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Community credited with staving off sex-offender facility

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NORTH BEND - Just six hours after it was announced that a site near North Bend would not be the home of a controversial state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) sex-offender halfway house, a group of members from the effort that led perhaps the biggest opposition against the facility attended a meeting announcing a Level II offender was moving into the area.

Participants in the grass-roots opposition effort, known as the Safe Kids Task Force, were not there to protest or cajole, but rather to understand. Members asked questions of the officials running the meeting, and when the meeting concluded, Terril Perrine, president of the Safe Kids Task Force, introduced himself to the sex-offender, gave him his business card and offered to assist him if he could.

The event brought full circle a turbulent five-month span for the group and the city's residents that began in April when DSHS announced that because a site in Carnation had been removed from the list of finalists, a location outside the city limits near Grouse Ridge was added.

In a four-week span leading up to the first public hearing on the North Bend site, the Safe Kids Task force was organized, city officials raced to analyze their options and hundreds of residents began researching and preparing to speak out against the halfway house.

In May, the Safe Kids Task Force, now numbering in the hundreds, along with city and regionally elected officials and numerous residents, packed Mount Si High School's auditorium for the meeting hosted by DSHS to solicit comments about the potential site.

What state officials received was not an emotional plea from the attendees, but rather a fact-based campaign that called the state agency on a number of discrepancies on the proposed North Bend site's effectiveness as a transitional facility and the state's own siting criteria.

Representative Cheryl Pflug (5th District) said after that first meeting she spoke with DSHS officials, and they expressed their surprise at the thoroughness and effectiveness of the group.

For the complete story, pick up a copy of this week's Valley Record

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