Masks encouraged by board


ASOTIN — Asotin County officials took another step Monday toward building a new jail along Sixth Avenue near the Clarkston Heights.

During their regular meeting, the Asotin County commissioners gave Building Official Karst Riggers the green light to start the conditional-use permit application process. A permit is required for a correctional facility to be constructed in a public/semi-public zone.

A public hearing before the county’s planning and zoning commission has been set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Asotin County Fire District auditorium, and Riggers will be notifying 60 homeowners who live near the proposed site.

Following the public hearing, the planning and zoning commission will make a recommendation to the commissioners, who will have the final say in whether the application is approved.

Commissioner Chuck Whitman, who has been working with jail designers and architects, said the $13.7 million project is still on track for an early 2023 completion date. Engineering work and meetings with law enforcement officials about technical issues have continued while a site is finalized, he said.

Officials said there may be some opposition to the Sixth Avenue location, and more people can attend in person if the hearing is conducted at the fire hall. Architects Will Rutherford, of Florida, and Jerry Brotnov, of Clarkston, will be available to answer questions.

If approved, groundwork on the “Justice Center” can begin, north of the Asotin County Regional Landfill. The property, which is owned by Asotin County, was heralded as the likely location in 2019 when voters approved a sales tax increase to help fund construction.

In other county business:

The commissioners signed off on a letter to U.S. Senator Patty Murray seeking federal funds for a Snake River Road project that’s been sidelined for more than a decade. The section of the popular recreational road at issue is the last patch of unpaved roadway near Heller Bar.

According to the county’s letter, the project stalled over the Nez Perce Tribe’s refusal to attend project progress meetings and overall objection to the road work. If $6 million in additional funding is obtained, the project can move forward and the 2.3 miles can be constructed.

“In summary, the unfortunate delay with the archeological process, the sovereign Nez Perce Tribe’s reluctance to sign the memorandum of agreement, environmental requirements, and the inflation of construction costs, has left the county in a position of not being able to complete this project,” Commissioners Brian Shinn, Chris Seubert and Whitman said in the letter. “Asotin County is requesting your assistance in finding and securing funding for completion of this project.”

Port of Clarkston Manager Wanda Keefer updated the commission on grant proposals for broadband improvements that would help disadvantaged students at Grantham and Highland elementary schools in Clarkston. She asked the board to consider helping with match money and letters of support during the process.

One of the broadband projects would connect high-speed internet to 435 households in an area that has historically had the highest free- or reduced-lunch counts in the county, Keefer said. The port’s application to the Public Works Board will have a lot of competition, and financial support from the county for a match would be a great help, she said.

A conditional-use permit for Joshua and Tamara Bruns, of Clarkston, was approved with a 3-0 vote. The Bruns plan to operate an Airbnb in one room of their residence at 620 16th St., Riggers said.

Sandaine may be contacted at Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.