County officials practically made history last week by launching the first phase of a long overdue $9.2 million new circuit court facilities project, according to Rachel Hagerty, general services administrator for the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners.
By Ann Powers
“This has been a great, great milestone,” she said. “This has been over a decade in the making.”
At a Sept. 9 special meeting, the board unanimously approved a $178,646 contract with Portland-based DLR Group Architecture & Planning for the assessment and design of a 9,750-square-foot stand-alone building that will contain all the circuit court facilities.
It will be located on the southwest lawn of the existing county courthouse at 201 Laurel Ave. in Tillamook.
The courthouse’s human resources, district attorney and justice court offices will be relocated into the vacated circuit court space.
Hagerty said project costs are anticipated to be reimbursed by secured state grants and the sale of identified surplus county timberlands. In addition, as a part of the biennial Capital Construction budget, the Oregon Legislature dedicated a 50 percent match on construction costs through the use of state bond monies.
Commissioner Mark Labhart said the county is required to provide sufficient court facilities, but it hasn’t happened because of budget constraints.
“The State of Oregon is willing to contribute half of the construction costs of this effort,” County Commissioner Mark Labhart said. “We can’t lose sight of that. If we don’t move forward with this project I can almost guarantee you we will never have an opportunity to recover that again.”
A 2008 study by the Oregon Judicial Department found that the Tillamook County Courthouse ranked 45th out of 48; the fourth worst court facility in the state. The current space for courtroom 108 does not meet state law for size and safety and counties are required by law to provide adequate and safe court facilities.
“This is something we desperately need for the safety of the public, the criminal defendants that come through, the people who are participating in civil cases and… access to justice,” said Tillamook County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Hill. “So I’m very excited to see it move forward for the whole community.”
Hagerty said bidding for the project’s construction phase is expected to go out this spring; the actual construction is slated to start June, 2017 and continue for 15 months, Hagerty said.