County buys DMV building


Future county office space

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The county has purchased the Goodson building, on Third and E streets, which houses the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental offices. Eventually, it will be used by the county for extra office space when it builds a new courthouse across the street.As Jefferson County prepares to go after state funding for a new courthouse, the County Commission is also in the process of purchasing an office building.

The Goodson building, which houses the Madras office of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, is located at the northeast corner of Third and E streets, across from the future site of a new courthouse.

"We made an offer a week ago, and it was accepted," said County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen, noting that the county would like to keep the two current tenants, and attract new tenants. About half of the 9,200-square-foot building is unoccupied.

"Once we get a good closing date from the title company, we'll have further discussion with the commissioners on the parameters for new tenants," said Rasmussen, adding, "We'll have to negotiate leases with current tenants."

The county's offer of $700,000 for the building was accepted. The purchase price will be taken out of the $2.7 million in the capital improvement fund, leaving $2 million to put toward the county's share of a new courthouse.

The county's current courthouse, built in 1961, is considered among the least safe in the state, and ranked at the top of the state's list for replacement in 2009.

In its last regular session, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill to set aside up to $15 million for the 2013-15 biennium to pay up to half the cost to replace a building that has "significant structural defects," and represents a potential threat to "health and safety."

If they can obtain state funding and keep their share of the project within their means, the county plans to build a three-story building on property at the southeast corner of E and Third streets. The property was donated by the city of Madras, which has a new city hall and police station east of the two properties.

"We bought the Goodson building because when we build a new courthouse, it will not be able to house all the offices that are in the current courthouse," said Commissioner Mike Ahern. "Basically, the location and cost are perfect. It's good for everybody."

The Legislature has stipulated that it will only fund half the cost of facilities that directly support the court system, such as courtrooms, jury rooms, and rooms for prosecutors and attorneys to meet those they represent. Other offices, such as the district attorney's office, would not be included in shared costs, but the county could opt to pay for the whole cost of the space used for other purposes.

"One of the reasons the county is purchasing the building is to have flexibility in courthouse design," explained Rasmussen. However, he noted, "The commissioners still seem intent on figuring out some DA space in the new courthouse."

Although the county plans to eventually use some of the office space at the Goodson building, Rasmussen said, "Even with a fast-track courthouse project, we're probably two-and-one-half to three years before we'd need to occupy any of that space."