Opinion

SCTF - the fleecing of Washington State

Washington State taxpayers could be asked to fund millions of unnecessary dollars to house six level-3 sex offenders at a time when the state is in a perilous $2.4-billion budget deficit.

Gov. Gary Locke and King County Executive Ron Sims are pushing DSHS officials to site a court-ordered transitional facility (SCTF) for six level-3 sex offenders in an area near North Bend.

On Dec. 1, 2002, DSHS stated they do not consider sites in remote locations with very long average emergency response times as appropriate unless, "a fiscally prudent and feasible emergency response plan can be implemented." The site near North Bend does not meet this criteria. There is no fire or medical emergency coverage and average law-enforcement response times are well over the DSHS minimum 15 minute requirement. There is no fiscally prudent emergency response plan to correct these safety concerns in the face of a $2.4-billion state budget deficit. Of this deficit, Gary Locke has cut $131 million for public safety.

Mr. Sims has promised funds to correct all the deficiencies associated with the North Bend site, which, for six people, would include:

* New police station, police vehicles, and additional officers;

* New fire station, fire trucks and additional firemen;

* New 2.5-mile road to site;

* New helicopter;

* New cell tower(s);

* The approval and completion of a new septic system;

* The approval and completion of a well/water source;

* Any and all other environment, zoning and other problems associated with the site.

Satisfaction of all the above actions would cost tens of millions of dollars and take several years to complete. The current DSHS budget for the court-mandated, off-island SCTF is $2.3 million. That only includes the building of the original facility. It is impossible to quantify the full costs to get an accurate appropriation in the current legislative session, thus DSHS would have to wait until next session to secure funding approval. This delay will continue to cost the state of Washington millions of dollars in daily court fines, which are already over $7 million.

In a March 31, 2003, letter to DSHS, Rob McKenna of the King County Council said, "considering King County's current budget crisis, which will continue into the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that we will find large amounts of additional funding for a public safety project that will have little benefit to our constituents. This is another expense that the state should not impose on local taxpayers."

Despite this information, DSHS still chose to put North Bend on this list due to political pressure. This will only further delay the implementation of an SCTF and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in increased taxes or reduced public services. Our public officials have already shut down our community center and pool because of the current budget deficit. Who and what will they sacrifice next so that they can house six level -3 sex offenders in North Bend?

The Safe Kids Task Force

Snoqualmie Valley

For all this week's letters, pick up a copy of the Valley Record

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