Macy Crowe
The Bulletin

Engineers must redesign the foundation of the new Crook County jail before construction can begin because of softer-than-expected soil found at the construction site in downtown Prineville.

The Crook County Sheriff’s Office is shifting construction designs from a two-story facility to a one-story facility. However, Crook County Undersheriff James Savage said the jail will be finished in time for its scheduled opening in December 2018.

Contractors became aware of the issue at the beginning of the year, after conducting a geological study to see if the ground could withstand the weight of the building. Typically, large rock and sediment mixtures harden the ground so it can withstand the weight of a large building, but the ground underneath the new jail location is a mixture of sand and sediment.

“It doesn’t have the large boulders to withstand the weight, so when it’s that sandy soil mixed in with high water and you put a lot of weight on it, it’s going to move,” Savage said.

The ground needs to be reinforced with geopiers to firm up the foundation, a project costing between $400,000-$500,000. Geopiers are drilled holes in the ground filled with concrete, used to reinforce a shallow foundation. The Crook County Sheriff’s Office plans to remain under the $17 million budget and sought out other cost-saving adjustments to pay for the fix.

“It was a $17 million project and we are going to stay within that budget,” Savage said. One source of savings is changing the roof height from 23 feet to 17 feet, thus changing the building from two stories to one. “The housing unit is now one story,” Crook County project manager Jerry Milstead said. “The center of the jail, because of the control room, is actually two stories high, but it’s a single-level housing unit.”

The one-story jail will still hold the proposed 76 beds, and there is potential for turning single bunks into double bunks in the future to house up to 90 inmates at a time.

“We did reduce (the jail’s size) with the second level, but we’re taking some other steps to counteract that,” Savage said.

Construction of the jail will begin in August or September, according to Milstead.

The current Crook County jail only has 16 beds and the county rents spaces in the Jefferson County jail to incarcerate more inmates. Crook County spends about $632,000 per year renting beds from Jefferson County, at $69.22 per inmate per day.

Construction of the new jail was put in motion after voters passed a $10 million bond in November. Money from the bond, in addition to contributions by the city and the county, will pay for the building of the jail.

The bond came after years of public safety concerns about offenders who were released early from jail or were on a waiting list to serve their sentences because there wasn’t enough jail space.

“As of last week, it was at 107 people that had been convicted of crimes and we just have no bed space for them,” Savage said. “You know we only have 41 beds between Jefferson and Crook and it’s just not enough.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0351,