A project has come to our attention in Thurston County and we are wondering if you knew about it? If you did know about it did you have an opportunity to vote on any level of this project?
We are residents and citizens of Thurston County who are concerned with a project that is currently under construction on the Yelm Highway SE and Highway 510 in Olympia, Washington. The Nisqually Tribe is in the process of building a Regional Jail facility. We believe that this project was planned and conceived by questionable means with lack of transparency and it imposes not only the risk to our community, but it also creates concern regarding these following reasons:
Our county recently completed construction of a regional jail on the West Side of Olympia, the Account Restitution Center (A.R.C.) The A.R.C. currently stands vacant due to decreased jail inmate population as well as funds to operate it due to the decline of our economy. Thurston County residents paid $45 Million to build this “state of the art” facility. In 2004, the County put a bond measure on the ballot to finance a regional jail. The measure failed. In November 2007 the County Commissioners, along with seven City Councils in Thurston County, considered a ballot measure that would raise 3/10 of 1% of local sales tax funds to pay for the criminal justice costs and then the A.R.C. was build. As Thurston County residents and taxpaying citizens we do not understand the duplicity of such a huge project. The A.R.C. is built yet our Federal monies is going to the Nisqually Tribe to build yet another Regional Jail when the first one cannot even be utilized?
Our county was never notified of the Nisqually Tribe’s intentions to build this Regional Jail Facility. Upon researching the project on the internet we discovered that Fort Lewis “hand selected” the parcel to given to the Nisqually Tribe knowing the Tribe’s intentions for building on the parcel would be. In the Environmental Assessment (EA) document dated July 1, 2010 states: Chapter 2.0 Selection of Alternatives: “The Tribe is in the process of creating a comprehensive land use plan for the Reservation and adjoining Natural Resource land. Based on the inventory of tribally owned land within and adjacent to the Reservation, no alternative sites with comparable size and access are available for the Public Safety Complex…The Tribe has also held discussions with Fort Lewis to explore the possibility of locating the proposed project on Fort Lewis property in close proximity to the existing tribal facilities, but no appropriate site was identified. “Our research again finds from the Daily Journal of the United States Government that the Nisqually Tribe subsequently acquired the parcel described above in September of 2010 from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Fort Lewis).
In July, 2010, prior to the Nisqually Tribe acquiring this parcel and prior to the land being “Sovereign” minutes from a Thurston Regional Planning Council show that our elected officials knew of the land exchange and their construction plans to build the new Regional Jail sited as a “New Public Safety Complex” Page 7 or 12 minutes of Meeting July 9, 2010: “The tribe was able to obtain land from Fort Lewis in a land exchange. It took 10 years and three acts of Congress to complete the exchange, which also included Thurston County. The exchange created 170 acres for future development. … The construction program includes an assortment of projects to include: New Public Safety Complex…The new location will be on the Ft. Lewis property….”
The grant information regarding this project shows that the parcel in question was already “reservation” land, however at the time of the grant application the Tribe did not own the parcel. How can a grant be requested and funded with future intentions and not actual information?
We have contacted our elected officials and they have provided poor response to our requests. On June 9, 2011, a citizen requested public records regarding the parcel described above, Thurston County Tax Id number: 21833000000. He requested public records of the environmental studies, traffic studies, survey of assembled property showing past ownership of the parcel. Full discloser was not made and further requests for information are necessary.
Talking with our Thurston County Sherriff Snaza regarding the Nisqually Regional Jail he stated the following: “Thurston County does not intend to contract with the Nisqually Tribe for inmate jail use.” If the Nisqually Regional Jail is built, the tribe will be obtaining revenue from local jurisdictions using their facility and this money will go to the Tribe rather than Thurston County. Sheriff Snaza also stated that his jail “follows National Standards and he questions the Tribe’s standards for qualification.” If someone escapes from a sovereign jail; “Immediately, this situation would become Thurston County’s responsibility because it would be a Felony.” Nisqually Tribe would have to go through Thurston County Sheriff’s even for the search of the inmate.” He questions if Thurston County is going to collect taxes from this facility and if it is going to benefit Thurston County. His studies show a decline in jail population so he questions what study the Tribe used to show need for filling up to 576 inmate beds and he wonders “what type of prisoners” are going to be at this facility.
Are there going to be Prisoners of War housed here, immigration inmates? Will the “low risk” status that they have described continue and is it binding? The Tribe and our elected officials poorly communicated the full intentions of this project with us and others. How can we trust that the Tribe will communicate when a crisis or high security situation happens? Sex offender release, offenders in our neighborhood who have had children victims, escapes, etc?
We are concerned about the Environmental impacts of this project and the future use of the facility:
Noise, lights, traffic (Round a-bouts are in the grant stage with WSDOT at 510 and Yelm Hwy and Reservation Rd and 510 along with an additional grant from WSDOT for a traffic controlled light for access onto I-5 from Mounts Road), and Water issues, qualifications of staff and safety issues, to name a few.
Regarding hiring what process of hiring and qualification oversight is there? Are union jobs represented and what rights of the employees are being considered? Is the Nisqually Tribe undercutting qualifications and benefits and work conditions to accommodate their lower rate for housing inmates?
Regarding Water Rights of this project:
The Nisqually Tribe is going to be drilling new wells. These new wells threaten Thurston County resident’s water levels of nearby wells and lakes as well as threaten the water quality. The environmental impact studies we have been able to find only look at Phase one of the Tribe’s intended project. We want a private independent environmental consultant who will look at this entire project.
The parcel in question is part of our Thurston County Tax Id number: 21833000000 which states the parcel is 640 Acres. The Tribe has acquired 179 acres of this parcel that we can verify, but did they receive the entire parcel and if so what are their future intended use of this property?
What we would like from your office:
Find out who was behind this project, Department of Justice, State of Washington DOC, County, private contractor who actually runs “for profit” jails, the Nisqually Tribe, Who?
Can we stop the Dept. of Agricultures money and the DOJ’s money grants until we figure out the idle jail situation on the West side?
Look into the prior knowledge of our Federal Government, State Agencies and elected officials regarding this project?
We want an independent environmental consultant to look at this entire project to assess noise, water, lights and other environmental concerns.
We would like in writing that the “low risk” status of offenders is binding not just now, but also in the future. Knowledge of what level inmates are going to be housed at this facility, local jurisdictions, Fort Lewis Prisoners, Prisoners of War, Immigrations, Federal, Sex Offenders? We are neighbors and citizens of Thurston County are concerned of a Sovereign jail due to the implications of such a facility.
Mitigations or a dispute resolution process for citizens of Thurston County to discuss with the county regarding the situation.
Thank you for your time regarding these points.
Stop Nisqually Jail Committee