GRAND MOUND - Local legislators vowed to fight the potential closure of Maple Lane School in Grand Mound during a public meeting Friday night at the Great Wolf Lodge.
More than 100 union supporters, Maple Lane staff members and others attended the meeting, which was hosted by the Washington Federation of State Employees.
Maple Lane, which houses more than 190 juveniles under state custody, was reluctantly recommended for closure by consultants in a report funded through the state budget.
The report focused on only Green Hill School in Chehalis and Maple Lane, excluding Naselle Youth Camp and Echo Glen. The consultant wrote that neither should be closed, but that Maple Lane was the more viable option.
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On Friday, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, told those in attendance that investments in Green Hill and Maple Lane add to the argument that they should be kept open.
He said Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, was attempting to protect Naselle Youth Camp – which was recommended for closure in the state House and Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budgets this year – by focusing on other centers.
Hargrove is the chairman of the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. Naselle is in Democrat-controlled Pacific County.
“His way was to deflect, and he deflected toward Green Hill a lot,” DeBolt said.
“The study was so misguided that it said, ‘We’re going to look at facilities to shut, but we’re only going to look at Green Hill and Maple Lane,’” he said.
State Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, is the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. He said he understands the need for cuts, but that any reductions should be based on information and rationale.
Alexander said Republicans asked Gregoire to veto the parameters of the study into Maple Lane and Green Hill.
John Lane, who works in Gregoire’s executive policy office, briefed attendees on the state’s ongoing budget struggles.
He said legislators will be briefed on Gregoire’s proposed budget next week.
Sen Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, said the debate is far from over.
“All I can tell you is that it is not a done deal yet,” Swecker said.