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Originally published Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 8:06 PM

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New jail best option for Skagit County, council determines

Members of the Skagit County Jail Coordinating Council have voted not to house inmates outside of the county, an option to relieve jail crowding that had been supported by some on the council.

Skagit Valley Herald

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"Alf Christianson Seed property across from the jail on Kincaid Street" If... MORE

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MOUNT VERNON — The county will build a new jail to replace the current overcrowded facility if voters agree to increase taxes to pay for it.

Members of the Skagit County Jail Coordinating Council, a group comprised of mayors, judges and county commissioners, voted Friday not to house inmates outside of the county, an option to relieve jail crowding that had been supported by some on the council.

Only Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton did not vote in favor of the decision.

Last week, judges and court commissioners sent a letter to city councils across the valley urging them to eliminate inmate outsourcing as a long-term option.

Judges have said in the past that sending inmates outside of the county or even to Eastern Washington can delay court hearings and reduce their access to public defenders.

Short-term outsourcing would be necessary while a jail is being constructed, the letter states.

“However, long term outsourcing would not be cost effective, manageable or compatible with our system of justice in Skagit County and its cities,” it reads.

Plans now call for using a voter-approved sales tax to pay for the estimated $60 million jail, but the Jail Council has to decide the exact financing details.

The plan is to ask voters for a three-tenths of 1 percent sales-tax increase on the August ballot.

The county would need to keep all of the money from that tax increase to pay for a new jail, which means cities that already have passed or are considering a local one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax would need to relinquish that money.

Three sites are being considered: Gunn Road, the Truck City site on Old Highway 99 and the Alf Christianson Seed property across from the jail on Kincaid Street.

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