Council reaction to Port Angeles mayor’s prison idea mixed

PORT ANGELES — Mayor Gary Braun thinks it’d be a good idea for Port Angeles to consider hosting a prison — should the possibility ever come up.

Several on the City Council don’t agree.

Others said they’d have to think about it before making a decision.

All were surprised by the suggestion.

It isn’t something that city officials or the council have discussed or pursued, said Deputy Mayor Betsy Wharton.

“We’re not making efforts in that direction, so it’s not really relevant right now,” she said.

Braun made the suggestion on Feb. 7 on KONP-AM 1450 radio’s Todd Ortloff Show.

He told the Peninsula Daily News in an interview last week that if the state Department of Corrections ever asks if any city wants to host a new prison, Port Angeles should say it is interested.

“I think the key issue today is jobs, and it would bring jobs,” Braun said, estimating that a prison could open up 300 new jobs.

“If the opportunity should present itself, if we get correspondence about wanting to site a prison, I would probably support that.”

City Councilwoman and former mayor Karen Rogers said she knew nothing of Braun’s idea before he mentioned it earlier this month.

She doesn’t support it.

“It was a total surprise to me. I’m in my seventh year on council and it’s never come up before.

“I’ve received numerous calls of concern, and I don’t think citizens want a prison in the Port Angeles community.

“It’s just not a good fit for this community.”

City Councilman Larry Williams echoed those comments.

“I’ve been on council since 1998 and I don’t recall any effort to get a prison here,” he said.

He also had numerous people tell him that’s not how they envision the community.

“They told me we already have a prison in Clallam Bay, and they would just as soon leave it out there and expand it if needed,” Williams said.

Clallam Bay Corrections Center, two miles south of Clallam Bay, employs 430 people.

It opened in 1985 as a 450-bed medium security prison, converted to maximum security in 1991 and expanded to house another 400 offenders in 1992.

“We are expending energy discussing non-starters and diverting energy from real economic development,” Williams said.

“Hopefully this isn’t an indicator of the next two years.”

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