Letters to the Editor: February 21 - 27, 2013

Published on Wed, Feb 20, 2013
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The Editor:
Unfortunately we have people in Whatcom County who break the rules and get sent to jail. We need an adequate jail where they can serve their time, but let’s not spend more money than we have to! 
We live in a pretty good area and historically our incarceration rate is 0.2 percent. With a population of 204,000, we need about 408 beds. Add a 20 percent margin, in case things get out of control, that’s only 490 beds. That’s about the right size, not the sheriff’s suggestion for 700 beds. 
Since this is a wonderful place to live, our population will grow to 271,142 by 2035, so let’s be prepared for expansion. Doing the same math, that’s 651 beds a long time from now – not 700. Let’s spend our money wisely. 
County council should be setting policy and overseeing the budget for this project. That’s good checks and balances. Buy a big piece of property, build a jail for 500; then 20 years from now, if it looks like we might need 600 or 650 beds, add a small expansion wing at that time. 
A new wing would then benefit from the latest technology that has come available. We won’t have been wasting money on maintenance of empty buildings. Come on, county council, take charge here! 
The tax money we save can be put to good use for the next 20 years on something else that we really need, or (wouldn’t this be nice) what if we just kept it in our pockets?
Paul Orlowski
Bellingham

The Editor:
As a current Whatcom County resident I am concerned with the new jail that is proposed and in the planning stages. We definitely need a new jail, but at the correct size. 
Sheriff Elfo’s proposal is too large and a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Whatcom County Council needs to step in and oversee this process and pay attention to policy and budget discussions regarding the new jail. 
Unfortunately, county council has been distracted with re-litigating the same decisions for several years. They need to make sure the costs are contained. We need to build the right size jail with the ability to add on as needed in future. 
In 2004 we voted to add a tax to the tune of $3 million a year, to fund construction of this new jail. This money has been spent on “other” operating costs the county has incurred and not on the new jail project, for which it was earmarked. 
County council, step up and take back control of this process. The public deserves transparency and representatives operating with integrity.
Marnie Ayala
Bellingham 

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