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Decision due Friday on county jail site appeal

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Charles Flower, the attorney representing Albert DeAtley, makes his case to Yakima County Commissioners Ron Gamache and Jesse Palacios (L-R) during a closed record public hearing conducted Tuesday afternoon. The hearing dealt with two appeals of the siting of the new jail facility set to be built at the fairgrounds in Yakima.

YAKIMA - Yakima County commissioners will make their ruling on two appeals of the hearing examiner's decision regarding the placement of the Yakima County Justice Center, by Friday at 8 a.m.

Tuesday afternoon the commissioners spent a little more than an hour in a closed record public hearing held at the Yakima County Courthouse to consider appeals brought by Albert DeAtley and Wendy Hollingsworth.

The two Yakima residents are appealing the hearing examiner's December decision regarding the Yakima County Justice Center. In an interview conducted earlier this month, DeAtley said he does not believe it's a good idea to locate the new jail facility at the fairgrounds, noting that it's a compatible use issue. He explained that he doesn't feel the jail is a compatible use for the land proposed as the site for the facility.

Tuesday, DeAtley flanked by his legal counsel Charles Flower of Flower and Andreotti of Yakima, and Hollingsworth and her lawyer Wayne Bjur of Bjur and Associates of Zillah sat before Commissioners Ron Gamache and Jesse Palacios. Palacios said Commissioner Jim Lewis recused himself from the hearing, asking them to take another look at hearing examiner Gary Cuillier's decision regarding the placement of the jail.

Richard Anderwald, director of planning for Yakima County, gave a staff report to the commissioners before Flower or Bjur had a chance to speak. Anderwald told the commissioners the hearing examiner made his decision regarding the jail Dec. 18, with the two appeals filed shortly thereafter. He then simply pointed to the record, which he said is comprised of 95 exhibits and is more than 900 pages long, including the hearing examiner's decision.

When Flower took the floor, he immediately asked if the hearing could be delayed because of a brief submitted by Kenneth Harper, the attorney who represented the county at the hearing examiner level. Flower said the brief had been received by his office late Monday night and he had not had a chance to respond to it. Bjur agreed with Flower, noting that he hadn't had a chance to respond to the brief either. Bjur asked for an extra 14 days to reply to the brief.

Gamache told the two attorneys that he had read through Harper's brief and didn't see any new evidence in the document.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided to proceed with the closed record public hearing.

During the hearing, Palacios said he believes it's important for the commissioners to make their decision on this matter based on whether or not the hearing examiner made the correct decision and not to make the decision based on emotion.

"I think it's imperative that we follow the law and we stand by it," Palacios said. "We've got a lot invested...in this project."

Bjur told the commissioners he doesn't believe the evidence supports the decision made by Cuillier. He said a lot of the evidence brought before the hearing examiner dealt with jails in general or jails in areas that are similar to Yakima. However, Bjur said there was virtually no evidence of how this particular jail would affect the surrounding area.

"There wasn't sufficient evidence that this particular jail at this particular site is compatible," Bjur said.

Harper argued, saying that Cuillier had a variety of evidence to support his decision, quoting information from several pieces of evidence included on the record.

"There is not an absence of substantial evidence," Harper said. "There is an abundance of substantial evidence."

Bjur asked the commissioners to be sure to take a close look at from whom the testimony during the hearing examiner's case came. He noted that the testimony was predominately from people in the correctional industry.

Following Bjur's comments, Gamache closed the hearing, noting that the commissioners will have a decision by 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 30.

. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at eolmstead@eaglenewspapers.com

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