OLYMPIA, Wash. - Governor Christine Gregoire's pen is poised over the
new budget bill, and she's getting some last-minute pressure to change
it. State employees who work at the Maple Lane School at Centralia in
Thurston County, western Washington, insist it should not be closed as
part of budget cuts. They say their population at the high-security
correctional facility for mentally-ill teens would not mesh with
juvenile offenders in other facilities.
Patty Erhardt, who is a counselor at Maple Lane, says she thinks the
governor cares, but doesn't fully understand the risks of moving the
young residents elsewhere.
"From my perspective, what I see the governor thinking is, 'Well, these
are kids, they need to be close to their home and their family.' Ninety
percent of the time, their home is the problem. There's a reason why we
take 'em away from negative influences like they have in the
Those who support closing Maple Lane say it would happen over three
years, giving the state time to make other arrangements for the 235 kids
who are there. The Federation of State Employees says the cost
estimates for updating other facilities range from about $16 million to
$35 million, while closing Maple Lane would save less than $6 million.
Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women, at Medical Lake near Spokane in
Eastern Washington is also slated for closure. Tim Welch with the
Federation of State Employees says their concern is that these decisions
were based on politics rather than economic sense or community safety.
"Some legislators who have some power have decided, 'I don't like that
facility, I think they could be better served in the community,' and
yet, there aren't the resources available in the community to do that."
The governor is scheduled to sign the budget bill on Tuesday. Welch says
that's also when the union is holding what it calls a 'strategy
session' about the future of Pine Lodge, with two local state lawmakers
in attendance. It starts at 4 p.m. at the Pine Lodge facility in Medical