In their efforts to locate a Secure Community Transition Facility (SCTF) for violent sex offenders away from their neighborhood, King County Executive Ron Sims of Seattle and council members Julia Patterson of SeaTac and Pete von Reichbauer of Federal Way have asked specifically for consideration of a remote, wooded site east of North Bend. The threat of the local placement arose because DSHS is under court order to remove the offenders, who have served their legally required incarceration time from the McNeil Island facility, where they now live under supervision.
While the law requires locating SCTFs far away from risk potential activities, it also requires adequate response time for police to answer potential high-priority call situations. The infrastructure required to support a SCTF in unincorporated North Bend simply is not there and will be too costly for the county to provide.
The proposed facility would be located next to the state fire-training academy on Southeast Grouse Ridge Road, about 2 miles north of I-90 Exit 38 in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Exit 38 is also well known for Cedar Falls and Olallie State Park, which enable tourists and locals to visit old-growth forests, take quiet hikes and enjoy spectacular waterfalls. Nearby is also access to popular Iron Horse trail, and other hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing spots in the area.
A new middle school is being planned only one exit away. Also, many nearby residents homeschool their children. But children are not the only targets of sex offenders. Locating the facility nearby would present undue risk to children, adult residents and visitors to the area.
Level 3 offenders are known to be mentally disturbed and have a high risk to re-offend. They often have had multiple victims, have committed prior violent crimes and have been known to attack strangers. As a result, such a facility will require high staffing levels to assure intensive supervision.
In fact, inmates of an SCTF need to be far more closely monitored than any other sex offenders. Staff will not be armed and instead will rely on cell phones, police radio phones and electronic radio tags to monitor the residents and to prevent a break from the facility. However, cell phone and other radio coverage in the remote area is spotty.
During ideal conditions, it takes more than 15 minutes to drive to the site from most places in North Bend. Police response times are already inadequate for many residents in North Bend. The windy, one-lane road that leads to the site is often covered with snow or shrouded in thick fog. The rugged terrain would make a potential manhunt difficult to undertake with the small handful of officers that patrol east King County. King County currently cannot reliably provide the required 8-minute response time to the site for a high priority call, nor could they be expected to round-up an escapee that can easily disappear into the Cascades from there.
To locate such a facility here in the North Bend area would require the King County Sheriff’s substation to be relocated closer to the proposed facility. Also, additional patrols would be required to provide the required response time 24-7. Furthermore, the road to the proposed site would have to be widened to two lanes and possibly straightened to bring it up to travel standards to support the additional traffic the site will generate.
Inmates of the SCTF will be allowed to leave the facility only with an escort to seek mental health treatment or nearby employment. There are no mental health facilities nearby and only a few jobs even for teenagers or college students. Most residents commute to locations as far as Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland or Redmond to find work. It takes 1 1/2 hours and one bus transfer on a bus from the factory outlet mall, which is the closest bus stop to the proposed facility to get to Bellevue. The outlet mall is nine miles away from the proposed facility. Public transportation to the site is nonexistent.
Although the area has a few minimum-wage jobs to offer, most of the jobs involve hospitality and tourism, such as those at the nearby factory outlet mall, the ski area and parks. These jobs are much too risky to offer to sex predators. The nearby Nintendo facility is a nearly completely automated warehouse and has no jobs. Nearby timber jobs have evaporated and construction is at a standstill. North Bend is actively seeking new sources of employment and does not need SCTF inmates to take away the few job openings that may exist. Inmates would have to commute to town to seek employment.
Utilities such as power, water, gas, telephone, cellular/PCS telephone, waste water/sewer, cable TV, etc. would need to be brought in over a distance of four or five miles to support the proposed project. An area of approximately 50 acres would have to be clear-cut in order to have proper visual control over the inmates. This, in itself, may be an environmental disaster in the making.
Direct express bus service to Bellevue and Seattle would need to be provided so that the inmates can have adequate public transportation to jobs and their mental health facilities. This needed infrastructure would surely cost in the tens of millions of dollars.
In conclusion, King County and the city of North Bend currently do not have the needed police response time, employment opportunities, mental health resources, road infrastructure, or the funds to locate an SCTF east of North Bend in the unincorporated area. King County should find a spot they already own near jobs and mental health facilities, where the police response time is adequate and employment opportunities, mental health resources and all other required infrastructure already exist.
The property adjacent to the bus wash lot or the King County Jail to site the SCTF would meet these requirements for far less money. Another option that should be considered is the now vacant Cedar Hills Addiction Treatment Facility.
For the complete list of letters, pick up a copy of this week’s Valley Record