East Wenatchee Grudgingly Renews With Chelan County Jail
The city of East Wenatchee is reluctantly renewing its agreement to house prisoners in the Chelan County Jail.
The city will pay Chelan County $965,000 for jail service in the next year starting in January.
East Wenatchee Finance Director Josh DeLay says the new contract will be a strain on the city budget.
"It's a 91 percent increase from our previous contract, and the jail bill now represents nearly 10 percent of our overall general fund budget," said Delay.
The city has no alternative site to take people arrested by East Wenatchee Police since there is no jail in Douglas County.
DeLay told the city council at their most recent meeting that there’s no time to search for an alternative with the current contract about to run out.
"I will say the chief is always brainstorming different ideas," Delay said. "They’re the only game in town, but he's always looking. So, we're trying to remedy this, but we don't really have a choice right now."
The city may consider housing prisoners in a new Grant County jail that'll be finished in about two years.
East Wenatchee Police Chief Rick Johnson told councilors the new Grant County lockup will be about a 45-minute drive but said it may offer competitive pricing.
He said they also looked at taking prisoners to the Okanogan County jail but think it’s probably too far away.
City councilors approved the new contract with Chelan County at their last meeting. It runs through 2026, but the city has termination options before the contract term ends.
All people arrested in Chelan and Douglas counties currently go to Chelan County Regional Justice Center.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office previously had a longstanding arrangement to house its prisoners in the Okanogan County Jail.
An agreement was signed in 2013, renewed in 2018 and extended to Dec. 31, 2032. The agreement dedicated 40 beds per day to Douglas County, or 1,200 a month.
But the counties had a falling out during the pandemic and Okanogan County commissioners terminated the contract with Douglas County in 2022.
Douglas County commissioners have talked about building their own regional jail, but no action has been taken.
Rally for Elias Mora-Ontiveros at Chelan County Jail
Gallery Credit: Terra Sokol