Snohomish County off the hook for sex offender housing

  • Katherine Schiffner<br>For the Enterprise
  • Friday, February 22, 2008 7:39am

EVERETT — Housing for some of the state’s most violent sexual predators won’t be built in Snohomish County anytime soon, state officials announced this week, but the county could be the site of the state’s third offender halfway house.

The county won’t be considered for transitional housing for offenders released from civil commitment on McNeil Island until the state fills halfway homes on the island and in King County, said Beverly Wilson, associate superintendent for community programs for the Department of Social and Health Services.

“The site in King County, plus the McNeil Island facility will serve us for the foreseeable future,” she said.

The state is considering building a facility on one of three sites in King County — vacant land southeast of Carnation, between SeaTac and Kent, and between Federal Way and Auburn.

It could be at least two years before a third facility is needed, she said, but Snohomish County would likely be at the top of the list then. That’s because the county has sent 24 offenders to the Special Commitment Center, the third-highest number of offenders after King and Pierce counties.

State officials named three potential sites for sex offender housing in King County this week. Under state law, Snohomish, King and four other counties are required to house a “fair share” of offenders when the court determines they’re ready to move out of the commitment center.

No community in Snohomish County wants them, and many city officials say they will try to prevent a facility from being put in their city. But local leaders said they’re relieved a halfway house isn’t coming to their community soon.

“I think that’s excellent news for the people of Snohomish County,” Snohomish city manager Larry Bauman said. “I think the more this process is allowed to go forward, the problems that are likely to occur will become more evident and maybe there will be a change in policy. That’s what I’m ultimately hoping.”

Yet the news hasn’t stopped officials from worrying.

“I would hate to see everything calm down because it’s not an immediate problem and have something surface out of the blue that would cause more problems,” Monroe Mayor Donnetta Walser said.

The Monroe City Council approved a resolution in August asking the state to avoid putting sex-offender housing there because the community already has four prisons. The state considered putting a halfway house in Monroe last year, but DSHS officials have said Monroe probably won’t be selected when a third halfway home is needed.

Several cities in Snohomish County prepared guidelines for the state about where to put a sex offender halfway house. Some guidelines require keeping offender housing out of certain places, such as residential areas.

Snohomish County and a number of cities chose not to send guidelines, opting to leave the selection up to the state.

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