By Lisa Kopochinski
DESCHUTES COUNTY Ore.— County commissioners continue to consider an expansion of the Deschutes County courthouse, even as the possibility of getting a new judge remains uncertain.
In early August, Facilities Director Lee Randall walked commissioners through what would be involved in expanding the 100-year-old courthouse by 38,000 square feet.
To address a growing demand for justice services, features of the expansion could include additional underground secure parking for judges, two jury courtrooms and additional space for other programs such as the Department of Human Services or victim advocacy groups, such as Saving Grace. The expansion would also require 115 to 125 new parking spaces.
The cost is estimated to be $19 million to $22 million, which would remove or relocate the circa-1919 A.J. Tucker Building at 200 NW Greenwood Ave.
In 2014, the county first began exploring how to address the growing demand for criminal justice. The last remodel in 2012 expanded the main courthouse by 5,000 square feet.
While the board is supportive of investing more into the county’s criminal justice system, there are concerns how this project would be funded and whether the timing is right—especially since the county has failed to secure another judge that was requested from the Legislature this year.
“I feel we shouldn’t commit to the expansion until we know we at least have one new judge coming,” said Commission Chair Phil Henderson.
Commissioner Patti Adair suggested it might be wise to wait until after the Legislature’s short session in 2020, which the board discussed as the county’s next chance to talk with the state about getting a new judge.
Commissioner Tony DeBone added that other factors such as inflation, rising construction costs, and low bond interest rates need to be considered before making the decision on when to pursue this capital project. Funding options include using funding reserves, bonds or attempting to get funding from the state.
“Even if it’s easy inflation, it’s going to go up,” he said.
Questions also remain on how the historic facade of the Tucker building would be preserved or repurposed.
Commissioners will continue to review the feasibility of this project and review it later this year.