Local Government

City Council discusses reducing the inmate population and the city’s loss of revenue

By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

The Lynnwood City Council and city staff came together virtually for the April 13 business meeting to discuss the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Police Chief Tom Davis explained to the council, via the video communication tool Zoom, that the Lynnwood Police Department has been taking action to reduce the chances that COVID-19 will take hold in the Lynnwood Municipal Jail by intentionally reducing the inmate population.

While the police department has not applied restrictions to bookings, Davis says they are assessing each arrest and charge to determine if an immediate sentence is necessary.  

Mandatory arrests will continue to come to the jail, but the police department is deferring a majority of warrant arrests, is discouraging discretionary arrests when a citation or a referral is possible and is no longer accepting outside contract inmates. Davis says that jail staff has been directed to begin moving necessary incarcerations to contract facilities when possible.

Additionally, they’ve also asked the judge to reduce the number of commitments and defer sentences to a later date. The police department has also obtained temporary release orders for inmates who don’t need to be detained and can either serve their time later or collaborate with the court to find another means to finish their sentence.

Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby responded to the police department’s preventative measures, asking if there is any remaining concern of Lynnwood inmates or jail staff being exposed to the virus.

“I saw the news and I read different articles regarding the Monroe crisis right now at the jail,” said Altamirano-Crosby. “Do we have to worry about something like that in Lynnwood?”

Davis responded, stating that they are screening inmates for signs of infection before they are brought into the facility and reiterated that they are managing a very low inmate population.

“Early on, my biggest fear was a positive person inside our facility… and the ramifications of that,” explained Davis. “Our intent was to reduce our jail population to as small as we could, to reduce any possibility of a positive inmate. I believe that we did advert a crisis.”

In other business, the city council unanimously approved the early distribution of funding allocations for the Lynnwood Convention Center to compensate funds lost to coronavirus restrictions.

The interlocal agreement between the City of Lynnwood, the city’s Public Facilities District (PFD), the Snohomish County Public Facilities District and Snohomish County will advance funds the PFD receives from the lodging tax and sales tax to help the temporarily closed convention center adjust to suspended revenue channels. Allocations previously scheduled to be paid in May and November could now potentially be advanced earlier this year.

“This isn’t a dollars issue. What it is, is an emergency,” explained Economic Development Director David Kleitsch. “The reason it’s an emergency is simply that the public facilities are in a cash flow bind and this allows them to get the money they would have by agreement, earlier in the year.”

Councilmember George Hurst spoke to the approval of the addendum, adding that the PFD would benefit from the early allocation of the funds, as it has already put cost control measures into place, has furloughed staff and taken on additional measures to offset the loss of revenue. 

“The expectation is that the ship is righted and that they are course corrected at this point,” stated Hurst.

Future Lynnwood City Council Business Meetings, Work Sessions and Committee Meetings can be streamed live by the public at https://www.youtube.com/user/CityofLynnwood/live.

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