Politics & Government

Closing Maple Lane is a bad idea, report says

A state consultant's final report states that closing the Maple Lane youth prison at Grand Mound is a bad idea, but if state lawmakers must eliminate juvenile beds, it's a better option than closing Green Hill at Chehalis.

Christopher Murray & Associates of Olympia produced a 183-page report for the governor’s Office of Financial Management at the Legislature’s request. Murray looked at ways to eliminate 1,580 state prison beds, 235 juvenile custody beds and 250 beds in the facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

Closing either school would be damaging for the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration system, the report states. Closing Maple Lane could not be accomplished for three years and would require construction to increase capacity at Green Hill in Chehalis, according to the report. The expected savings of $7.1 million from closing Maple Lane falls short of the $12 million that legislators envisioned.

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget office plans to look at the report for ways the state can find short-term savings from any facilities closures – or whether any savings must be delayed. Some savings depend on major new investments in construction projects, the report states.

OFM plans to take the recommendations to heart when writing a supplemental budget for 2010-11 that is due for release before Christmas.

OFM spokeswoman Kate Lykins-Brown said the final report’s conclusions about Maple Lane mirror those of a preliminary report.

“With the addition of the adjective ‘bad,’ that I think is the only major difference in the language,” she said. “The consultant with the original report was reluctant to recommend the closure.”

House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis and other 20th District lawmakers have spoken out against the closures, which could eliminate 111 full-time equivalent jobs at Maple Lane or 89 at Green Hill. DeBolt has said that a previous study found closing another facility at Naselle made more sense, but Gregoire has said that reductions in spending must be made.

Tim Welch, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said Democratic Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam could block the closure of Naselle if that is offered as an option.

The report calls for different closure scenarios in adult prisons and for the Developmental Disabilities Division, which operates Rainier School in Buckley and skilled-nursing-care facilities in Yakima.

The consultant outlines adult prison options including a preferred new third option that would require $41 million in capital-construction funds. This would put new units at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla by 2015; close the main institution there; shrink the McNeil Island prison to less than half its current size, with 512 beds, and eventually convert it to a medium-security prison; close the Ahtanum View center and transfer its ill and geriatric inmates to Monroe’s complex; and close one unit at Larch Corrections Center.

The report called for reducing the size of rehabilitation centers at Fircrest, Lakeland Village and Yakima Valley; closing the Francis Haddon Morgan Center in Bremerton by 2013; and closing Rainier School in phases by 2017.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688