North Notes
Spokane-North Rotary Club
Oct.30, 2023
            Nov. 6: Noon lunch at the Bark. Speaker: Molly Allen, Safety Net Inland NW.
            Nov. 13: Noon lunch at the Bark. Speaker: Spokane Fire District 10 Chief Ken Johnson on the Medical Lake fire.
            Nov. 20: Noon lunch at the Bark. Tag Day – all members pick up gift tags for Holmes’ 40 for $60 holiday program for needy students and families.
            Lenore Romney said Holmes Elementary administrators said our club’s  annual “40 for $60” holiday gifts for needy school children and families will have its “tag day” Nov. 20 and return of gifts Dec. 18.  Each member is asked to take two tags for gifts and each gift is limited to $60.
            Sheila Fritts shared a nice thank-you note from the Kids Closet program for two boxes of items donated by Carters which Lenore had picked up.   
Save the dates:
             The club’s holiday gathering will be the evening of Friday, Dec.1 at Bill Simer’s house, with details to follow.
             In lieu of the Monday, Dec 4 club luncheon, members are invited to help at 2nd Harvest during 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. that day.  Steve Boharski coordinated the dirty hands project. 
Happy Buck$:
            Bill Simer and Jerry Logan visited the Lumen School and said they were very happy to have received infant clothing donations, also from Carters
            Ron Noble was pre-Halloween happy that a grandchild was born just soon of the eerie date of Oct. 31.
Thanks from Holmes Students:
             Sandy shared a poster made by the 5th graders in science class thanking Rotary for the Mobius science kits.
Sheriff Nowels: ‘We do have a plan’
             At the Oct. 30 club luncheon, Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels offered dozens of reasons to support Measure No. 1 – building a new jail and several other item and programs.
            While some critics have said the law and justice program measure lacks details, Nowels offered a blizzard of data points about how current correction facilities are overcrowded and outdated and programs for mental health and substance use disorders are severely lacking.
             If ballot Measure 1 is approved by voters, a 0.2% sales tax over 30 years would generate an estimated $1.7 billion to build two new jails and provide local governments in the county to added revenue, which, by state law, must be spent on criminal justice, public safety and behavioral health programs.
            The funding would split, with 60 percent – about $540 million, including interest payments, for the county, and 40 percent for various municipalities, Nowels said.
            While some critics said the plan lacks details, Nowels said flatly, “We do have a plan.”
             “We have lacked money for criminal justice for a long time,” the sheriff said.
             With Measure 1, the current county jail would open and two new buildings near the old jail would be built.  One would be a five-story jail for medium and minimum offenders.  The second new building would house a variety of behavior programs, including detox programs, a drug court and community contact programs, Nowels said.
             The existing jail would house maximum-level offenders.
             The Geiger Corrections Center, a minimum-level facility built in the Korean War-era, would be demolished, the sheriff said.  Geiger, he said, can only house 100 to 150 minimum-level inmates and only males because it lacks staffing and facilities. “They could just climb the fence,” he said, adding the county intends to demolish Geiger in five years regardless of the ballot result.  Replacing that could cost $40 million, he added.
            Nowels said that the current jail is severely overcrowded.  In one recent day, the jail, designed to house 465 inmates, had 675 inmates.
            “Some days we have deputies in patrol cars holding inmates, waiting for a room in the jail to open,” he said.  “It’s not anecdotal,” Nowels said, “We have to make decisions every day about who to hold in jail or who to release.”
             Building a facility for behavioral programs comes close to home for the sheriff.
             He said his daughter has struggled with addiction.  “We must have a system that helps people.  For many, a better health program is better than incarceration, but we just lack the facilities to do the programs,” Nowels said.
            With the spread of fentanyl and cocaine and other substances, he said, “We have an epidemic of drug use.”  He said housing someone with a drug problem in jail for 30 to 90 days “could be a better place” than on the streets.  Space for that is lacking now.
            Talking about homelessness, the sheriff said “Only three people died because of freezing temperatures in Spokane last year, but 63 people died of drug overdoses.”
            If Measure 1 passes, he said, construction would take five years to complete and add 500 beds to the total.
           The sheriff said the new facilities can be built without adding much staff, because current state law limits how many inmates can be housed on one floor, while the new designs  can use fewer staff per floor.
          Nowels also detailed how local and state law enforcement ranks here are among the lowest totals in the nation.  To achieve the average national number of officers, he said Spokane County would need to add 136 deputies.
         “We need more cops,” he said.
Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink