NASELLE — Naselle Youth Camp (NYC), a rehabilitation facility and school for juvenile offenders, is targeted for closure in Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire's latest budget plans. It is one of Pacific County's largest employers.
Washington state continues to wrestle with numerous difficult choices in the face of a new $1.4 billion gap between incoming revenue and what is needed to fund agencies for the remaining 21 months of the current two-year budget cycle. Gregoire on Thursday called a special session of the Legislature for late November to deal with the crisis.
Today at 8 a.m. NYC Superintendent Darryl Poston met in a closed session with employees to discuss the governor's proposals. A reporter at the meeting was asked to leave, but more information was expected to become available later Friday.
Gregoire's previous 2009 plans to close the camp were turned back by united community opposition and help from a group of Democratic legislators. At that time, the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration argued that NYC is no longer needed in a period of falling juvenile crime rates and in light of changed philosophies that now place a priority on keeping offenders closer to their families.
In an interview earlier this week, state Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, said that "nothing specific" in the way of closures was expected from the governor's office by legislators at this time. The governor has been given more power to change budget items during interim periods between winter legislative sessions, but Hatfield said he didn't think she would have her staff make NYC-type closure decisions without legislative support or advice.
Printed materials at this morning's NYC staff meeting indicate that the governor is planning for the facility's closure, though specifics about the timing of such a move were not immediately available.
According to the NYC website, "Naselle Youth Camp residents are minimum and medium security juvenile offenders (male and female) in the care of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration. NYC has been funded as high as 149 beds. It is currently funded at 96 beds."
The camp is by far the single-largest source of jobs in the Naselle area, also playing a major role in the operations of Naselle-Grays River Valley School District, which provides staff for the year-round high school-level classrooms at NYC. Camp closure is expected to have significant ripple impacts on nearby communities, including the Long Beach Peninsula, where NYC employees shop and sometimes own or rent housing.
Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Sen. Ed Murray, the chair of the budget-writing Senate Ways & Means Committee, issued a statement earlier this week that said, in part, "We are committed to making the most of the coming weeks to help find solutions. Before we reach a special session, we will work with the governor as she develops an initial proposal to bridge the budget gap. And we will continue to review alternatives and engage with our Republican colleagues as we seek responsible actions to balance our budget.
"Over three years, we have reduced public service levels across the board, from support for kindergarten education to supervision of offenders in our communities. As we approach special session, we must recognize that more cuts - however necessary mathematically - will impact Washingtonians, their families and their communities."
They urged colleagues to keep open minds about implementing tax increases to preserve vital programs.