Consider plans for a new courthouse

The vacant old Jefferson County Courthouse on the northwest corner of D and Sixth streets, built in 1917 as a city hall, will likely be declared surplus property at the Sept. 11 meeting of the County Commission.

Because the exterior of the building was made of unreinforced brick, concrete interior walls are eroding, and wooden joists seem to be rotting, the commission has asked for an order to declare the building — which most recently housed the Jefferson County Extension Service and county museum — surplus.

County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen said that the county's options are to put it on a market or consider tearing down the building. "The engineering report on that are not good," he said. "The foundation’s been eroding internally for a while. It’s older construction; the old courthouse and the current courthouse are not designed to withstand an earthquake."

"The county is not in a financial position to retrofit it, but someone in the private sector may desire to do that," said Rasmussen.

The meeting will be held in the commission's meeting room in the Jefferson County Courthouse Annex at 10 a.m.

New courthouse project

On Wednesday, Sept. 11, the commission will hold a work session at 1:30 p.m. to discuss a potential new courthouse project with department heads and elected officials.

Under legislation passed in the past year, the state might pay 50 percent of the cost of court facilities, according to Rasmussen.

"It wouldn’t cover space for the district attorney or community justice," he said, noting that the facility would be built on property donated to the county by the city — just west of the new Madras City Hall and Police Station.

The county courthouse building, which currently houses the Jefferson County Circuit Court, District Attorney's Office, and the Adult and Juvenile Community Justice departments, and the county's human resources office.

A space needs study, commissioned by the county, determined that the county would need about 70,000 square feet to bring the courthouse up to standards and accommodate the county's growth over the next 20 years. The current courthouse is 19,400 square feet.

"Right now we don’t need more space for the functions in our building," said Rasmussen, referring to the courthouse annex, which houses administrative functions, including the assessor's, clerk's and treasurer's offices.

The focus for work session will be to consider the possibility of building a court-only courthouse with state funding. The county would then need to find office space for the district attorney's office and community justice.

"Because of structural defects in the current courthouse, it's not feasible for the county to spend the funds to retrofit it," said Rasmussen.

Privatize kennel?

At the County Commission's last meeting in August, commissioners instructed staff to prepare a request for proposal for privatization of the kennel operations, with the sheriff taking on the enforcement side of the process.

Rasmussen said that the dog control officer recently resigned, so the commission decided to review the operation before moving forward with hiring another dog control officer.

"The kennel is an operation that’s staff intensive," he said. "If a private organization that has that as their mission wanted to take it over, they would be better suited to run that. We’ve talked to the Humane Society of the Ochocos, and they’ve indicated some level of interest."

The commission will consider the proposal for privatization at its Sept. 11 meeting.

Following the commission's regular meeting, the monthly city-county meeting will be held at noon in the Madras City Council chambers in the Madras City Hall.

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