COUNTY MAY SEEK VOTER APPROVAL FOR JAIL PROJECT IN 2012
Clatsop County officials are updating an existing plan for expanding the obsolete county jail, with the goal of seeking voter approval next year for the long-sought project.
At its Oct. 12 meeting the county board of commissioners will be asked to allocate up to $100,000 to revisit a five-year-old study that recommended remodeling the facility at Seventh and Duane streets in Astoria.
The funds will pay for schematic plans for a new expansion option based on the old study, as well as a new cost estimate for the construction of an all-new jail facility for cost-comparison purposes.
If the board approves the allocation, the county will seek bids for detailed schematics and cost estimates for the remodel option. County officials hope to put a bond measure before Clatsop County voters in the May or November election in 2012.
The expansion would add up to 100 beds to the existing 69-bed facility, which has long been deemed inadequate in size and design for the needs of the county’s public safety and criminal justice systems.
“We have known for years that the current jail doesn’t meet our needs, and the county commissioners have made it one of their top priorities to address this issue,” County Manager Duane Cole said.
The 2006 study, completed by the DLR Group architectural firm, proposed adding 80 dormitory-style housing units to the ground level of the facility where administrative space for the Sheriff’s Office is currently located, at an estimated cost of just under $5 million. County staff has determined that this option would not work due to operational and constructability issues.
A new second option, for which no detailed engineering or design work has yet be completed, would involve a more extensive remodel of the current jail and boost its total capacity to 170 beds.
Construction of an all-new jail, which has been tentatively proposed for the county’s North Coast Business Park in Warrenton, has previously been estimated to cost approximately $12 million, not including site preparation.
Numerous studies have illustrated the inadequacy of the existing jail, which first opened in 1977. Built with an original capacity of 29, its capacity has been increased with the use of portable beds and other make-shift measures. But even the expanded number is deemed too small by the Sheriff’s Office and consultants, who say the county needs at least 120 jail beds to meet its needs.
The current lack of beds means criminal offenders frequently serve only a few days out of longer sentences, and probation violations often go unpunished. The crowding has also raised concerns about safety for staff and inmates, as the facility has limited space for separating violent offenders from the rest of the population.
Clatsop County last sought voter approval for a jail project in November 2002, when a bond for a new jail facility was defeated by a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.
Community Relations Coordinator