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City mulls next phase of jail study

County awaits decision on whether city will partner with them on programming study


One year into conducting multiple feasibility studies on construction of a new jail, local officials met to discuss resulting data and future plans.

The joint Prineville City Council and Crook County Court workshop was held Tuesday afternoon in the City Hall Council Chambers. The meeting, which was open to the public, first featured a recap of previous studies on the feasibility of retrofitting the Pioneer Memorial Hospital building for a new jail and criminal justice complex that would house the police department, sheriff’s office, and 911 dispatch. Representatives from DLR Group and HSR Master Planning and Architecture, two companies hired by local leaders to complete the studies, then told city and county officials what steps remained in order to determine what options best fit their structural and financial needs.

Studies thus far have examined whether a retrofit jail is economically feasible, if it would meet current and future jail bed needs, and if the infrastructure was sufficient. Those studies have come back with enough encouraging data for the county and city to consider the next steps, programming and master planning.

“Programming is to determine the scope of the building,” explained Laurie Coppenrath of DLR Group. “You interview everyone from the departments who might move into the building and figure out what today’s needs are in terms of space.”

Coppenrath then added that they ask what the needs for each department will be for five, 10, and 15 years from now. She also clarified that data from the programming phase would be applicable to any site or building, whether it’s a retrofit at the hospital building or an entirely new building elsewhere in the community.

“At that point we would write some functional narrative as to how departments would work and would come upon a final size of a building.”

A final master planning step would follow, which would determine what departments a facility would house, and based on needs of each one, what the cost would be for different site or buildings.

“We need to do the programming and the master planning in order to really give you the cost,” said John Ralston of HSR.

While that is the case, City Councilor Jason Carr pushed for a rough estimate on a retrofit and newly constructed jail and criminal justice center. After cautioning local leaders that the estimates could vary widely depending on the results of the programming and master planning studies, Bill Valdez, of DLR Group, stated that a retrofit jail at PMH would cost about $5.5 million and a new jail elsewhere would come with an approximately $13 million price tag. The criminal justice facility meanwhile, Valdez said could range from $20 per square foot to $200 per square foot, depending on the needs of each department.

In considering whether to pay a portion of the programming study cost, projected to be about $13,500, councilors Carr and Steve Uffelman expressed concerns about locating the jail in the hospital building because of its proximity to a residential neighborhood.

“I think when we look at the numbers, the hospital site is the most cost effective site. However when I speak with members of the community, there is a very strong opposition to locating the jail in that part of the community,” Uffelman said. “While we can make a decision and recommendation from our pocketbook, I think that we really need to hear from the community as a whole before we continue investing in how the programming would be laid out at the hospital.”

In response to those concerns, Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley noted that right now, the jail releases anywhere between eight and 15 people per week at all hours of the day and night due to overcrowding.

“When they go out, they go out into a residential area,” he said. “They go out next to a kiddie park and a block and a half from a school. If you have a facility where you can sustain and keep enough inmates, we are not releasing them.”

Prineville Police Captain Michael Boyd added that a recent in-house study examined the calls for service near the jail and the hospital, they found that zero calls in 2013 were the result of problems related to the jail, while 72 calls were made due to problems near the hospital, including disorderly conduct, harassment, and stolen vehicles.

“What we are seeing is the actual jail and police facility is a quieter place,” Boyd said.

While location will become important during the master planning phase, officials stressed that the programming phase does not relate to any particular location, but rather the space needs of a proposed facility. Consequently, the county was prepared to take that next step, but only if the city was willing to partner with them and pay a portion of the cost to do so.

In response, Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe asked the county to wait a week so that the city could hold a workshop and determine what they want to do next. The county agreed to that request.

As the workshop came to a close, Roppe made a point of stressing the need for ample public input as the process continues forward.

“If we go this route (a programming phase), we are going to be setting up public forums,” she told the audience, “so we can get concrete feedback from all of our citizens.”

Crook County Judge Mike McCabe agreed, particularly given the fact that a new jail would require voter approval of not only a construction bond, but an operating levy.

“It is really up to the community to step up and decide,” he said. “Now is the time to have those community meetings and hear from our people out there and see where it takes us, but we are relying on the citizens to help get this done. It doesn’t happen any other way."



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