November 23, 2018 Dena Jensen
Here’s a heads-up that at the November 20, 2018 Whatcom County Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee meeting there was a brief update on the state of the Whatcom County Jail renovations during the semi-annual report from Whatcom County Facilities Management Project & Operations Manager Rob Ney. Here is the link to the audio; Mr. Ney starts speaking about the jail at 26:30: https://www.dropbox.com/s/9q3a1p526pfpwvg/Finance%20Nov%2020%202018.mp3?dl=0
This information was very concerning to me because we have been told over and over by people, some of whom are our elected officials, how inhumane many aspects of our current jail facility are. And while I do understand and agree that reducing crowding at the jail is the top way to make our jail a safer and more healthy place for workers and those who are imprisoned there, I wonder if we can realistically be accepting of the current pace of long-overdue renovations?
Question: Have the renovations begun which are needed to address the life safety issues at the jail, some of which have been in existence since the jail was built over 30 years ago, that have been admittedly been held off on by our current County executive during his term of service, “in the anticipation of possibly getting a new jail,” and which were formally recommended to the County Council in the fall of last year?
The answer is NO.
According to Mr. Ney, there will be only one item taken on in the first jail repair project out of the numerous ones recommended by the design2 LAST architecture firm for the first phase of renovations to the jail. He explained this is due to the fact that the first project will be used as a pilot to work out how those incarcerated at the jail will be moved to allow them to be secured while the jail is being renovated.
This first project will concentrate solely on repairing the door locks at the facility. This portion of the repairs will not even be put up for bid until next year, likely in February and/or March and if I understand correctly the bid period will be left open for a couple months to ensure that whatever firm is selected (Mr. Ney did not think there would be a local firm who would be able to do this work) will have proper expertise in this specialized kind of work.
According to what I understood Mr. Ney to say, all the other issues affecting the life safety issues of those incarcerated at the Whatcom County Jail will not begin to be addressed until 2020 when a whole year more will have gone by.