At long last, offenders kept behind bars in the cramped Thurston County jail are headed to a more modern lockup. Sometime by month’s end, county authorities plan to move incarcerated men and women to the Accountability and Restitution Center that has sat vacant since it was constructed in 2010.
By opening the new facility by the end of August, county Sheriff John Snaza is keeping a promise made in January — when he and county commissioners agreed on budget provisions to open the jail — that the opening would occur by the end of summer.
Taxpayer costs to keep the building ready to go have exceeded $1.6 million since 2011. The Great Recession wiped out revenues the county had once banked on to open the facility on time.
The opening means that Thurston County residents will finally start receiving a tangible return on their $48 million investment.
Never miss a local story.
Known as the ARC, the jail has 395 inmate beds and 96 more for work release. The old jail at the County Courthouse site will be used as a daytime holding area for inmates making court appearances.
The new facility comes on line at a time there also is talk of moving the Thurston County Courthouse to a new site, off the hillside location where it’s been since the 1970s. Some judges have proposed putting it in downtown Olympia.
Budget considerations may make the courthouse move impractical, but commissioners are expecting a report with details next month. That report initially was due in August.
The county’s crowded and worn jail is already adding to county expenses. Commissioners agreed in 2013 to boost Snaza’s corrections budget by $600,000 and add about 15 officers for improved jail staffing.
In the January agreement they authorized another roughly $400,000 outlay bringing full staffing corrections staffing to a little over 115 positions.
As we said six months ago, credit goes to Commissioners Cathy Wolfe, Sandra Romero and Bud Blake, and Snaza, for finding ways to trust each other. Now another test: making their agreements work.
Help shape our opinions
We are recruiting for a community member to serve on The Olympian’s editorial board and to help shape our published opinions.
This is a volunteer position that requires availability for weekly editorial board meetings on Wednesday mornings — more often during election cycles. Editorial guests include individuals and groups making the news from local residents and candidates to the governor and members of Congress.
Ours is one of the few newspapers in Washington that includes community members on the editorial board. We started the practice more than 20 years ago to broaden the scope and depth of editorial decisions.
Community members are asked to bring their distinctive, fresh perspective to our deliberations on daily editorial topics. Permanent members of the board are Brad Shannon, editorial page editor, and Dusti Demarest, executive editor. Jill Severn is continuing as a community board member; Larry Jefferson’s term is ending.
The tradition of community input to our editorials has benefited the newspaper and South Sound region.
The open term begins in September and runs through June 2016. We are accepting applications through 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21.
Send us a self-nomination letter that includes information about your educational background, work experience, civic engagement and, because we value diversity, your ethnicity. Tell us why you want to serve on the editorial board and what life experiences you will bring to our discussions.
Send your application to Editorial Board, The Olympian, 111 Bethel St. NE, Olympia, WA 98506, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.