Bellingham City Council has requested that the Whatcom County Council address several concerns regarding the county's plan to build a new jail before the City of Bellingham will sign a facility use agreement.
In a letter to County Council on June 20, Bellingham City Council expressed concerns over five main issues: the location of the new jail away from the County Courthouse, the proposed size, the financial commitments to alternatives to incarceration, location of a booking and holding facility, and local housing of pre-trial inmates.
“The City Council is looking at the big picture, not just the jail,” City Council President Michael Lilliquist said. “We’re looking for a solid plan or at least genuine commitments to reduce incarceration. Programs that treat the root causes for arrest and incarceration need to be factored into any jail plans, to avoid building the wrong jail for our community.”
Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville has signed on to the funding mechanism negotiated with the county and small cities. She also supports the City Council in their attempt to strengthen their commitments to reduced incarceration and recidivism, however, and hopes to have a swift resolution to their concerns.
“While I negotiated with the county executive on a jail use agreement that moved the conversation into the direction council wanted to go, I understand their concerns for further information,” Mayor Linville said. “A negotiation like this involves a lot of compromise, and I believe the council's questions are legitimate. If the county is open to making changes to the agreement, I believe the Bellingham City Council would be open to working with them to make sure the needs of both the City and the County are met.”
The county has until Aug. 1 to put a jail sales tax measure on the November general election ballot, and the Mayor expressed the desire to have a decision by City Council in time to meet the County's deadline, even if it means special meetings. City Council President Lilliquist will be presenting the letter to the County Council during their meeting on Tuesday June 27.