The county's effort to plan for expansion of court and jail facilities in the future is reaching a point of decision – whether and how to proceed now, or put the project in neutral gear to take up when economic growth and revenues return.
The county's Facilities Needs Assessment Team, comprised of top administrators from the county and 7th Judicial District, is concluding an effort spanning three years evaluating options for future criminal justice and courts needs.
Also in the project mix are the county's own future administrative facility needs.
The questions before the team have been how much to expand, where to expand, and how to pay for expansion. A $100,000 consultant-guided study is nearing its end.
The county administration and commissioners want to stay in a single, expanded campus configuration at 5th and Palmer. Space is a constraining factor. Privately owned property in the area and complications with City of Delta utilities relocation, plus the idea of a possible street closure, have been unknowns in the planning process.
County administrators and BoCC believe they need to resolve issues with the city before deciding whether to look outside the city limits for new space.
At a recent work session, team leader Chuck Lemoine told the BoCC, "This project was undertaken in a time when county finances were better than they are now; when the jail population was larger than it is now; and, when court security seemed a more pressing concern than it seems now."
Lemoine added that it has been a good exercise and a good time to take a long look at the needs involved. He acknowledged however, "There has been some concern expressed as to why we would do this (expansion) at this time. This planning work could be passed on to others to pick up after all of us are gone."
An architect has drafted conceptual plans for an expansion that would address mainly the need for expanded court rooms, better court security, and a new jail. Some big initial cost numbers have been mentioned for various configurations of the county's first choice option to remain at 5th and Palmer, though nothing has been offered in hard cost estimates:
• Jail facilities, $23 million to $37 million;
• New court facilities, $12 million to $20 million;
• Courthouse renovation, around $6 million.blog comments powered by Disqus