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Oregon officials may approve rest of project's $94.5M in matching funds, once county clarifies unique process

COURTESY PHOTO - This aerial shot shows the section of Clackamas County's Red Soils Campus (between two existing buildings, top) where the new courthouse will be built.Of the $94.5 million in funding the Oregon Legislature approved on June 26 for the new Clackamas County Courthouse project, the state will only commit $1 until a joint report is submitted clarifying the county's proposed use of a new project-delivery approach.

Clackamas County would construct the first courthouse project in Oregon with a Public-Private Partnership (P3) approach, a process in which the developer assumes much of the project's risk and become responsible for the building's operation and maintenance through the 30-year life of the contract. The state has asked the project team to answer clarifying questions about this new method in a joint report from the county and the Oregon Judicial Department before they will approve the rest of the funding, according to project manager Gary Barth.

"We are well prepared to respond to this request," Barth said, adding that he anticipates receiving authorization to spend the rest of the funding once the report has been submitted and reviewed, which will be "well in advance" of when funds are needed for building a new courthouse at the county's Red Soils campus up the hill from downtown Oregon City. County officials now hope to complete the project in 2025.

The Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 on May 5, with Commissioner Paul Savas dissenting, to pursue the P3 approach. On July 1, the county commissioners agreed to again extend the deadline for building the courthouse, but they didn't talk about the third one-year extension on their funding agreement with the state since 2019, because the extension agreement was on their consent agenda.

On July 1, the county advertised a request for qualification, a competitive procurement process for contractors interested in financing, designing, building and maintaining the new courthouse. Contractors have until July 30 to apply.

As previously reported, the new 215,000-square-foot courthouse will be abourt two-and-a-half times as large as the courthouse in downtown Oregon City. The three-story (and full basement) Art Deco courthouse on Main Street was completed in 1937 and expanded in 1959. It has 11 courtrooms for state judges.

Oregon legislators approved $94.5 million in matching funds for the project, contributing 50% of the $189 million initially estimated to be the project's total cost, despite new funding models showing it could end up costing between $200 million and $300 million.

"We will not be building a Taj Mahal," said County Board Chair Tootie Smith. "We will invite the builders to build a new county courthouse that is not only affordable, but will stand the test of time. We must look to the future."

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