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New county jail plan discussed

A local contractor has a proposal that might get the county a new jail without voter approved bonding and save money at the same time
A local building contractor presented a proposal for the construction of a new county jail to the county court this week.
   Bob Childers said his company, Tri-Counties Builders, has constructed nearly every type of building, commercial and public, imaginable ... except for jails. "But it's the same thing: get an architect to do the design and we follow that design - it doesn't take a rocket scientist to follow an architect's design."
   Childers' proposal is to have the county approve a design, the site and he would build the facility. When completed, he said the structure would be leased back to the county, "For a specified time; 10, 20 or 30 years. At the end of that time the county would have the option to purchase the building at a pre-determined price."
   The builder believes he can build a jail facility and make money. "The cost of a private company building a jail would be reduced because I wouldn't be subject to prevailing wage restrictions. I believe we could save 20 to 25 percent."
   The proposed idea is just a matter of economics, Childers explained. He would build the jail and lease it back and let the sheriff's office operate it.
   Both County Judge Scott Cooper and Sheriff Rodd Clark asked questions of the builder and then agreed that the idea might have merit. One of the questions had to do with siting.
   Clark informed the court that he has received a couple letters from contractors, proposing about the same thing ... "Fund and build and then lease back," he said. "But I haven't invited anyone to come make a presentation because I didn't know if the climate was right."
   "This has appeal for me," Judge Cooper said, "in having someone local with an interest in the community do the job." However, he wondered if there was some prohibition about having a private contractor build and lease back a jail. Oregon does have a prohibition against the privatization of the operation of a jail, Clark answered, but he didn't think there was anything against having someone build a facility and lease it back to the county.
   Where to build a jail has been a strong point of controversy in the community whenever the topic of a new county jail has been discussed. Childers said it didn)t matter to him where the site would be. "It's a matter of your preference. I can buy a privately owned piece of ground or build on property the county already owns. If I have to pay $200,000 or $300,000 for land, I'd have to add that to the lease amount."
   When Clark started talking about previous plans and locations, Cooper warned that "We shouldn't assume we)d build that building on that site. It has been turned down by the voters twice."
   A facility could, Childers pointed out, incorporate more than just a jail. It could be designed to include court rooms and even more county offices.
   Childers was asked to work with the sheriff to see what could be done. Cooper suggested a work session be scheduled with the court, planners and whoever is interested, to look into the proposal. "The bottom-line is we have a need for a jail, and the reason I've heard is economics. We might even be able to do this without going out to bond."
   The proposal, Cooper added, presents possibilities that should be pursued.
   The topic will be further discussed at a work session set for the afternoon of July 11.