Commission approves jail bond

Deschutes County assumes debt of $8.7 million for expansion

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

Published Apr 25, 2013 at 05:00AM

Construction of the Deschutes County jail’s $11 million, 144-bed expansion is scheduled to start as soon as bids are in and a construction firm is selected, said Susan Ross, director of the county Property and Facilities Department.

“We have been living and breathing jail for the last two months,” she said. “We expect to have the design projections completed by May 2. Once those documents are completely finalized, it’s full steam ahead.”

If construction remains on schedule, the new jail will open in summer 2014.

“We have a very aggressive timeline on this,” said Sheriff Larry Blanton. “Next year around this time I hope to be figuring out when to have the open house.”

The Deschutes County Commission unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday authorizing an $8.7 million bond to be repaid jointly over 25 years from the county general fund and the sheriff’s budget.

“We’re authorizing $8.7 million,” said Jeanine Faria, county accounting manager. “But we probably won’t be assessing that much.”

As a “full faith and credit bond,” it does not require voter approval. Instead, the county will borrow the money under the understanding with investors that the county and the Sheriff’s Office generate enough revenue to pay the $500,000 annual debt service without needing more taxpayer money.

Though this is an $11 million project, the county has $2.6 million set aside from the capital reserve and general funds, leaving $8.4 million to borrow. The money will be borrowed at 3.34 percent interest to be repaid over 25 years, bringing the total debt for the life of the bond to about $12.5 million.

“Right now the sheriff is spending about $300,000 on renting beds from Jefferson County to house our criminals,” said Commissioner Tammy Baney.

“He’ll be able to put that money toward the annual payment for the expansion,” she said.

At a time when other Oregon counties are struggling to keep jails open following the loss of federal money, Blanton said he’s grateful the expansion is happening.

“It’s unheard of in terms of us being able to afford a jail project right now to add 144 beds,” he said. “For us to add that many beds to an already-existing facility without raising taxpayer money is pretty amazing.”

Voters in 2010 rejected a $44 million bond to expand jail capacity to over 900 beds, add an on-site courtroom and expand the jail much further than the current project. The commission reconsidered the size of the expansion, and settled on the $11 million project.

“This has been needed for quite a while,” said Commissioner Tony DeBone. “It’s a pretty amazing effort we’re all doing to get it done.”