After a lengthy evaluation, Benton County has selected a national corrections planning and design firm to do an in-depth analysis of the local criminal justice system.

The county commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to negotiate a contract and scope of work with CGL, one of two finalists for the project.

Miami-based CGL, a subsidiary of Hunt Cos., scored slightly higher than the David Bennett Group of Salt Lake City in an evaluation by a nine-person selection committee made up of county officials and law enforcement representatives. A third candidate, DLR Group, didn’t make the initial cut.

Plans for the assessment were launched after the November 2015 election, when voters turned down a $25 million bond measure to build a new jail and work-release center. County leaders have argued for years that the 40-bed jail in downtown Corvallis is inadequate and needs to be replaced, and there are growing concerns about the safety and capacity of the historic county courthouse. But voters have repeatedly rejected efforts to fund a new jail, defeating three bond measures since 2000.

A big part of the project needs to be a plan for involving the public in the process, members of the selection committee told the commissioners on Tuesday.

“As we look forward, we realize there needs to be really strong community engagement that is really authentic,” Corvallis Police Chief Jon Sassaman said.

County Health Department Director Mitch Anderson stressed the need to look at a full range of programs to reduce recidivism rates, including mental health services and alternatives to incarceration.

“I think what we’ve heard very clearly from the whole community is that what they want is that whole continuum,” he said.

And Circuit Court Judge David Connell said he’s looking forward to hearing the community’s ideas on what the justice system needs to function more effectively.

“I think we know where we’re going, but we don’t know where we’re going to end up, and to me that’s very exciting,” Connell said.

“Obviously the public engagement piece is going to be the key to this because unless it’s accepted by the public and it’s their plan, it’s not going to work.”

Commissioner Xan Augerot, who represented the board on the selection committee, said CGL will be expected to produce a vision statement for what the local criminal justice system should look like and a master plan for getting to that point. (County officials previously have said the plan should include an analysis of facilities that would address the condition and capacity of the jail and courthouse.)

The firm also will be asked to create a system for aggregating and tracking outcomes, costs and other data from all segments of the justice system, including the jail, courts, mental health programs, the Juvenile Department and the Parole and Probation Office.

County Administrator Joe Kerby said both finalists made strong proposals, but CGL appeared to be the better fit.

“At the end of the day, overall I think the entire group felt we could work with CGL and that CGL could get the job done.”

Kerby will have the task of negotiating a scope of work and contract with CGL. The cost of the project has not yet been determined because it will be part of those negotiations, but Kerby said after the meeting that the proposals submitted by the three consulting candidates ranged from about $145,000 to $200,000.

A major factor in determining cost will be the scope of the contract, which may or may not include the public engagement element, Kerby said. At this point it appears likely that the county will handle that part of the project itself, he added.

Kerby said he hopes to complete the negotiations with CGL in 30 to 45 days and will then present a contract to the Board of Commissioners for a vote. The project is expected to begin in early 2018 and take about a year to complete.

A spokesperson for CGL did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but the company’s website lists a wide range of services related to the criminal justice and corrections industries, including facility planning, architectural design, program management, facility management and maintenance, development and finance, security planning and inmate health care planning.

CGL operates in 22 countries and all 50 states, has worked with more than 900 cities and counties, and maintains more than 14.6 million square feet of facilities, according to the company.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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