City jail contract proposal delayed

Fiscally speaking, Is- land County commissioners agree that accepting inmates from the Oak Har-bor Police Department makes sense.

However, the board also agreed Wednesday there are more considerations, including “people-related decisions,” that need to be made before signing the contract.

During Wednes-day’s work session, commissioners asked representatives from the city and sheriff’s department to delay a potential agreement in response to the city’s decision to close its jail.

Included in the considerations, are the implications of Island County sending inmates to Yakima County Jail, if its Coupeville facility reaches capacity.

“In your perspective, this has been going on a really long time,” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said to the police chief Wednesday.

“In the perspective of county residents, this is pretty new.”

Oak Harbor Police Chief Kevin Dresker, Oak Harbor councilmen Joel Servatius and Bill Larsen, Sheriff Mark Brown, and jail chief Jose Briones asked commissioners to consider a five-year agreement with the police department starting on Jan. 2.

Sheriff-elect Rick Felici also attended the work session.

Dresker said he’s pressed for time because a number of his employees are in “semi-limbo status.”

Dresker also doesn’t see a reason to drag out the process because he said “the facts about moving forward are here.”

Before agreeing, commissioners said they wanted to ensure a contract with the Yakima jail goes through.

The large Central Washington facility has similar contracts with around 30 other agencies and charges less per inmate than it costs at the Island County jail per day.

Briones and Brown said the Yakima contract is still being negotiated, but Brown said “there’s no reason to believe” it won’t go through.

Commissioner Jill Johnson said she wants to see defined policies regarding which inmates would be sent to the other facility.

Under the Oak Harbor contract, it would be solely the county administration’s decision to choose which inmates are transported. Johnson said she wants to consider the impact this will have on families who would have to travel a significant distance to see their relative.

“That conversation becomes extremely difficult to have,” she said.

Commissioner Rick Hannold said that last year the board declined a request to add beds to the jail because it would increase capacity and therefore liability.

With this contract, he said, the board needs to consider the additional liability the county would accept should it agree.

“In general, I’m supportive of this, but the devil’s in the details,” he said.

Dresker and Brown said the contract is solid, and the work’s largely been completed in anticipating what the partnership should look like. Both said that a high level of trust in Briones to run the jail effectively is key to its success.

“For the future of the jail and the future of this collaboration, I think we’re just going to have to step into the water,” Brown said. “… In the end, you have to have some true faith in your administration, and there could be some failures, and we evaluate those failures as they happen.”

Felici said because he’s relatively new to the conversations, he would also feel more comfortable with more questions being answered before moving forward. However, he’s “completely on-board with the idea.”

The contract proposes that the Oak Harbor Police Department pay $400,000 per year for five years and the county reserve eight beds for the city’s misdemeanor inmates.

Briones has discussed using the revenue to implement diversion programs that would allow some offenders to do community service rather than serve time in jail.

Johnson said she also wants to see more details on what those programs might look like.

City officials seemed open to waiting to see if the Yakima contract gets finalized, but said the contract might need to go elsewhere if the process is too long.

“We would like to close our jail, and we would like to outsource,” Larsen said. He said the city wants to first partner with the county, but other agencies have shown interest if it’s not possible.

If both contracts move forward, the action will take place at a regular board of commissioners meeting, held every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Price Johnson said.

Comments will be taken at public hearings at that time and via email beforehand.

“There’s support for this,” Johnson said. “We just need to do our due diligence.”

• To contact commissioners, email to Helen Price Johnson at, Jill Johnson at and Rick Hannold at dis