More than 30 residents aired their opposition to a planned housing project for sex offenders in Tenino during the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, January 17.
Residents, composed of former public servants, decade-long Tenino community members, concerned citizens, and domestic violence survivors, said they received little to no information or prior notice about the proposed housing project.
"This is a really frightening experience for all of us," said resident Joyce Tyson.
Former Thurston County Commissioner Kevin O'Sullivan was among the residents who attended the meeting.
"People are up here because they feel threatened," O'Sullivan said.
O’ O'Sullivan said Commissioner Carolina Mejia called him before the meeting to ask how they stopped the project during his time.
Residents asked the county commissioners to join them in pushing back against the housing project to be run by Supreme Living LLC.
Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders said it is still unclear what his office can and cannot do regarding safety concerns. “You can't get much [more] rural than Tenino.”
"As the sheriff, I have to know where I stand legally. I have to know where to guide my deputies moving forward," Sanders explained. "How do we protect our individuals?"
Sanders said it would be a big problem if the housing project started to operate without clear guidance on whose jurisdiction it would fall under.
"It's not a matter of if they will abscond,” remarked Sanders, “It's a matter of when they will abscond." Abscond, in this instance, references the risk of them fleeing the location. “This is permanent housing, this isn't transitional,” he said.
"I am concerned for the safety of my family. There is an inadequate safety plan for it," said firefighter Ivan Hold. "Do whatever you need to. Use your powers as commissioners to stop this."
Resident Shelly Heini said their community's plan to build a playground would be compromised if the project continues.
"We are a very tight-knit community," said Heini. "We don't know what we need to do, but we want to know how we are going to be safe."
Tenino residents also brought up the poor internet connection in the area, adding that it would be detrimental to the security of the place if the proposed housing project continues.
Commissioner Gary Edwards assured the residents that the board is on their side.
"We're going to push," said Edwards. "We're going to do what we can."
County Manager Ramiro Chavez said he would be engaging with the Prosecutor's Office to know the potential legal options of commissioners regarding this concern.
The JOLT is still waiting for Supreme Living LLC’s feedback as of press time.
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