October 14, 2018 Dena Jensen
Here’s a little recap of the County Executive’s Report at the 10/9/18 Whatcom County Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee meeting. It’s good to know about this because it gives us clues to questions and possible approaches the County Administration and Council Members may be thinking about regarding the Whatcom County Jail.
00:35 on the audio (Here’s the link to the meeting audio: https://www.dropbox.com/s/0zlgr19fjzqt5r1/Finance%20October%209%202018.mp3?dl=0)
Executive Louws began by talking about how two years ago the County had budgeted as if the EMS levy was not going to pass. The levy did pass, however, and according to the Executive, this enabled the County to move $7 million dollars worth of one-time money out of the general fund “to keep things into perspective and to give us the funding to take care of some of our capital facility projects.”
According to September 13, 2018 memo in the Council Members’ agenda packet, $4,589,000 from the $7M reserved in the General Fund for capital projects is now being proposed for renovations to the jail. These renovations are now known as the “Jail Improvement Project.” The Executive said these funds should allow Phase 1a and 1b of future renovations to the jail to move forward, plus it offers funds so, “that we can continue studying out our long-term alternatives for that.”
****Is this a studying of long-term alternatives to jail renovations? If so, we should definitely be keeping an eye on this process!*****
Here’s the current list of things which “the task items identified in the expanded scope of work [for the Jail Improvement Project] include but are not limited to” The memo notes that additional improvements beyond those proposed by Design 2LAST were requested by the Sheriff’s Office (which seem to be the last 7 items on the list) :
* Detention Door replacements and locking component upgrades
* Life safety improvements, most notably fire suppression coverage improvements
* Electric system upgrade including substantial lighting improvements
* Emergency lighting upgrades to eliminate a lag when emergency power is used
* Special Project Sergeant- To facilitate the jail improvement construction impacts.
* Facilities staff wages and benefits for hours dedicated to Jail Improvements
* Pre-booking privacy booth
* Private Consultation Booth
* Access Gate at the Work Center
* Work Center Custody Desk
* Work Center locker room
1:42 on the audio
Part of the $7 million dollar surplus being added to the General fund for the “last big county-wide tech project” which would be moving money into a dedicated fund for upgrading the financial system software. Executive Louws talked about completion of other software upgrade projects.
4:00 on the audio
The Executive said in the afternoon that day they would be looking at Capital Facilities. They would just be looking at estimates and not items for which the Council had actually appropriated funds. Executive Louws noted: “Once again I will say as it relates to Northwest Annex, State Street, Civic Center, the Jail, the Courthouse exterior, where and who and how we want to move people, we’re pretty undecided on that yet, and I still believe that the central piece to that discussion ends up being our long-term solutions to the jail.” From what Executive Louws said it seems likely that the County may approve a Capital Facilities Plan right after the beginning of 2019.
I haven’t listened to that afternoon Public Works and Health Committee meeting yet, but when I do I’ll provide any important details if I hear any.