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Voters will decide if county should support justice center with up to $35 million in general obligation bonds

ARTWORK COURTESY OF CROOK COUNTY - Crook County Court unanimously voted in early August to refer the bond measure to local voters.A special election will be held in Crook County on Nov. 2 to determine the future of a proposed criminal justice center bond measure and other special district proposals.

Voters county-wide will be asked whether the county should support a justice center with up to $35 million in general obligation bonds. A yes vote would pave the way for construction of a new criminal justice center to house the circuit court system and the district attorney's office, which are currently located in the Crook County Courthouse.

The circuit court office is housed on the second floor of the courthouse and just across the hall is a small courtroom. Upstairs on the third floor lies the district attorney's office and the larger courtroom where many of Crook County's legal proceedings, and all jury trials, take place.

"The facility isn't large enough," said County Commissioner Brian Barney, "and we are addressing security issues with co-mingling of defendants, the jury, the judge and the people."

District Attorney Wade Whiting agrees, stressing the growing community has created a greater need for courtroom space to accommodate increasing criminal and civil caseloads.

"Currently, many cases take years to resolve due to lack of available court space," Whiting said. "These delays negatively impact the district attorney's office ability to successfully prosecute cases as memories fade and witnesses are unable to be located. For our victims of crime, these delays are unacceptable. Justice delayed is justice denied."

The Crook County Court voted unanimously in early August to approve a bond measure referral to voters that would allow the county to match a contribution in state funds secured through the legislature to help construct a new justice center in Crook County.

The center would be built from scratch on a city block between West First and Northwest Second Street and Northwest Beaver and Claypool Street. The block is currently occupied by a building that has housed a bowling alley and more recently a Humane Society thrift shop.

The building, like the courthouse, would stand three stories tall but its proposed 68,850 square feet would nearly triple the approximately 23,000 square feet of space available at the courthouse. Each floor would feature a courtroom of at least 10,000 square feet in size. The first floor would house the Crook County Sheriff's Office and the County Juvenile Department. The District Attorney's Office and Victim's Advocate office would occupy the second floor, and public defense would be housed on the third floor.

If the bond measure referral is approved and the project moves forward, it is not expected to result in a tax increase for citizens.

"A yes vote on measure 7-74 will give voter authority to the county so it can receive matching funds from the state, restore our beloved courthouse and build the justice center our community needs," said County Judge Seth Crawford.

Barney explained that the inventory of assessed properties is going to grow, primarily because of the expiration of enterprise zone tax abatements currently utilized by the Facebook and Apple data centers.

"So, we are not increasing (taxes)," he said, "we just have a broader amount of taxable property coming on the tax roll."

In addition to the criminal justice center bond measure, some voters will decide on the creation of a new road district and tax rate or a capital project tax. Voters inside the boundary of a proposed Flat Rock Road District will vote on whether to create the road district with a permanent tax rate of $4.26 per $1,000 of assessed value. Voters within the Prineville Lake Acres Unit 1 Special Road District will vote on whether to impose $25,000 each year for a 10-year capital project associated with Remington Road.

Ballots were mailed to local voters this past Wednesday. The Crook County Clerk's Office recommends people mail in ballots no later than Oct. 26 to ensure they arrive at clerk's office by the Nov. 2 election deadline.

After Oct. 26, voters can drop off ballots at one of several drop boxes in Crook County or at the clerk's office. The deadline to turn in a ballot is Nov. 2 at 8 p.m.

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