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Benton County secures funding for new courthouse

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old-courthouse

Benton County is looking to replace the 1888 historic courthouse with a new model as part of its justice improvement plan. The county has taken action to secure funding for the replacement building and still hopes to remodel the historic one.

Officials working on plan to bulk up Benton County's justice facilities have solidified financing for a new courthouse.

The county already had received $20.4 million toward the $40.8 million project via state legislation passed in 2021. The county, however, was required to match the funds.

On Dec. 7 the Board of Commissioners approved a plan to match the state’s $20.4 million by using a combination of budget reserves and borrowing.

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A new courthouse is a key piece of the county's justice improvement plan, which also is scheduled to include a crisis center, a new jail and a combination sheriff’s/emergency response center. The county also hopes to remodel its seismically unsafe historic courthouse, which dates to 1888.

The crisis center, which has largely secured its funding, will occupy the county building on Northwest Fifth Street in downtown Corvallis. The county commissioners, information technology and some other functions will be moving to the new Kalapuya county building on Southwest Research Way.

The jail and sheriff’s/emergency components will be at one of three proposed suburban sites: either near the Benton County Fairgrounds; near the HP Inc. campus; or in South Corvallis.

Meanwhile, where the new courthouse will be built remains up in the air, pending continuing discussions on land availability. The new courthouse could wind up on property adjacent to the crisis center or at one of the suburban sites.

The biggest component of the project is a new county jail, which might cost up to $50 million. County officials are looking to replace the outdated 40-bed jail with a 120-bed model and add rehabilitation programs.

The filing deadline for a bond that would fund justice system improvements is not until February 2023. County officials say they hope to limit the bond to $100 million, which would add 80 cents for each $1,000 of assessed value to property owners' tax bills. For example, that comes out to $280 per year for owners of property assessed at $350,000.

The bond originally had been scheduled for the May 2022 ballot, with the postponement requiring the county to either identify another funding source for the courthouse funds or ask the Legislature to reallocate them during its 2023 session. The board’s Dec. 7 action eliminates any uncertainty surrounding that piece of the project.

County officials said the matching funds might still be part of the mix paid for by the bond. While the funding piece of the bond measure won’t be decided until next fall, commissioners are scheduled to make a site decision by the end of January.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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