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Governor lends support for Madras prison


   The Madras prison project captured key support last week from Oregon's top official.
   Gov. Ted Kulongoski released his proposed budget for the 2005-2007 biennium, including full funding for the Madras facility.
   The state's rapidly expanding prison population was among the priorities addressed in Kulongoski's budget. The governor recommended funding for immediate construction of the 864-bed minimum security, and 1,240-bed medium security prisons in Madras.
   "We're in pretty serious need of adding beds to our prisons," said Bobbi Burton, community development program manager for the DOC in Salem. "The department is pleased that the funding for the Madras facility is included in the governor's budget."
   Calling it a "homerun" for Madras, City Administrator Mike Morgan last week cheered the governor's budget.
   Commenting that it bodes well for Madras, Morgan noted, "If you're in the governor's budget, you've almost made a homerun. The legislators appear very supportive of it."
   The Oregon Department of Corrections will go before the Legislature's budget committee in January to secure funding, Morgan said.
   Kulongoski has recommended a total budget of $1.25 billion for the DOC, up by nearly a third from the budget approved by the Legislature for the 2003-2005 biennium. The increase is due to an expected prison population increase, the need to replace federal funds used in the 2003-2005 budget, and an increase in the debt service on certificates of participation.
   In an October economic analysis by the Department of Administrative Services Office, prison populations were expected to increase from 12,778 in July of 2004, to 14,279 in July of 2007, after the end of the next biennium. In the next decade, the population is expected to increase 38 percent, to 17,572.
   "Right now, we have about 400 temporary beds set up within existing institutions," Burton said. "We're also renting a number of beds from different counties."
   Cost of renting beds varies depending on the facility, but typically runs $10 to $20 more per inmate per day than housing an inmate in a prison. "Based on the forecast, we are predicting that we will be using 400 temporary beds and about 300 to 350 rental beds by this July," she said.
   Even after the Madras facility opens, the DOC expects it will still need both the temporary and rental beds. "By the time we get to open the Madras facility, we will probably be renting beds again because the numbers (of inmates) are expected to continue to rise," said Burton.
   The rapid rise in the prison population began after the passage of Measure 11 in 1994. Measure 11 has two parts: First, it provides mandatory minimum sentences for 16 crimes, ranging from second-degree assault to sexual abuse to murder; secondly, it requires any youth 15 years of age or older who is charged with any of those crimes to be tried as an adult.
   In order to finance costs related to construction of the prison, the state will issue tax-exempt securities called certificates of participation (COP), which are sold to investors. Investors then receive payments, which include interest income that is exempt from federal and Oregon income tax.
   COP are unlike general obligation bonds in that they are not secured by the "full faith and credit of the government issuing them." Instead, they are approved by the Oregon Legislature for each biennium.
   If the Legislature approves the expenditure, the state will issue $145.6 million in COP to fund construction of the Madras facility, expansion of the women's facility in Wilsonville -- Coffee Creek -- which will add 324 beds to its current 1,327, and a 100-bed expansion at the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend.
   The budget also includes operations for the 400-bed Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lakeview, which will open in September, and operations for the Madras minimum security facility, scheduled to open in October of 2006.
   Construction on the 1,240-bed medium security prison for Madras is also scheduled to get under way in the spring. Since it wouldn't be completed until October of 2007, the next biennium's budget would include operations for that facility.
   The Madras facility, which has not yet been named, will be located on a 453-acre site east of Madras off Ashwood Road. When the medium security prison is completed, the Madras facility's 2,104 beds will make it the third largest in the state, after the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, and the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.
   The construction manager and general contractor for the Lakeview prison, Hoffman Construction Company of Portland, will build the Madras facility, which will employ over 500 people.
   Last spring, the DOC announced that the Madras prison was once again a priority. It was put on hold in September of 2002.