After discussing a county request to help pay for a programming phase, the city voted 4-2 to pay 33 percent of the cost

When local officials met two weeks ago to discuss jail plans, the Prineville City Council requested more time to decide its future level of commitment.

Following a Monday meeting, city leaders decided to once again partner with the county and pay for another jail facility study.

The city had been asked by the county to partner with them on a programming study. The study, which comes with an estimated $13,500 price tag, is intended to help the city and county determine the size of facility necessary based on their collective needs. It would include an analysis of the space needs for the jail as well as any other law enforcement department that would inhabit a proposed building.

While much of the discussion has revolved around retrofitting the soon-to-be-vacated Pioneer Memorial Hospital building, the study could be applied to any site.

“Is the programming phase of the study of value to the city in terms of our need with respect to the police facilities including 911 emergency dispatch and an emergency operations center?” questioned City Manager Steve Forrester.

City Planning Director Phil Stenbeck explained that the programming study is intended to not only evaluate the space needs today, but five, 10, and 20 years into the future as well.

The general feeling among councilors was the study would serve the needs of the city regardless of whether the hospital site is feasible.

“What I am gleaning from all of this information is we are not looking at a specific location, but just an idea of where we need to be overall,” said Councilor Steve Uffelman. “Whether we locate in any site, from a planning standpoint we need that information.”

The city has continually stressed that their current police department building is inadequate and in danger of complete collapse during an earthquake. Police Captain Michael Boyd was asked to address the current needs of the police department and he indicated that a bigger building was necessary.

“Every office there is used. We need more office space and we need some general interview rooms,” he said. “Right now, we take people in the old city hall council chambers to talk to them. We may walk in there and someone could be having lunch. There could be someone talking to a child about some horrific crime.”

Boyd added they lack enough storage space and their evidence room doesn’t meet industry standards regarding 360-degree security.

“It’s not practical to look down the road and continue to use the site the police department is in,” Uffelman said. “Whether we locate up at the hospital or we locate somewhere else, we will have to have a new facility where we can house the police department.”

Another issue Forrester brought to councilors is the potential that an operating levy, something county officials intend to pursue with a new jail, could result in property tax compression.

“Compression for general government is $10 per thousand, so anything over $10 per thousand will get compressed,” said Crook County Assessor Brian Huber. “Right now, the city is at $9.66, and it varies in the county depending where property is at.”

Huber said that if an operating levy put the city over the $10 cap, that levy would get compressed first until the property tax dropped back below $10 per thousand dollars. As a result, that compressed portion of the levy could not be collected.

The city council ultimately decided to move ahead with the county on the programming phase. They passed a motion to pay 33 percent of the cost, based upon the belief they will need about one third of the proposed facility. However, the 33 percent split was disputed by Roppe and Councilor Jack Seley who both felt the city should split the cost equally with the county and not "nickel and dime" the county.

The motion also included a directive for city staff to conduct a tax compression study to determine whether or not an operating levy could put them over the $10 cap.

The vote for both actions was approved by a 4-2 margin with Roppe and Seley casting a no vote due to the 33 percent cost share proposal.

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