county off-road vehicle park, a state prison and a proposed county playground.

Sparber said the adjacent county property lacks enough free space to accommodate the jail without buying the CPM Development Corp. gravel pit.

The reports are available on the sheriff’s Web site,, under the “Jail Expansion Project” link.

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