Seeking public input at Nov. 13 meeting

by: SUBMITTED ILLUSTRATION - In a concept layout, the ground floor of the proposed Jefferson County Courthouse would include the district attorney's office, public information and court support, as well as a sally port and holding area for prisoners. The upper floors would provide space for courtrooms, judges and juries.The public will get a first look at the current concept for a new Jefferson County Courthouse next Wednesday, when commissioners discuss the plans during an evening meeting.

Under a bill passed in the Oregon Legislature's 2013 session, the state set aside up to $15 million pay up to half the cost of replacing eligible courthouses — those with significant structual defects that present a threat to health and safety.

The county, which for many years has been setting aside funds to replace the courthouse, hopes to be first in line for funding. The current courthouse, built in 1961, is considered among the least safe in the state and was at the top of the state's list for replacement in a 2009 assessment.

"With the passage of Senate Bill 5506, a courthouse project is within reach for the county," said Chairman Wayne Fording. "Our goal is to hear from the citizens to get feedback about what they would like to see in a new facility. The 50 percent match from the state will not pay for noncourt space."

In a September work session, the commission talked about not including the district attorney's office in the building, since it would not be eligible for the 50 percent match. After the commission's October purchase of the Goodman building, which houses the Department of Motor Vehicles office, just north of the future site for the courthouse, the commission has asked that staff plan to include space for the district attorney's office.

"I believe we need to make room for the DA to be in the building," said Commissioner Mike Ahern. "The DA's office is too connected to the courts to not have them in the same building."

The Community Corrections Department, with adult and juvenile probation departments, will be located in the former Goodson building.

The concept includes about 35,000 square feet in three levels — 14,000 square feet more than the current courthouse — at an estimated cost of $12.5 million.

Besides its structural defects, the current courthouse is located in the Willow Creek floodway.

"When you combine the structural problems and the cost to mitigate impacts of building in a floodway, it makes financial sense to build a new building outside of the floodway," said Commissioner John Hatfield, adding that the county is grateful for the city of Madras' donation of land for the project.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Nov. 13, in the courthouse annex at 66 S.E. D St., in Madras.

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