Naselle, Wash. - Managers at the Naselle Youth Camp met Monday to prepare for a bill in the Washington Legislature that could diminish its services.
Superintendent Thomas Quinn informed his staff of Senate Bill 5903, which would provide sentencing alternatives for juvenile corrections.
"While it does not speak specifically to the closure of an institution in the state," Quinn said, "the logical conclusion is that it would be the closure of the Naselle Youth Camp."
The camp provides 148 beds for minimum-security offenders in five units where they live and work. Youth - both males and females - attend school and learn vocations at the camp, opened in 1966. Other state facilities serve maximum security offenders.
"As of today, nobody has said Naselle youth camp is closing," Quinn said. "The bill has some support, and it certainly is a serious concern."
Sen. Jim Hargrove, a Democrat, sponsored the bill with two other senators and said the bill would save the state money by dealing with juvenile offenders in their communities rather than sending them to corrections facilities.
The state has been grappling with a $2.5 billion shortfall and yet has 220 beds in youth retention facilities, said Hargrove, who represents Clallam, Jefferson and parts of Grays Harbor counties.
"I am not in any way expecting Naselle to close because it is our only youth camp," he said. "I can't promise it won't operate in an reduced capacity."
Community programs have helped decrease the youth crime rate during the last eight years, he said. But Gov. Gary Locke's budget decreases funding for community corrections, while providing for the retention centers. Hargrove said that plan perpetuates "something that doesn't work as well and costs more money."
He and other legislators believe some offenders are better served in their own communities with the existing programs.
The bill was first read in the Children and Family Services and Corrections Committee Feb. 19. A vote date has not yet been scheduled.
Located 1 1/2 miles west of Naselle, the camp employs about 150 people and contracts services from local communities.
"We have a big economic impact on this area, including Astoria," he said.
The camp pays about $6 million in wages to the surrounding facilities. It purchases $1 million in goods and services each year.
Quinn said the community support for the facility has been "very gratifying."
Oregon Youth Authority closed the regional North Coast Youth Correction Facility in Warrenton last week because of Oregon's budget shortfall. Youth were transported to centralized facilities, lower security facilities or youth camps. Some were released to parole, foster care or their families.