COMMISSIONERS APPROVE JAIL PLAN STURDY FUNDING
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved funding for a remodeling plan for the county jail.
The vote is the first step in a proposal to seek voter approval next year for a major expansion of the undersized facility.
The funding will pay for plans including a detailed layout, preliminary design and specific costs for a project that would add up to 100 beds to the existing jail at Seventh and Duane streets in Astoria. The county will seek bids from qualified architectural firms for the project. The plans will be used to develop a final design, bid documents and construction drawings, if and when funding is secured.
The board, with Commissioner Patricia Roberts absent, voted unanimously for the budget adjustment, which will make up to $100,000 available out of the county’s Special Projects budget.
"The campaign for a new jail begins now,” Commissioner Peter Huhtala said. “It’s clearly needed.”
The funding will also pay for an updated cost estimate for construction of an all-new jail facility, for cost-comparison purposes with the remodeling proposal. The board also passed a resolution allowing for the costs to be reimbursed by a jail construction bond.
The board will review the resulting plan and cost estimates and decide whether to seek voter approval for a bond measure to fund the project, likely in either the May or November 2012 elections.
Sheriff Tom Bergin and County Manager Duane Cole told the board that multiple studies of the jail issue, including a comprehensive review completed in 2008 by Voorhis Associates complete with population and crime forecasts, have made clear the need to expand or replace the existing 34-year-old, 69-bed facility.
have done the study to end all studies,” Cole said of the Voorhis report.
In 2006 the Sheriff’s Office contracted with the DLR Group architectural firm to draft a plan for adding 80 dormitory-style beds in the ground floor of the jail building, which currently houses Sheriff’s Office staff. County officials have determined that that plan is not workable, but in a recent meeting with county staff and Sheriff’s Office officials, DLR representatives presented an alternative proposal that adds up to 100 beds on the building’s upper level where the current jail is located.
Most studies say the county needs at least 120 jail beds. The current facility, plus the 15 beds the county rents in Tillamook County, means that many offenders serve only two or three days of much longer sentences before they’re released for lack of space, Bergin said. “There is no truth in sentencing,” he said.
Bergin said he believes voters are more likely to support a project that upgrades, rather than replaces, the existing jail.
“I have been a proponent of trying to utilize this building all along,” Bergin told the board. “But we need to have (these plans) done before we go to voters.”
Clatsop County voters rejected a bond measure for a new jail in 2002. No detailed plans were drawn up for that project, and the possible location had not been selected.
Board Chair Dirk Rohne, who also serves on the board of Clatsop Community College, noted that the college failed several times to gain citizen support for its modernization project until it developed a plan to remodel the existing campus, at approximately half the cost of earlier proposals.
“We need to be able to maintain public safety in our community, and this is one part of doing that,” he said.
Huhtala noted that materials and labor construction costs are low. “The timing is excellent,” he said.
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