Northwest NEWS

December 9, 2002

Business

Carnation on shortlist for sex offender facility
   
Sex offenders just can’t be locked up for life.
Once they serve their prison terms, certain offenders participate in specialized mental health treatment. The federal court has ruled that if offenders improve to a point that the community can be adequately protected, they have the constitutional right to be released to less restrictive facilities and to eventually return to society.
The problem is the state only has one secure transitional facility for sex offenders, that one on McNeil Island in Pierce County.
It needs to build more - and soon. Millions of dollars in fines could be leveled against the state if it doesn’t.
So the state’s problem becomes King County’s problem. Since King County sent the largest number of sex offenders to the state’s post-prison mental health program (58 out of 172), it was selected for the next halfway house.
And in turn, King County’s problem becomes Carnation’s problem ... or it could.
Four-point-eight acres of vacant land three miles outside Carnation is being considered for a six-bed sex predator facility. The facility will eventually be expanded to 12 beds. Officials are also considering 1.2 acres with an existing two-story house between SeaTac and Kent, and 5.4 acres of vacant land in Peasley Canyon, between Federal Way and Auburn.
The Carnation site might look attractive to DSHS decision-makers, though they say price will not be a determining factor in their final decision.
Located at 1801 344th Ave. NE, the Carnation land has a purchase price of $187,990. The Peasley Canyon property with building goes for $199,950. The land between SeaTac and Kent costs $975,000.
All three properties under consideration are in unincorporated King County. DSHS says there are no viable sites for sale in Seattle. Apparently, the real estate brokerage firm hired by DSHS to conduct its property search could only come up with a half-acre site costing $3 million - a Puget Sound tidal zone parcel in West Seattle with a steep slope that could not support a building.
Mayor of Carnation Stuart Lisk said, “I am very concerned. In our area, we are struggling from a budget aspect. Such a facility will put undue burden onto the city. Other sites have infrastructure to support a facility like this.”
Lisk said according to the 2000 Census, the Carnation area experienced a bit of a baby boom in the last decade.
“Don’t you think this (halfway house for sex predators) would be a concern for parents in our community?
“Frankly, I don’t see how (Carnation) got on the list. And after due diligence, I’m sure officials will understand we do not have the infrastructure or the support system to handle such a facility. There’s no sewer system out there, (for instance). They’d have to put in one pretty big septic tank.
“I know there is a lot of citizen activity to try to prevent this from happening,” said Lisk.
Richard Gould, interim City Manager for Carnation, said he was fielding plenty of calls about Carnation’s being on a shortlist for a sex offender house.
“They’re not very happy about it. We have a lot of children in town. There’s a Girl Scout camp not far from the site. I know citizens have started up a petition,” said Gould.
According to Gould, the town is planning an informational meeting on the topic for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at City Hall. Beverly Wilson, associate superintendent of DSHS, will be present to talk about the site selection process.
“We want the meeting to be safe and controlled,” said Gould.
The council, not the public, will be asking the questions. Citizens are encouraged to drop off questions at City Hall or e-mail them.
Gould said, “The decision-makers have three choices. Hopefully, we can have some impact on their decision. Hopefully, we can make a difference.”
Mayor of Duvall Becky Nixon said, “Listen, Carnation is a fragile little community. How can they possibly build a (sex offender) facility in a rural area that has (limited) police services and no infrastructure set up to support this type of facility? Who do they think will police this? There’s no bus service to speak of. How is staff going to get there? And it’s pretty darn close to Tolt Middle School. ... And who’s going to want to use the trail system that runs right by there?” said Nixon.
DSHS plans to hold two public hearings at each of the sites under consideration, probably one in January and one in February.
Final section will be made in spring of 2003. One more public hearing will be held to discuss the chosen site.
Construction could begin in mid-2003 with the facility ready for occupancy in early 2004.