Compiled by Bill McCallum
Nov. 5 Prisoners are transferred into the current jail in downtown Bellingham.
The state of Washington Legislature requires every county to form a Whatcom County Law and Justice Council. Jail management is one of the issues the Legislature suggestes the councils address.
Oct. 1 The county executive forms a Blue Ribbon Panel on Criminal Justice and Public Safety Needs to address criminal justice issues.
Mar. 20 The blue ribbon panel recommends a 750-bed minimum security facility be funded by a one-tenth of one percent sales tax.
Nov. 4 The County Council places a levy on the general election ballot to collect a one-tenth of one percent sales tax (10 cents for every $100) to be used for juvenile detention facilities and jails. The levy fails, receiving 41.64 percent of the vote. The council also places an advisory vote on the ballot. A one-tenth of one percent sales tax (10 cents for every $100) would be used exclusively for criminal justice purposes. It also fails, receiving 41.77 percent of the vote.
Jun. 27 The Whatcom County Law and Justice Council recommends a new jail be constructed.
Jun. 29 The County Council authorizes the purchase of six acres at 2140 Division Street from the City of Bellingham for $873,000. The site will be the site for an interim minimum security jail. The county trades property that they owned at Maritime Heritage for property adjacent to 2140 Division Street that will be used as a stormwater retention facility.
Jul. 13 The County Council approves a contract for $925,800 to HDR Engineering of Bellevue for the design and construction of a minimum-security jail in the Irongate area. At the same meeting, the council places a levy on the general election ballot to collect a jail facility sales and use tax.
Nov. 2 The one-tenth of one percent sales tax (10 cents for every $100) is promoted as a tax for new jail facilities, but not publicized was the fact the tax levy money could also be used for the existing jail. The levy passes with 61.72 percent of the vote.
Nov. 9 The County Council approves a $7,467,285 contract to build a 150-bed minimum-security jail and triage center in the Irongate area, with 14 beds for mental health-related and drug/alcohol-related needs.
Dec. 4 The County Council approves a $695,701 contract with HDR Engineering of Bellevue to select a site for the adult corrections facility and sheriff’s headquarters. Five sites will be identified and evaluated, and environmental, zoning and neighborhood data collected.
May 12 The jail selection process for an adult corrections facility and sheriff’s headquarters is narrowed to two sites and the HDR Engineering contract total is amended to $765,006.
Apr. 26 The County Council establishes the Jail Planning Task Force. The goal of the task force is to determine the size, location and funding for the new jail.
August Whatcom Watch Editor David Camp reports in an editorial that 75 percent of levy tax collected since the levy was approved in 2004 had been spent on the existing jail.
Mar. 29 The final report of the Jail Planning Task Force is delivered to the County Council. The task force recommends a 500-700 bed jail and a location positioned centrally in the county.
July The county executive and sheriff create an Executive Jail Planning Work Group. Riley Sweeney’s website The Political Junkie requests work group minutes. The public records officer informs him that no minutes were taken at any of the meetings.
Jan. 29 The County Council approves a $404,456 contract with DLR Group of Omaha, NE, to provide planning and predesign for a new jail facility. The scope of work is in three phases: the first will include review and planning; phase two is the scoping process and budget evaluation; phase three concerns a review of the the 2010 draft environmental impact statement.
Jul. 9 The DLR Group contract is amended for soil and groundwater contamination assessment at a location near Ferndale. The site is a former hazardous waste landfill.
Nov. 26 The County Council approves the expenditure of $6,093,491 to purchase approximately 40 acres located at LaBounty and Sunset roads to construct a new county jail and sheriff’s headquarters. The property is located near Ferndale.
Sep. 30 The County Council approves a $825,887 contract with the DLR Group of Omaha, NE, to provide preliminary design/engineering services for a new county jail facility. The company recommends an 844-bed facility with a price tag of $150 million.
Jun. 9 The County Council creates the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force. The task force is designed to provide a continuum of services that reduces incarceration of individuals affected with mental illness and chemical dependency, and minimizes jail utilization by pretrial defendants. The task force is still functioning as of March 2023.
Nov. 3 The County Council places a sales tax levy on the ballot: it would collect an additional one-tenth of one percent (10 cents for every $100) to be used for constructing and operating jail facilities. The levy fails, receiving 48.58 percent of the vote.
Jun. 14 The County Council establishes a Jail Stakeholder Workgroup. The purpose is to address financial agreements required for development of a new jail, including the size and associated cost of the facility; the funding mechanism; and the allocation and funding for operating expenses. The last meeting is held on 5/5/2017; the cost of a new jail is estimated at $110 million.
Jul. 12 The County Council approves a $151,883 contract with design2LAST Inc. of Edmonds for building assessment studies and cost estimates for capital improvements to the existing jail and work center. The contract is amended three times for a total of $1,223,619.
Sep. 27 The County Council approves a $146,371 contract with the Vera Institute of Justice of New York City. The contract provides technical assistance/support to develop research- and data-based recommendations to safely reduce incarceration.
Sep. 12 A $300,000 expansion fund and project-based budget is established expanding the triage center from 14 beds to 32 beds — with 16 for mental health-related needs and 16 for drug/alcohol-related needs. An agreement is signed with Yakima County to house inmates transferred from Whatcom County when space in the downtown jail is restricted.
Oct. 23 The Vera Institute of Justice report is issued.
Nov. 7 The County Council places on the general election ballot a sales tax levy to collect an additional one-tenth of one percent (10 cents for every $100) to be used for public safety and jail facilities. The levy fails, receiving 41.36 percent of the vote.
In April, May and June, the County Council conducts a listening tour. The purpose is to provide Whatcom County citizens the opportunity to share information, input and ideas for improving Whatcom County’s criminal justice system.
Apr. 23 The current project budget to improve the existing jail is $9,294,700. The money is for a building assessment and design, replacing fire alarms and control system, door and lock upgrades, fire detection and suppression upgrades, electrical and lighting system upgrades, pre-booking and consultation booths, and a position to manage construction-related interruptions.
Dec. 3 The County Council establishes a Stakeholder Advisory Committee for public health, safety and justice (jail) facility. The committee of 23 voting members will solicit and collect community input during a needs assessment process.
Feb. 11 The County Council votes to increase the number of Stakeholder Advisory Committee members from 23 to 36. The first meeting is scheduled for March 16; it was cancelled and meetings postponed due to Covid-19.
Apr. 7 The jail-use agreement language with Yakima County is removed and the Kittitas County (Ellensburg) jail added as a replacement.
Jul. 27 Additional property was purchased in the Irongate area for $950,000, adjacent to the work center. It will be used to expand the crisis triage facility to 32 beds — with 16 for mental health-related needs and 16 for drug/alcohol-related needs. The total amended budget is $13,400,000.
Jan. 20 The Stakeholder Advisory Committee holds remote meetings until May 17; from June 8 to the present, they hold hybrid meetings.
Apr. 26 The number of members of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee are increased from 36 to 38.
Feb. 13 The Bellingham City Council votes to support the broad principles and recommendations developed by the stakeholder committee, which encompass both resources for a new jail and investments in services to reduce unnecessary incarceration and recidivism.
Feb. 23 The Whatcom County Council votes to accept the justice project needs assessment report from the Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The vote confirms the next step in the implementation plan.
Dates from 1984 to 2000 are sourced from The Bellingham Herald. Dates after 2000 are sourced from Whatcom Watch — nearly all are from council votes.