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Recent jail proposal gets close scrutiny even before being studied

A local contractor's proposal to build a new jail has raised issues and interesting questions beyond how to proceed and where it should be built
When the county commission decides what to do with a private contractor's proposal to build a county jail without going to the voters for funding, a decision will have to be made on what process to follow. More than likely, with more than one builder showing interest, the county will require formal proposals.
   A number of other questions will also have to be answered; where to build the facility, what should the design be and how to pay for it, are only a few of the issues to be resolved. Bob Childers, the contractor who brought the proposal to the county court a few weeks ago, has already started working on responses to those concerns.
   Childers' proposal was simple; have the county approve a design and the site and he would build the facility. When completed, the structure would be leased back to the county. A private contractor could save between 20 and 30 percent, Childers figured, because he wouldn't have to follow certain restrictions that a governmental agency is subject to.
   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," he told the court in making his presentation, "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."
   The proposed idea is just a matter of economics, Childers explained. He would build the jail and lease it back to the county and the sheriff's office would operate it. While Childers was the first to make a presentation to the county court, he isn't the only person to come up with this idea. Sheriff Rodd Clark told the court that he has received a couple of letters from contractors, proposing about the same thing.
   A few days after reports of Childers' proposal was made, stories of the builder's background started making the rounds. One report was that the man had a history of bankruptcy and was a convicted felon. "Let's be sure of who we are dealing with," the caller, who would not identify himself, warned.
   Childers, when asked about it, wasn't overjoyed about discussing his history with the press. After thinking about it a while, he agreed that rumors could cause more problems.
   Childers said he started out as a builder in southern California in the early 1960s. By the early 1980s, he was reportedly one of the biggest home builders in the area. "I learned his company's standing," he explained, "in a newspaper article. They said I was the fourth largest privately owned development company, the tenth largest if you included corporate-owned companies. I just knew I was a good builder, I was having fun and I had 45 people working for me. When the trouble came, that's who it hurt, those 45 people and their families."
   The "trouble" was the Savings and Loan failures of the mid 1980s.
   Childers explained that his company had a $100 million credit line with one of the larger Savings and Loan companies. "When, because of the S&L's bad loan policies, they got taken over, federal regulatory investigators inspected everybody in the individual S&L's top five percent customer list. R.L. Childers' Company was on that list, and ended up losing nearly everything. The company went bankrupt," he said adamantly, "I've never gone bankrupt."
   In 1992, he arrived in central Oregon and started over. Soon after moving to Redmond, however, he said he was indicted by the FBI on 14 felony charges stemming from the S&L investigations. Those charges were made as a result of Childers having done what the lenders had advised him to do. He said the FBI offered to drop most of the charges, and allowed him to plead to three. As he explained it, "I had a run-in with federal law enforcement agencies that resulted in a felony conviction. I never missed a days work, though."
   While he can't legally own a firearm, he can build houses. Since moving to Oregon he has been busy, developing a number of subdivisions in the Redmond and Prineville area. And that appears to be the important thing. Since the report on his proposal to build a jail for Crook County made the news, he said he's been approached by a local bank manager about supplying the interim financing. Other financially secure individuals have also asked to be included as investors.
   The county commission has yet to decide exactly what the process will be, but until then, Clark and Childers have been asked to see what can be done. The two men recently toured Jefferson County's new jail facility, and came away with ideas.
   A work session has been scheduled with the county court, county planners and whoever is interested to look into the proposal. The topic is scheduled to be discussed in depth at a meeting scheduled for the afternoon of July 11.